Meyer, Gretchen


Curriculum Vitae


B.S., Tufts University 1979
M.F.S., Yale University 1985
Ph.D., Cornell University 1992

Research Interests

I have broad research interests in the areas of plant-animal interactions, plant reproductive ecology, and conservation biology. Current projects are described below.

Reproductive ecology of prairie composites

The composites (Asteraceae) are the largest family of flowering plants and also comprise a large component of the forb flora in native prairies of Wisconsin. They have a complex floral structure coupled with a generalist pollination system. Studying insects that interact with the flowers of native, prairie composites offers the potential for a number of different projects, ranging from investigations of plant reproductive strategies to insect conservation in prairies. Jason Servi (Master's student) is currently investigating the tradeoffs between attracting pollinators vs. herbivores in a native sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus). This tradeoff arises because flowers must have traits that are attractive to pollinators in order to successfully set seed, but those same traits could also be used by herbivores, which consume floral parts and seeds and are detrimental to the plant.

Ecology and evolution of introduced plants

Human activity has greatly increased the movement of organisms around the world. Some exotic animals and plants can invade natural communities, where they may have effects on the native biota. Research in my lab addresses multiple questions related to exotic plants and their impacts on natural communities. One primary interest is to determine how changes in the interactions between introduced plants and their herbivores, pathogens or mutualists such as pollinators or seed dispersers affect their potential for invasiveness. Other areas of research include the role of propagule pressure in the spread of exotic plants, and how genetic changes in introduced plants contribute to invasiveness.

Much of this research has been carried out with late goldenrod, Solidago gigantea. This species is native to North America and an invasive exotic in Europe. In collaboration with Robert Johnson (Medaille College), Helen Hull-Sanders (postdoctoral associate), and Robert Clare (graduate student), I have worked with multiple populations of the plant collected from throughout the range in both the U.S. and Europe and have carried out a number of common garden experiments with these plants. Our results have shown that plants originating from Europe have altered patterns of anti-herbivore defenses and reproductive allocation compared to plants from North America. In collaboration with James Beck (Wichita State University), Sara Hoot (UWM, Biological Sciences) and Mai Phillips (UWM, Conservation and Environmental Science), I have investigated genetic variation of S. gigantea in its native and introduced ranges using molecular techniques.

I have also worked with native and exotic plants in prairie and old-field communities in southeastern Wisconsin with graduate student Eric Vasquez. In collaboration with Jim Reinartz of the Field Station and Erica Young in Biological Sciences, along with Jason Mills (postdoctoral associate) and Jason Berg (graduate student) I have also studied the spread of glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) in the Cedarburg Bog.

Phenology of bat emergence from hibernation in spring

The Neda Mine, an abandoned iron mine located near Iron Ridge in Dodge Co., supports about 150,000 bats each winter, making it among the largest hibernacula in the midwest. In collaboration with Jim Reinartz, Field Station, I have been monitoring bat activity at the mine since 2001 using an infra-red photo beam-break detection system that records the number of bats entering and leaving the mine on a 5-minute interval. We are currently using these data to examine the phenology of bat emergence in spring. In addition to the bat activity data, we also have temperature data from inside and outside of the mine collected since 1996. For the past several years we have also been collecting data on nocturnal aerial insect abundance at the Field Station to determine the relationship between night-time temperatures in spring and insect activity. The temperature data and patterns of abundance of aerial insects will help us interpret patterns of bat activity in the spring.

Selected Publications

Meyer, G.A., J.A. Senulis and J.A. Reinartz. 2016. Effects of temperature and availability of insect prey on bat emergence from hibernation in spring. Journal of Mammalogy 97 (6): 1623-1633

Berg, J.A., G.A. Meyer, and E.B. Young. 2016. Propagule pressure and environmental conditions interact to determine establishment success of an invasive plant species, glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), across five different wetland habitat types. Biological Invasions 18(5): 1363-1373. (Download pdf)

Meyer, G.A.  2015.  Playing the field.  Science 348: 938

Beck, J.B., J.C. Semple, J.M. Brull, S.L. Lance, M.M. Phillips, S.B. Hoot, and G.A. Meyer. 2014. Genus-wide microsatellite primers for the goldenrods (Solidago; Asteraceae). Applications in Plant Sciences 2(4): 1300093.

