Robert S. Boyd


Plant Ecology

OFFICE: 026 Life Sciences Building

LAB: 004 Life Sciences Building

PHONE: (334) 844-1626

FAX: (334) 844-1645


Boyd shows the Auburn flag on top of Mont Albert, Quebec, Canada, during post-conference
field trip of 6th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology, June 2008

Honors and Awards

Melanotrichus boydi, "Boyd's Black-Haired Bug," feeding on a flower (purple morph) of the Ni hyperaccumulator Streptanthus polygaloides

Editorial Boards


I have a major interest in metal hyperaccumulators. These are plants that take unusually large amounts of metals into their tissues. Often they grow on soils derived from ultramafic (serpentine) rocks. My students and I are interested in exploring this phenomenon in several ways. First, we are exploring the function of hyperaccumulated metals, focussing primarily on their possible use in defense against plant natural enemies. We also want to learn about the ecosystem level consequences of metal hyperaccumulation. In surveys of arthropods from Ni hyperaccumulating plants from California, New Caledonia, and South Africa, we have found a number of high-Ni herbivores. These herbivores are mobilizing metal into local food webs.
 Streptanthus polygaloides, a Ni hyperaccumulator endemic to California's Sierra Nevada


Boyd: out standing in a field of Ni hyperaccumulators in Southern Oregon 

International Conferences on Serpentine Ecology
Every several years since 1991, an international group of botanists/geologists/ecologists has gathered to discuss the ecology of serpentine (ultramafic) areas. The first conference was at the University of California, Davis, the second in Noumea, New Caledonia, the third at Kruger National Park in South Africa, the fourth at the National Botanical Garden in Havana, Cuba, the fifth in Siena, Italy, the sixth in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the last in Coimbra Portugal in 2011. Besides the presentation of papers and posters, the conferences feature field trips to local ultramafic locations.
The next is planned for Malaysia in June 2014.

Conservation Biology
We are also interested in several areas loosely grouped here under Conservation Biology. Several students and I have conducted studies of rare and (sometimes) endangered plant species. These studies include geographic and population surveys, studies of population biology, and exporation of management techniques (mowing, burning, etc.).

We have also collaborated on more broad projects. We completed a 5+ year study of coastal dune restoration techniques at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in southern Alabama. This project examined responses to these techniques of both the vegetation and the federally endangered Alabama beach mouse (collaboration with Dr. Mike Wooten of my department). We also set up a long-term study of restoration techniques for mountain longleaf pine stands in the Talladega National Forest (Alabama), working with Dr. Les Goertzen and Curtis Hansen of AU's John D. Freeman Herbarium.


Intro Biology: I teach some courses in the General Biology Program. Recently, these include our 1st semester class for non-majors (Introduction to Biology) and the 2nd course in our majors biology sequence (Organismal Biology).

Conservation Biology Learning Community (UNIV 1000): This Freshman Seminar course engages entering freshmen with interests in Conservation Biology. In Fall, students take this 2-hr per week course and are also enrolled in the same section of BIOL 1020 and ENGL 1100. In our class, students explore conservation biology through guest lectures by conservation professionals and researchers, readings, and experiential learning (participation in conservation events, attending meetings of conservation-oriented student groups, a hands-on group conservation project, etc.). We also discuss student strategies for success in the University environment in order to help students learn how to cope in their new academic home. In 2010, we added a second semester course (1-hr per week) as a follow-up class to accompany BIOL 1030 (Organismal Biology).

Plant Ecology: This course is for undergraduates and graduate students and is an introduction to ecological topics involving plants. The course has a strong field component and students learn the scientific names of many of our local "plant friends" as well as take a memorable 3-day field excursion to Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Spring 2013: Plant Ecology students immersed in their subject (Citronelle pond swamp) in Monroe County,
southern Alabama

Ecology: In summer I have taught our Ecology course. This class is an undergraduate level overview of the broad field of ecology.

Conservation Biology: This is an undergraduate/graduate level course that surveys the broad discipline of Conservation Biology. The course is taught every Fall.

Plant-Animal Interactions: Dr. Debbie Folkerts and I team-teach Plant-Animal Interactions, a graduate-level only course taught every other year (next offered Fall 2014)

Graduate Students



Undergraduate Student Theses

Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance

I serve as Coordinator of the Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance (APCA), a statewide consortium of plant-oriented groups and individuals committed to conservation of native Alabama plants begun in late 2008. Please check out the website for our group that contains information on our active projects, meeting minutes, and other information. 
Or, check our APCA Facebook page!

Guest Editor: Insect Science Special Issue "Insect Adaptations to Heavy Metals" Volume 16, No. 1, Feb. 2009

Edited Book: Ultramafic Ecology

Publications: Hyperaccumulation

Publications: Conservation Biology

Educational Publication

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