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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

Research Group - Ecology of Natural Systems, Forest Biology, Genetics

Facilities - Forest Ecology, Soils, and Silviculture Lab, Genetics Lab, John S. Wright Center, Molecular Tree Physiology Lab

Related Centers - Energy Center, Natural Resources Leadership Development Institute, Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, C3Bio

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.

Awards & Honors

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

(2008) Editorial Board Member. Tree Physiology.

(2014) Purdue Ag TEAM Award.

(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

Parsell, T., Yohe, S., Degenstein, J., Jarrell, T., Klein, I., Gencer, E., . . . Abu-Omar, M. M. (2015). A synergistic biorefinery based on catalytic conversion of lignin prior to cellulose starting from lignocellulosic biomass. Green Chemistry, 17, 1492-1499. doi:10.1039/C4GC01911C

Buhl, C., Meilan, R., & Lindroth, R. L. (2015). Genetic modification of lignin in hybrid poplar (Populus alba × P. tremula) does not substantially alter herbivore resistance traits or arthropod communities. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Ault, K., Viswanath,, V., Jayawickrama, J., Ma, C., Eaton, J., Meilan, R., . . . Strauss, S. (2015). Improved growth and weed control of glyphosate-tolerant poplars. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Zeng, Y., Zhao, S., Wei, H., Tucker, M. P., Himmel, M. E., Mosier, N. S., . . . Ding, S.- (2015). In situ micro-spectroscopic investigation of lignin in poplar cell walls pretreated by maleic acid. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 8, 126-137. doi:10.1186/s13068-015-0312-1

Klocko, A. L., Meilan, R., James, R. R., Viswanath, V., Huso, M., Ma, C., . . . Strauss, S. H. (2014). Bt-Cry3Aa expression reduces insect damage and improves growth in field-grown hybrid poplar. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 44, 28-35. doi:

Harfouche, A., Meilan, R., & Altman, A. (2014). Molecular and physiological responses to abiotic stress in forest trees and their relevance to tree improvement. Tree Physiology, 34(11), 1181-1198. doi:10.1093/treephys/tpu012

Elorriaga, E., Ma, C., Etherington, E., Meilan, R., Skinner, J. S., & Strauss, S. H. (2014). Tapetal ablation induces stable male sterility and slows field growth of transgenic poplar. Tree Genetics and Genomes, 10, 1583-1593.

Klocko, A., Meilan, R., James, R., Viswanath, V., Huso, M., Ma, C., . . . Strauss, S. (in press). Bt-Cry3Aa expression reduces insect damage and improves growth in field-grown hybrid poplar. Canadian Journal of Forest Research.

Fan, Y., Rupert, R., Wiedenhoeft, A., Woeste, K., Lexer, C., & Meilan, R. (2013). Figured grain in aspen is heritable and not affected by graft-transmissible signals. TreesäóñStructure and Function, 27(4), 973-983.

French, D., & Meilan, R. (2013). Germination trials for Asian and North American ash species. Tree Plantersäó» Notes, 56(1), 27-34.

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

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