Skip to main content

Acer VanWallendael

View CV 


Our lab’s focus is on the intersection between evolutionary genetics and weed science. We collaborate widely to use evolutionary concepts to understand weed management, and to use weeds and invasive species as empirical evolutionary models. We study many aspects of weed science, using ecology, evolution, and genetics to understand large-scale ecological patterns and microevolutionary processes.

Crop-related weeds: Many cultivated plants are closely related to troublesome weeds. By comparing genomic and ecological traits between crop-weed pairs, we can better understand the evolution of both weediness and domestication. Currently, the lab studies weedy and domesticated varieties of proso millet (Panicum miliaceum). This dryland crop has invasive and weedy varieties throughout the world. Our research has found a deep genetic and phenotypic divergence between varieties, though they may still hybridize in the wild.

Rapid weed evolution: With large population sizes and high selection pressure, weeds can rapidly evolve new traits. By monitoring weed populations over time, we aim to detect large changes before they become problematic, and to gather useful information about genomic changes in natural plant populations.

Area(s) of Expertise

Genetics and genomics, evolutionary ecology, weeds and invasive species, fungal microbiomes of plants, polyploidy, local adaptation


Google Scholar:

Noted publications

  • VanWallendael, A., Benucci, G. M. N., da Costa, P. B., Fraser, L., Sreedasyam, A., Fritschi, F., … & Lowry, D. B. (2022). Host genotype controls ecological change in the leaf fungal microbiome. PLoS Biology, 20(8), e3001681.
  • VanWallendael, A., & Alvarez, M. (2022). Alignment‐free methods for polyploid genomes: quick and reliable genetic distance estimation. Molecular ecology resources, 22(2), 612-622.
  • VanWallendael, A., Alvarez, M., & Franks, S. J. (2021). Patterns of population genomic diversity in the invasive Japanese knotweed species complex. American journal of botany, 108(5), 857-868.
  • VanWallendael, A., Bonnette, J., Juenger, T. E., Fritschi, F. B., Fay, P. A., Mitchell, R. B., … & Lowry, D. B. (2020). Geographic variation in the genetic basis of resistance to leaf rust between locally adapted ecotypes of the biofuel crop switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). New Phytologist, 227(6), 1696-1708.
  • VanWallendael, A., Soltani, A., Emery, N. C., Peixoto, M. M., Olsen, J., & Lowry, D. B. (2019). A molecular view of plant local adaptation: incorporating stress-response networks. Annual Review of Plant Biology, 70, 559-583.
  • VanWallendael, Acer, Elena Hamann, and Steven J. Franks. “Evidence for plasticity, but not local adaptation, in invasive Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) in North America.” Evolutionary ecology 32 (2018): 395-410.