Peter J. Melcher

Peter J. Melcher

Professor and Chair, Department of Biology
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences
Faculty, Honors Program

Specialty:Whole Plant Physiologist
Phone:(607) 274-3980
Office:255 Ctr for Natural Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14850

Research Interests:

These studies will further our understanding of how plants adapt to their environments and help us understand how changes in the environment affect plant fitness. 

Specific questions being investigated in my lab:

Plant Water Relations: I am investigating strategies used by plants to optimize the distribution of water through their highly branched vascular systems. Specific research questions to this topic include studies on embolism repair in the xylem of plants, The capacity of plants to alter the bio-mechanical strength of bordered pit membranes that separate xylem conduits. The role of xylem wounding of and how this impacts the measure of hydraulic resistance. Understand the link between species that can refill embolism and those that cannot and how this effects plant fitness when exposed to drought conditions and nutrient deprivation. The embolism refilling work is in collaboration with Maciej Zwieniecki (UC Davis, CA).

Intracanopy Plasticity of Trees: This work looks at the variation of anatomical, morphological and physiological responses of leaves located at various crown positions in the canopies of large trees.  Studies at the leaf, petiole and stem level are being conducted in collaboration with Lawren Sack (UCLA).  We are also investigating the plasticity range of these traits across a species ecological range. 

Plant-Animal Interactions: The effects of herbivory on photosynthesis in collaboration with Andre Kessler (Cornell University), Raiko Halitschke (Cornell University) and Jason Hamilton (Ithaca College). .

Human Impacts on Plant Fitness.  We are working on a project investigating the effects of tapping sugar maple trees on plant fitness.

If you interested in conducting research in my lab then please click below:

Fall and Spring Research            summer research 

If you need more information on the procedures to enroll for research credit then follow this link:  
Information on the procedures to conduct research.


Other Involvement:

Off Campus


School of Humanities and Sciences  ·  201 Muller Center  ·  Ithaca College  ·  Ithaca, NY 14850  ·  (607) 274-3102  ·  Full Directory Listing