Roubik, J., J. Reinartz, and G. Meyer. 2013. Use of small-scale disturbances to establish native plants in an abandoned agricultural field. Field Station Bulletin 33: 18-40.

Mills, J.E., G. A. Meyer, J.A. Reinartz and E. B. Young. 2012. An exotic invasive shrub has greater recruitment than native shrub species within a large, undisturbed wetland. Plant Ecology 213: 1425-1436.

Vasquez, E.C. and G. A. Meyer. 2011. Relationships among leaf damage, natural enemy release, and abundance in exotic and native prairie plants. Biological Invasions 13: 621-633.

Mills, J.E., J.A. Reinartz, G. A. Meyer and E. B. Young. 2009. Exotic shrub invasion in an undisturbed wetland has little community-level effect over a 15-year period. Biological Invasions 11: 1803-1820

Hull-Sanders, H.M., R.H. Johnson, H.A. Owen and G.A. Meyer. 2009. Influence of polyploidy on insect herbivores of native and invasive genotypes of Solidago gigantea (Asteraceae). Plant Signaling & Behavior 4:893-895.

Hull-Sanders, H.M., R.H. Johnson, H.A. Owen and G.A. Meyer. 2009. Effects of polyploidy on secondary chemistry, physiology, and performance of native and invasive genotypes of Solidago gigantea (Asteraceae). American Journal of Botany 96: 762-770

Bott, T., Meyer, G.A. and Young, E.B. 2008. Nutrient limitation and morphological plasticity of the carnivorous pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea in contrasting wetland environments. New Phytologist 180:631-641.

Meyer, G.A. and Hull-Sanders, H.M. 2008. Altered patterns of growth, physiology and reproduction in invasive genotypes of Solidago gigantea. Biological Invasions 10: 303-317.

Johnson, R.H., Hull-Sanders, H.M. and Meyer, G.A. 2007. Comparison of foliar terpenes between native and invasive Solidago gigantea. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 35: 821-830.

Hull-Sanders, H.M., Clare, R., Johnson, R.H. and Meyer, G.A. 2007. Evaluation of the Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability (EICA) hypothesis: loss of defense against generalist but not specialist herbivores. Journal of Chemical Ecology 33: 781-799.

Meyer, G.A., Clare, R. and Weber, E. 2005. An experimental test of the Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability Hypothesis in goldenrod, Solidago gigantea. Oecologia 144: 299-307.

Weise, C.M., Meyer, G.A. and O'Brien, H. 2004. A long-term survey of the breeding birds of the Cedarburg Bog and Cedarburg Beech Woods State Natural Areas. Passenger Pigeon 66: 101-112. (Download PDF )

Meyer, GA. 2000. Effects of insect feeding on growth and fitness of goldenrod (Solidago altissima). Recent Research Developments in Entomology 3: 29-41. (Download PDF )

Meyer, GA. 2000. Interactive effects of soil fertility and herbivory on Brassica nigra. Oikos 88:433-441.

Meyer, GA and Witmer, MC. 1998. Influence of seed processing by frugivorous birds on germination success of three North American shrubs. the American Midland Naturalist 140:129-139.

Meyer, GA. 1998. Mechanisms promoting recovery from defoliation in goldenrod (Solidago altissima). Canadian Journal of Botany 76:450-459.

Meyer, GA. 1998. Pattern of defoliation and its effect on photosynthesis and growth of goldenrod. Functional Ecology 12:270-279.

Meyer, GA. and Root, RB. 1996. Influence of feeding guild on insect response to host plant fertilization. Ecological Entomology 21: 270-278.

Meyer, GA. and Root, RB. 1993. Effects of herbivorous insects and soil fertility on reproduction of goldenrod. Ecology 74:1117-1128.

Meyer, GA. 1993. A comparison of the impacts of leaf and sap-feeding insects on growth and allocation of goldenrod. Ecology 74:1101-1116.

Meyer, GA and Whitlow, TH. 1992. Effects of leaf and sap-feeding insects on photosynthetic rates of goldenrod. Oecologia 92: 480-489.

Meyer, GA and Montgomery, ME. 1987. Influence of leaf age on the food quality of cottonwood foliage for the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar. Oecologia 72:527-532.