Iowa State University has named Lynn Clark interim chair of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB). Clark, a professor of botany, begins her one-year term on June 16. The department is co-administered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“The strength of the EEOB department lies in the breadth of expertise in our faculty members who look at many different kinds of organisms and ask many different kinds of questions,” Clark said. “This certainly makes the department successful and unique and I look forward to maintaining this excellence during my time as interim chair.”
Research areas within EEOB span a variety of disciplines—from environmental science and plant biology, to evolutionary biology, ecology, genetics and sustainable agriculture. The majority of faculty members have expertise in multiple areas and are affiliated with more than one graduate major.
“I’m excited to continue providing incredible service to students through the numerous interdisciplinary collaborations that we have happening in EEOB,” Clark said. “Our faculty members actively recruit undergraduate and graduate students to work in their labs while providing excellent professional mentoring and research training.”
Clark’s vision includes building on the success of the department’s research and graduate programs.
“The department plays a critical role in many well-established and important undergraduate majors at Iowa State, including biology, which supports 650 students and the genetics and environmental science programs that serve 150 and 200 students, respectively,” Clark said.
It began with bamboo
After earning her Ph.D. in botany from Iowa State in 1986, Clark was hired as a temporary assistant professor in the Department of Botany. At the time, her studies on bamboo and grasses were gaining traction in the research community.
Today, Clark is the world’s foremost expert on bamboo and its evolution. She’s named and published more than 130 new species of bamboo which she discovered in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and elsewhere. A new grass that a former student identified in Mexico bears her name, Digitaria clarkiae.
“Bamboos are part of the grass family and I’ve worked on bamboo pretty much my entire life,” Clark said. “Identifying new species is like opening Christmas presents. It’s a lot of fun.”
Clark has secured highly competitive research grants from the National Science Foundation, the Brazilian government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution.
She’s also an accomplished scholar who has published 161 articles in professional journals. Her research, which is primarily focused on bamboo classification, bamboo evolution and grass phylogeny, has garnered more than 7,800 citations.
Clark has authored several books and chapters on grasses, bamboos and native Iowa plants.
Rooted in service at Iowa State
During her time at Iowa State, Clark has served on numerous university committees, taught introductory and upper-level courses and has been a dedicated mentor to hundreds of undergraduate, graduate and post-doc students.
She’s earned numerous awards including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences International Service Award and an Iowa State University Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research. She was selected as a Dean’s Lecturer in spring 2017. Most recently, she won a 2021 Regents Award for Faculty Excellence.
Clark has served as director of Iowa State’s Ada Hayden Herbarium for 32 years. The herbarium houses 640,000 plant specimens—the 12th largest university collection of plants in the United States.
For thirteen years, Clark was the director of the Biological/Pre-Medical Illustration program, a shared program of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Design. She recently stepped down from these duties to accept the interim chair position.
“I enjoy teaching, researching and the service work I’ve done through the years and I look forward to serving Iowa State in this new role as EEOB interim chair,” Clark said. “I’m excited about working with our talented faculty as we continue to build a department that is diverse in research interests, as well as diverse in equity and inclusion.”