Helen Alexander

Ph.D., Duke University, 1982
Primary office:
7006 Haworth Hall

Dr. Alexander studies the ecology and evolution of plant-pathogen interactions; hybridization between crop and wild plants; and long-term demography of rare prairie plants.

As a researcher, I am fascinated by the population biology of plants. My work has primarily been in three areas: 1) studies of the ecology and evolution of plant-fungus and plant-virus interactions, 2) research on the population dynamics of wild sunflowers, and the ecology and genetics of hybridization between crop and wild plants, and 3) long-term demographic studies of a rare prairie plant, Mead’s milkweed, including using “mark recapture” models to estimate population size, detectability, and probability of survival.  As an educator, I teach courses in conservation biology, biostatistics, and research methods.  I have been fortunate to win several teaching awards, including a Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship.  Finally, my outreach and service activities often involve outdoor education and interactions with secondary school science and math teachers.

Selected Publications

  • Alexander, H. M., K. E. Mauck, A. E. Whitfield, K. A. Garrett, and C. M. Malmstrom.  2013.  Plant-virus interactions and the agro-ecological interface.  European Journal of Plant Pathology DOI 10.1007/sl0658-013-0317-1
  • Alexander, H. M., B. L. Foster, F. Ballantyne, C. D. Collins, J. Antonovics, and R. D. Holt. 2012. "Metapopulations and metacommunities: combining spatial and temporal perspectives in plant ecology" Journal of Ecology. 100. 88-103.
  • Alexander, H. M., A. W. Reed, W. D. Kettle, N. A. Slade, S. A. Bodbyl-Roels, C. D. Collins, and V. Salisbury. 2012. "Detection and plant monitoring programs: lessons from an intensive survey of Asclepias meadii with five observers" PLoS ONE. 7(12). e52762.
  • Finch, D. and H. M. Alexander. 2011. "Variation in plant traits and disease levels across a woodland/grassland ecotone" American Midland Naturalist. 166. 309-324.
  • Mercer, K. L., H. M. Alexander, and A. A. Snow. 2011. "Selection on seedling emergence timing and size in an annual plant (common sunflower, Helianthus annuus (Asteraceae))" American Journal of Botany. 98. 975-985.
  • Emry, D. J., H. M. Alexander, and M. K. Tourtellot. 2011. "Modeling the local spread of invasive plants: importance of including spatial distribution and detectability in management plans" Journal of Applied Ecology. 48. 1391-1400.
  • Begay, B., H. M. Alexander, and E. J. Questad. 2011. "Effect of mid-summer haying on growth and reproduction in prairie forbs" Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. 114. 108-114.
  • Moore, C. T., C. J. Fonnesbeck, K. Shea, K. J. Lah, P. M. McKenzie, L. C. Ball, M. C. Runge, and H. M. Alexander. 2011. "An adaptive decision framework for the conservation of a threatened plant" Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. 2. 247-261.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 2010. "Disease in natural plant populations, communities, and ecosystems: insights into ecological and evolutionary processes" Plant Disease. 94. 492-503.
  • Tarr, D. E. and H. M. Alexander. 2009. "TIR-NBS-LRR genes are rare in monocots: evidence from diverse monocot orders" BMS Research Notes. 2. 197.
  • Alexander, H. M., D. Pilson, J. Moody-Weis, and N. A. Slade. 2009. "Geographic variation in dynamics of an annual plant with a seed bank" Journal of Ecology. 97. 1390-1400.
  • Alexander, H. M., N. A. Slade, W. D. Kettle, G. L. Pittman, and A. W. Reed. 2009. "Detection, survival rates and dynamics of a cryptic plant, Asclepias meadii: applications of mark-recapture models to long-term monitoring studies" Journal of Ecology. 97. 267-276.
  • Moody-Weis, J., J. Antonovics, H. M. Alexander, and D. Pilson. 2008. "Predicting local colonization and extinction dynamics from coarser-scale surveys" Ecography. 31. 61-72.
  • Moody-Weis, J. and H. M. Alexander. 2007. "The mechanisms and consequences of seed bank formation in wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)" Journal of Ecology. 95. 851-864.
  • Alexander, H. M., S. A. Price, R. Houser, D. Finch, and M. K. Tourtellot. 2007. "Is there reduction in disease and predispersal seed predation at the border of a host plant’s range? – field and herbarium studies of Carex blanda" Journal of Ecology. 95. 446-457.
  • Thrall, P. H., L. G. Barrett, J. J. Burdon, and H. M. Alexander. 2005. "Variation in pathogen aggressiveness within a metapopulation of the Cakile maritime-Alternaria brassicicola host-pathogen association" Plant Pathology. 54. 265-274.
  • Grman, E. and H. M. Alexander. 2005. "Factors limiting fruit production in Asclepias meadii in Northeastern Kansas" American Midland Naturalist. 153. 245-256.
