Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Steven Franks
Steven Franks Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Fordham University
441 East Fordham Road
350 Larkin Hall
Bronx, NY 10458
Phone: 718-817-3609
Fax:     718-817-3645
Franks Lab Website

Education & Training
A.B., Brown University, Biology, 1993
Masters Certificate, The University of Georgia, Conservation Biology, 2002
Ph.D., The University of Georgia, Botany, 2002
Research Associate, USDA Invasive Plant Research Lab, 2002-2004
Postdoctoral Researcher, The University of California, Irvine, 2004-2007

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Research Interests

I study plant ecology and ecological genetics.  I work on topics such as evolutionary responses to climate change and evolution in invasive species.  This research integrates ecological, quantitative and molecular genetics and involves lab, greenhouse, and field work in sites in New York, California, Florida, Europe, and Australia.  I focus on testing key components of contemporary ecological and evolutionary theory with the goal of attaining a more complete understanding of evolution in natural systems.
Current Research Projects

Project Baseline.
This NSF-funded multi-collaborator effort will entail collecting seeds of key species throughout North America in a way that will allow the use of ancestor-descendant comparisons (Franks et al. 2008) to investigate evolutionin natural populations in response to ongoing changes in climate.

The genetic basis of climate change adaptation.

Following the first study to demonstrate rapid evolution in a natural plant population in response to a change in climate (Franks et al. 2007), I am currently investigating the genetic basis of evolutionary changes in flowering time in the annual plant Brassica rapa (field mustard).

Population dynamics and evolution in invasive plants.
Work in this area includes involvement with the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey, an international effort to understand the dynamics of Alliaria petiolata in its native (Europe) and introduced (North America) range.

Other projects include examining selection, genetic variation and evolution in the Melaleuca quinquenervia, a plant native to Australia and invasive in the Florida Everglades.

Evolution of herbicide resistance.
Using Brassica crops and relatives, we are determining how weedy plants can evolve resistance to herbicides.


Graduate and undergraduate positions may be available for work on these and other projects. For more information, please contact me (

Selected Publications

Barnum, K, SJ Franks. 2013. Seed extracts impede germination in Brassica rapa plants. International Journal of Plant Biology. In press.

Franks, SJ, AA Hoffmann. 2012. Genetics of climate change adaptation. Annual
Reviews in Genetics 46:185-208. 

Franks, SJ, G Wheeler and C Goodnight. 2012. Genetic variation and evolution
of secondary compounds in native and introduced populations of the invasive
plant Melaleuca quinquenervia. Evolution. 66: 1398-1412. 

Franks, SJ. 2011. Plasticity and evolution in drought avoidance and escape in the annual plant Brassica rapa. New Phytologist 190: 249-257.

Franks, SJ, PD Pratt and ND Tsutsui. 2011.
Genetic consequences of a
demographic bottleneck in a biological control insect. Conservation Genetics 12: 201-211.

Franks, SJ. 2010. Population genetics of island and coastal dune plants.
Journal of Plant Biology. 2: 481-488.

Richards, CL, SN White, MA McGuire, SJ Franks, LA Donovan, R Mauricio. 2010. Plasticity, not adaptation to salt level, explains variation along a salinity gradient in a salt marsh perennial. Estuaries and Coasts 33: 840-852.

Franks, SJ. 2009. Genetics, evolution and conservation of island plants. Journal of Plant Biology 2: 481-488.

Franks, SJ, and AE Weis. 2009. Climate change alters reproductive islolation and potential gene flow in an annual plant. Evolutionary Applications 2:481-488.

Franks, SJ, PD Pratt, FA Dray, and EL Simms. 2008
.  Selection of herbivory resistance and growth rate in an invasive plant. American Naturalist 171:678-691.

Franks, SJ, JC Avise, WE Bradshaw, JK Conner, JR Etterson, SJMazer, RG Shaw, and AE Weis.  2008.  The Resurrection Initiative: storing ancestral genotypes to capture evolution in action.  BioScience
58: 870-873.

Franks, SJ and AE Weis. 2008. A change in climate causes rapid evolution of multiple life-history traits and their interactions in an annual plant. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 21: 1321-1334.

Franks, SJ, PD Pratt, FA Dray, and EL Simms. 2007. No evolution of increased competitive ability or decreased allocation to defense in Melaleuca quinquenervia since release from natural enemies. Biological Invasions 10: 455-466.

Franks, SJ, S Sim, and AE Weis. 2007. Rapid evolution of flowering time by annual plant in response to a climate fluctuation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104: 1278-1282.

Franks, SJ, AM Kral, and PD Pratt. 2006. Herbivory by introduced insects reduces growth and survival of Melaleuca quinquenervia seedlings. Environmental Entomology 35: 366-372.

Weis, AE and SJ Franks. 2006. Herbivory tolerance and coevolution: an alternative to the arms race? New Phytologist 170: 423-425.

Center, TD, TK Van, FA Dray, SJ Franks, MT Rebelo, PD Pratt, and MB Rayamajhi. 2005. Herbivory alters competitive interactions between two invasive aquatic plants. Biological Control 33: 173-185.

Franks, SJ, PD Pratt, FA Dray, and EL Simms. 2004. Selection for resistance in invasive plants. Weed Technology 18: 1486-1489.

Franks, SJ, CL Richards, E Gonzales, J Cousins, and JL Hamrick. 2004. Multi-scale genetic analysis of Uniola paniculata L.: a coastal species with a fragmented linear distribution. American Journal of Botany 91(9): 1345-1351.

Franks, SJ. 2003. Facilitation in multiple life-history stages: evidence for nucleated succession in coastal dunes. Plant Ecology 168(1): 1-11.

Franks, SJ and CJ Peterson. 2003. Burial disturbance leads to facilitation among coastal dune plants. Plant Ecology 168(1): 13-21.

Franks, SJ. 2003. Competitive and facilitative interactions among two species of coastal dune perennials. Canadian Journal of Botany 81(4): 330-337.

Books and Book Contributions

Franks, SJ. 2013. Rapid evolution of an annual plant in response to climate change. Invited 'guest box' in Allendorf, F. Conservation Genetics. Wiley-Blackwell.


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