Dr. Helen Miller Alexander

Helen Alexander
  • Professor

Contact Info

Office Phone:
Department Phone:
Haworth Hall, room #7006
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66045-7534


Dr. Helen 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.

Research interests:

  • ecology and evolution of plant-pathogen interactions
  • hybridization between crop and wild plants
  • long-term demography of rare prairie plants


Teaching interests:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Introduction to Biostatistics
  • Research Methods
  • Kansas Plants and Landscapes

Selected Publications


Hoffpauir, A.N, A.W. Reed, W.D. Kettle, S.M. Roels, and H.M. Alexander. 2021. Seeding as a restoration technique for a rare prairie plant: an 11-year field experiment with Asclepias meadii. Restoration Ecology  e13589

Lubin, T., P. Lucas, P. A. Schultz, H. M. Alexander, J. D. Bever. 2021. Evidence of Adaptation of little bluestem to the local environment of central Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Sciences 124:79-88.

Lubin, T. K., H. M. Alexander, and J. D. Bever.  2021.  Adaptation of plant-mycorrhizal interactions to moisture availability in prairie restoration.  Restoration Ecology 29   e13270

Reynolds, H. S., R. Wagner, G. Wang, H. M. Burrill, J. D. Bever, and H. M. Alexander.  2020.  Effects of the soil microbiome on the demography of two annual prairie plants.  Ecology and Evolution 10:6208-6222.

Alexander, H.M., C. Barnes, R.M. Timm, and B. A. Sikes.  2020. Mammalian soil disturbance, plant cover, and soil nitrogen in a prairie restoration.  Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Sciences 123: 179-190

Alexander, H.M., J. A. Steets, and A. Ali.  2020. Distribution of Asclepias asymptomatic virus and exploration of possible effects on the wild plant host, Asclepias viridis. Plant Health Progress 21:54-59 doi.org/10.1094/PHP-09-19-0061-RS

Keene, K., C.M. Malmstrom, H. M. Alexander, A. Wayadande, and K. Denning. 2020.  Low conservatism of leafhopper communities in remnant and reconstructed prairie sites in a working agroecological landscape.  Journal of Insect Conservation 24:35-48

Lubin, T. K., P. Schultz, J. D. Bever, and H. M. Alexander.  2019.  Are two strategies better than one? Manipulation of seed density and soil community in an experimental prairie restoration.  Restoration Ecology 27:1021-1031 doi.org/10.1111/rec12953

Alexander, H. M., C. D. Collins, A. W. Reed, W. D. Kettle, D. A. Collis, L. D. Christiana, and V. B. Salisbury.  2018.  Effects of removing woody cover on long-term population dynamics of a rare annual plant (Agalinis auriculata): a study comparing remnant prairie and oldfield habitats.  Ecology and Evolution (DOI) - 10.1002/ece3.4654

Shefferson, R. P, T. Kull, M .J. Hutchings, M. Selosse, H. Jacquemyn, K. M. Kellett, E. S. Menges, R. B. Primack, J. Tuomi, K. Alahuta, S. Hurskainen, H. M. Alexander, D. S. Anderson, E. Brys, E. Brzokso, S. Dostalik, K. Gregg, Z. Ipser, A.  Jäkäläniemi and 14 more authors.  2018.  Drivers of vegetative dormancy across herbaceous perennial plant species.  Ecology Letters 21:724-733.

Jaksetic, N., B. L. Foster, J. D. Bever, J. Schwarting, and H. M. Alexander.  2018.  Sowing density effects and patterns of colonization in a prairie restoration.  Restoration Ecology 26:245-254

Chang, H., H. M. Alexander, E. Mutegi, and A. A. Snow.  2018.  Habitat restoration and native grass conservation: a case study of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).  Restoration Ecology 26:506-515

Allen, E. A., D. Pilson, H. M. Alexander, and B. Tenhumberg.  2017.  Assessing the influence of temporal autocorrelations on the population dynamics of a disturbance specialist plant population in a random environment.  American Naturalist 190 :570-583, DOI 10.1086/692911

Malmstrom, C. M., P. Bigelow, P. Tribecki, A.K. Busch, C. Freil, E. Cole, H. Abdel-Azim, C. Phillippo, and H. M. Alexander.  2017.  Crop-associated virus reduces the rooting depth of non-crop perennial native grass more than non-crop-associated virus with known viral suppressor of RNA silencing (VSR). Virus Research  10.1016/j.virusres.2017.07.006

Alexander, H. M., E. Bruns, H. Schebor, and C. C. Malmstrom.  2017.  Crop-associated virus infection in a native perennial grass: reduction in plant fitness and dynamic patterns of virus detection.  Journal of Ecology 105: 1021-1031