  • Garrett, K. A., S. P. Dendy, A. G. Power, G. K. Blaisdell, H. M. Alexander, and J. K. McCarron. 2004. "Barley yellow dwarf luteovirus (BYDV) in natural populations of dominant tallgrass prairie species" Plant Disease. 88. 574.
  • Alexander, H. M. and A. M. Schrag. 2003. "Role of soil seed banks and newly dispersed seeds in population dynamics of the annual sunflower, Helianthus annuus" Journal of Ecology. 91. 987-998.
  • Slade, N. A., H. M. Alexander, and W. D. Kettle. 2003. "Estimation of population size and probabilities of survival and detection in a population of Mead’s milkweed" Ecology. 84. 791-797.
  • Cummings, C. L. and H. M. Alexander. 2002. "Population ecology of wild sunflowers: effects of seed density and post-dispersal vertebrate seed predation on numbers of plants per patch and seed production" Oecologia. 130. 274-280.
  • Cummings, C. L., H. M. Alexander, A. A. Snow, L. H. Rieseberg, M. J. Kim, and T. M. Culley. 2002. "Fecundity selection in a sunflower crop-wild study: can ecological data predict crop allele changes?" Ecological Applications. 12. 1661-1671.
  • Haufler, C. H. and H. M. Alexander. 2001. "Species and Speciation: Introduction, Discussion, and Example" Kansas Association of Biology Teachers Newsletter. 42. 1-4.
  • Alexander, H. M., C. L. Cummings, L. Kahn, and A. A. Snow. 2001. "Seed size variation and predation of seeds produced by wild and crop-wild sunflowers" American Journal of Botany. 88. 623-627.
  • Alexander, H. M. and J. D. Mihail. 2000. "Seedling disease in an annual legume: consequences for seedling mortality, plant size, and population seed production" Oecologia. 122. 346-353.
  • Kettle, W. D., H. M. Alexander, and G. L. Pittman. 2000. "An 11-year ecological study of a rare prairie perennial (Asclepias meadii): implications for monitoring and management" American Midland Naturalist. 144. 66-77.
  • Holah, J. and H. M. Alexander. 1999. "Soil pathogenic fungi have the potential to affect the coexistence of two tallgrass prairie species" Journal of Ecology. 87. 598-608.
  • Cummings, C. L., H. M. Alexander, and A. A. Snow. 1999. "Increased pre-dispersal seed predation in sunflower crop-wild hybrids" Oecologia. 121. 330-338.
  • Alexander, H. M. and R. D. Holt. 1998. "The interaction between plant competition and disease" Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 1-2. 206-220.
  • Oudemans, P. V., H. M. Alexander, J. Antonovics, S. Altizer, P. H. Thrall, and L. Rose. 1998. "The distribution of mating type bias in natural populations of the anther-smut Ustilago violacea on Silene alba in Virginia" Mycologia. 90. 372-381.
  • Mihail, J. D., H. M. Alexander, and S. J. Taylor. 1998. "Interactions between root infecting fungi and plant density in an annual legume" Journal of Ecology. 86. 739-748.
  • Slade, N. A., R. Gomulkiewicz, and H. M. Alexander. 1998. "Alternatives to Robinson and Redford’s method of assessing overharvest from incomplete demographic data" Conservation Biology. 12. 148-155.
  • Thrall, P. H., J. D. Bever, J. D. Mihail, and H. M. Alexander. 1997. "The population dynamics of annual plants and soil-borne fungal pathogens" Journal of Ecology. 85. 313-328.
  • Alexander, H. M., N. A. Slade, and W. D. Kettle. 1997. "Application of mark-recapture models to estimation of the population size of plants" Ecology. 78. 1230-1237.
  • Alexander, H. M., P. H. Thrall, J. Antonovics, A. M. Jarosz, and P. V. Oudemans. 1996. "Population dynamics and genetics of plant disease: a case study of anther-smut disease" Ecology. 77. 990-996.
  • Davelos, A. L., H. M. Alexander, and N. A. Slade. 1996. "Ecological genetic interactions between a clonal host plant (Spartina pectinata) and associated rust fungi (Puccinia seymouriana and Puccinia sparganiodes)" Oecologia. 105. 205-213.
  • Alexander, H. M. and J. Antonovics. 1995. "Spread of anther-smut disease (Ustilago violacea) and character correlations in a genetically variable experimental population of Silene alba" Journal of Ecology. 83. 783-794.
  • Roche, B. M., H. M. Alexander, and A. D. Maltby. 1995. "Dispersal and disease gradients of anther-smut (Ustilago violacea) infection of Silene alba at different life stages" Ecology. 76. 1863-1871.
  • Alexander, H. M., N. A. Slade, and R. Gomulkiewicz. 1995. "A Bayesian approach to the inference of diploid genotypes using haploid genotypes" Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 91. 1284-1287.
  • Alexander, H. M., J. Antonovics, and A. W. Kelly. 1993. "Genotypic variation in plant disease resistance: physiological resistance in relation to field disease transmission" Journal of Ecology. 81. 325-333.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1992. "Fungal pathogens and the structure of plant communities" The Fungal Community: its Organization and Role in the Ecosystem. edited by Carroll, G. C. and D. T. Wicklow. 481-497.
