Robert S. Boyd


Plant Ecology

OFFICE: 026 Life Sciences Building

PHONE: (334) 844-1626

FAX: (334) 844-1645


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

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, the seventh in Coimbra Portugal, and the last in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia in 2014. Besides the presentation of papers and posters, the conferences feature field trips to local ultramafic locations.
The next is planned for Albania in June 2017.

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.

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

Back to the FACULTY page.