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Richard Meilan

Forestry and Natural Resources 

  • Professor of Molecular Tree Physiology
PFEN Room G021E
715 West State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Dr. Richard Meilan's website

Richard “Rick” Meilan is an Professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) at Purdue University. Rick received his B.S. (summa cum laude) in Forest Science from Humboldt State University (HSU) in 1983, his M.S. in Forestry from HSU in 1985, and a joint Ph.D. (with honors) in Botany (Physiology and Molecular Biology) and Forestry (Forest Biology) from Iowa State University in 1990. He worked four years as a Rockefeller Foundation post-doctoral research fellow before joining the faculty in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He was on the faculty in the Forest Science Department at Oregon State University for nine years before coming to Purdue in October 2003.

The Meilan laboratory utilizes molecular tools to investigate the genetic mechanisms by which key aspects of tree growth and development are controlled.  He is also attempting to domesticate and add value to various tree species by genetically engineering them to express genes that impart environmentally beneficial and commercially important traits.  Active research projects include efforts to insert into poplar genes that affect cell-wall properties (e.g., lignin content and composition, and cellulose configuration); water-use efficiency; and poplar’s ability to remediate contaminated sites.  In addition, he and his group are trying to identify genes that regulate the formation of figured wood and the initiation of lateral and adventitious roots.

Research Group - Ecology of Natural Systems, Forest ScienceGenetics

Facilities - Forest Ecology, Soils, and Silviculture LabGenetics LabJohn S. Wright CenterMolecular Tree Physiology Lab

Related Centers - Energy CenterNatural Resources Leadership Development Institute, Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration CenterC3Bio

Awards & Honors

(2015) Seed for Success Award. Office of the Provost, Purdue University.

(2014) Purdue Ag TEAM Award.

(2008) Editorial Board Member. Tree Physiology.

(2007) Seed for Success Award. Office of the Provost, Purdue University.

(2006) Exceptional Departmental Service Award. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.

(2005) Associate Director. NSF (I/UCRC) Center for Tree Genetics.


Meilan, R., Rubinelli, P. M., & Chuck, G. Using Corngrass1 to Engineer Poplar as a Bioenergy Crop. U.S. Patent No. US 9,334,505 B2. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Meilan, R. Poplar Tree Named "Curly Poplar". U.S. Patent No. PP17,525. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selected Publications

Tyner, W. E., Meilan, R., & Doering, O. C. (n.d.). Stochastic techno-economic analysis of electricity produced from poplar plantations in Indiana. Renewable Energy, 149, 189-197.

Yang, Zhang, X., Luo, H., Liu, B., Shiga, T. M., Li, X., . . . Meilan, R. (2019). Overcoming cellulose recalcitrance in woody biomass for the lignin‑first biorefinery. Biotechnology for Biofuels, (12), 171. doi:10.1186/s13068-019-1503-y

Meilan, R. (2019). Rhamnogalacturonan I is a determinant of cell-cell adhesion in poplar wood. Plant Biotechnology Journal. Retrieved from

Nelson, N. D., Berguson, W. E., McMahon, B. G., Meilan, R., Smart, L., Gouker, F. E., . . . Buchman, D. (2019). Discovery of geographically robust hybrid poplar clones. Silvae Genetica, 68, 101-110.

Nelson, N. D., Meilan, R., Berguson, W. E., McMahon, B. G., Cai, M., & Buchman, D. (2019). Growth performance of hybrid poplar clones on two agricultural sites and without early irrigation and fertilization. Silvae Genetica, 68(1), 58-66.

Meilan, R., Meilan, R., & Khan, B. (2019). Assessment of risk, extinction, and threats hto Himalayan yew in Pakistan. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. Retrieved from

Schutyser, W., Kruger, J. S., Robinson, A. M., Katahira, R., Brandner, D. G., Cleveland, N. S., . . . Beckham, G. T. (2018). Revisiting alkaline aerobic lignin oxidation. Green Chemistry, 20, 3828.

Zeng, Y., Zhao, S., Wei, H., Tucker, M. P., Himmel, M. E., Mosier, N. S., . . . Ding, S. Y. (2015). In situ micro-spectroscopic investigation of lignin in poplar cell walls pretreated by maleic acid. Biotechnology For Biofuels, 8, 126. doi:10.1186/s13068-015-0312-1

Buhl, C., Meilan, R., & Lindroth, R. L. (2017). Genetic Modification of Lignin in Hybrid Poplar (Populus alba x Populus tremula) Does Not Substantially Alter Plant Defense or Arthropod Communities. JOURNAL OF INSECT SCIENCE, 17(3). doi:10.1093/jisesa/iex052

Yordanov, Y. S., Ma, C., Yordanova, E., Meilan, R., Strauss, S. H., & Busov, V. B. (2017). BIG LEAF is a regulator of organ size and adventitious root formation in poplar. PLOS ONE, 12(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180527

Forestry and Natural Resources, 715 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2061 USA, (765) 494-3590

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