  • Marquis, R. J. and H. M. Alexander. 1992. "Evolution of resistance and virulence in plant-herbivore and plant-pathogen interactions" Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 7. 126-129.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1992. "Evolution of disease resistance in plant populations" Ecology and Evolution of Plant Resistance. edited by Fritz, R. S. and E. L. Simms. 326-344.
  • Antonovics, J. and H. M. Alexander. 1992. "Epidemiology of anther-smut infection of Silene alba caused by Ustilago violacea: patterns of spore deposition in experimental populations" Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. 205. 157-163.
  • Alexander, H. M. and P. Bramel-Cox. 1991. "Sustainability of genetic resistance" Plant Breeding and Sustainable Agriculture: Considerations for Objectives and Methods. 11-27.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1991. "Plant population heterogeneity and pathogen and herbivore levels: a field experiment" Oecologia. 86. 125-131.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1990. "Epidemiology of anther-smut infection of Silene alba caused by Ustilago violacea: patterns of spore deposition and disease incidence" Journal of Ecology. 78. 166-179.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1990. "Dynamics of plant/pathogen interactions in natural plant communities" Pests, Pathogens, and Plant Communities. edited by Burdon, J. J. and S. R. Leather. 31-45.
  • Alexander, H. M. and A. D. Maltby. 1990. "Anther-smut infection of Silene alba caused by Ustilago violacea: factors determining fungal reproduction" Oecologia. 84. 249-253.
  • Antonovics, J. and H. M. Alexander. 1989. "The concept of fitness in plant/fungal pathogen systems" Plant Disease Epidemiology. edited by Leonard, K. J. and W. E. Fry. 185-214.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1989. "An experimental field study of anther-smut disease of Silene alba caused by Ustilago violacea: Genotypic variation and disease incidence" Evolution. 43. 835-847.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1988. "Spatial heterogeneity and disease in natural populations" Spatial Components of Plant Disease Epidemics. edited by Jeger, M. J.. 144-164.
  • Groth, J. V. and H. M. Alexander. 1988. "Genetic divergence in spatially-separated pathogen populations" Spatial Components of Plant Disease Epidemics. edited by Jeger, M. J.. 165-181.
  • Alexander, H. M. and J. Antonovics. 1988. "Disease spread and population dynamics of anther smut infection of Silene alba caused by the fungus Ustilago violacea" Journal of Ecology. 76. 91-104.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1987. "Pollination limitation in a population of Silene alba infected by the anther-smut fungus Ustilago violacea" Journal of Ecology. 75. 771-780.
  • Alexander, H. M., A. P. Roelfs, and G. A. Cobbs. 1986. "Effects of disease and plant competition on yield in monocultures and mixtures of two wheat cultivars" Plant Pathology. 35. 457-465.
  • Gates, D. J., M. Westcott, J. J. Burdon, and H. M. Alexander. 1986. "Competition and stability in plant mixtures in the presence of disease" Oecologia. 68. 559-566.
  • Alexander, H. M., J. V. Groth, and A. P. Roelfs. 1985. "Virulence changes in Uromyces appendiculatus after five asexual generations on a cultivar of bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)" Phytopathology. 75. 449-453.
  • Wulff, R. and H. M. Alexander. 1985. "Intraspecific variation in the response to CO2 enrichment in seeds and seedlings of Plantago lanceolata L" Oecologia. 66. 458-460.
  • Alexander, H. M. and R. Wulff. 1985. "Experimental ecological genetics in Plantago. X. The effects of maternal temperature on seed and seedling characters in Plantago lanceolata" Journal of Ecology. 73. 271-282.
  • Alexander, H. M. and J. J. Burdon. 1984. "The effect of diseases induced by Albugo candida (white rust) and Peronospora parasitica (downy mildew) on survival and reproduction of Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse)" Oecologia. 64. 314-318.
  • Alexander, H. M.. 1984. "Spatial patterns of disease induced by Fusarium moniliforme var. subglutinans in a population of Plantago lanceolata" Oecologia. 62. 141-143.
  • Alexander, H. M., J. Antonovics, and M. D. Rausher. 1984. "Relationship of phenotypic and genetic variation in Plantago lanceolata to disease caused by Fusarium moniliforme var. subglutinans" Oecologia. 65. 89-93.
  • Alexander, H. M., A. P. Roelfs, and J. V. Groth. 1984. "Pathogenicity associations in Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici in the United States" Phytopathology. 74. 1161-1166.

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