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Francis F. Kilkenny

Francis Kilkenny

Research Biologist

Address: 
322 E Front Street Suite 401
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 
208-373-4376
Fax: 
208-373-4391
Contact Francis F. Kilkenny

Current Research

I study the adaptation of native plant populations to local climates, and use these data to develop seed transfer guidelines that determine which seed sources to use in restoration and to model the impacts of changing climates on these species.

Highlight study: Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) reciprocal transplant study to test the efficacy of previously established seed transfer zones and local adaption to widely varying climates. The study is testing 78 bluebunch populations representing 9 seed zones across 4 level three ecoregions. Common gardens are being planted in the fall of 2014 at 16 sites that range across a wide variety of climatic conditions, over 20,000 plants will be planted for this study. Morphological and reproductive measurements will be taken twice a year at each garden from 2015-2018. Additionally, physiological response measurements such as cold tolerance and photosynthetic rates will be taken in greenhouse and field conditions at some garden sites. All populations involved in the study will used in a genetic marker study to determine the phylogeography and genetic structure of bluebunch populations within the study region.

Baughman, Owen W.; Agernay, Alison C.; Forister, Matthew L.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Espeland, Erin K.; Fiegener, Rob; Horning, Matthew E.; Johnson, Richard C.; Kaye, Thomas N.; Ott, Jeff; St. Clair, John Bradley; Leger, Elizabeth A. 2019. Strong patterns of intraspecific variation and local adaptation in Great Basin plants revealed through a review of 75 years of experiments. Ecology and Evolution. 9: 6259-6275.

Breed, Martin F.; Harrison, Peter A.; Bischoff, Armin; Durruty, Paula; Gellie, Nick J. C.; Gonzales, Emily K.; Havens, Kayri; Karmann, Marion; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Krauss, Siegfried L.; Lowe, Andrew J.; Marques, Pedro; Nevill, Paul G.; Vitt, Pati L.; Bucharova, Anna. 2018. Priority actions to improve provenance decision-making. Bioscience. 68(7): 510-516.

Massatti, Rob; Prendeville, Holly R.; Larson, Steve; Richardson, Bryce A.; Waldron, Blair; Kilkenny, Francis F. 2018. Population history provides foundational knowledge for utilizing and developing native plant restoration materials. Evolutionary Applications. 11: 2025-2039.

Kilkenny, Francis F. 2015. Genecological approaches to predicting the effects of climate change on plant populations. Natural Areas Journal. 35(1):152-164.

St. Clair, John Bradley; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Johnson, Richard C.; Shaw, Nancy L.; Weaver, George. 2013. Genetic variation in adaptive traits and seed transfer zones for Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass) in the northwestern United States. Evolutionary Applications. 6(6): 933-948.

Research Interests

My research interests include restoration ecology, with a focus on seed mix design and seed-sourcing for semi-arid communities, and native plant material development for use in restoration. 

Edwards, Fred; Kulpa, Sarah M.; Kilkenny, Francis F. 2019. Application of National Seed Strategy Concepts. Pgs. 113-129 in: Crist, M.R.; Chambers J.C.; Phillips, S.L.; Prentice, K.L.; Wiechman, L.A. eds. 2019. Science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome: Linking the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy to long-term strategic conservation actions. Part 2. Management applications. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-389. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 237p.

Shock, Clinton C.; Feibert, Erik B. G.; Rivera, Alicia; Saunders, Lamont D.; Shaw, Nancy; Kilkenny, Francis F. 2018. Irrigation requirements for seed production of three leguminous wildflowers of the U.S. Intermountain West. HortScience. 53(5): 692-697.

Chambers, J.C.; Beck, J.L.; Bradford, J.B.; Bybee, J.; Campbell, S.; Carlson, J.; Christiansen, T.J.; Clause, K.J.; Collins, G.; Crist, M.R.; Dinkins, J.B.; Doherty, K.E.; Edwards, F.; Espinosa, S.; Griffin, K.A.; Griffin, P.; Haas, J.R.; Hanser, S.E.; Havlina, D.W.; Henke, K.F.; Hennig, J.D.; Joyce, L.A.; Kilkenny, F.F.; Kulpa, S.M.; Kurth, L.L.; Maestas, J.D.; Manning, M.; Mayer, K.E.; Mealor, B.A.; McCarthy, C.; Pellant, M.; Perea, M.A.; Prentice, K.L.; Pyke, D.A.; Wiechman, L.A.; Wuenschel, A. 2017. Science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome: Linking the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy to long-term strategic conservation actions. Part 1. Science basis and applications. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-360. Fort Collins, CO: U.S Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 213 p.

Shock, Clinton C.; Feibert, Erik B. G.; Rivera, Alicia; Saunders, Lamont D.; Shaw, Nancy; Kilkenny, Francis F. 2017. Irrigation requirements for seed production of two Eriogonum species in a semiarid environment. HortScience. 52(9): 1188-1194.

Finch, Deborah M.; Pendleton, Rosemary L.; Reeves, Matt C.; Ott, Jeffrey E.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Pinto, Jeremy R.; Ford, Paulette L.; Runyon, Justin B.; Rumble, Mark A.; Kitchen, Stanley G. 2016. Rangeland drought: Effects, restoration, and adaptation [Chap. 8]. In: Vose, James M.; Clark, James S.; Luce, Charles H.; Patel-Weynard, Toral, eds. Effects of drought on forests and rangelands in the United States: A comprehensive science synthesis. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-93b. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington Office. p. 155-194.

Shock, Clinton C.; Feibert, Erik B. G.; Rivera, Alicia; Saunders, Lamont D.; Shaw, Nancy; Kilkenny, Francis F. 2016. Irrigation requirements for seed production of five Lomatium species in a semiarid environment. HortScience. 51(10): 1270-1277.

Dumroese, R. Kasten; Luna, Tara; Richardson, Bryce A.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Runyon, Justin B. 2015. Conserving and restoring habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse and other sagebrush-obligate wildlife: The crucial link of forbs and sagebrush diversity. Native Plants Journal. 16(3): 276-299.

Past Research

My Ph.D. dissertation in 2011 focused on the evolution and population genetics of the invasive vine Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) in eastern North America, where I found that populations at the northern margin of the invaded range are evolving faster growth rates. I have also studied pollination and natural selection in populations of the American bell flower (Campanulastrum americana). 

Kilkenny, Francis F.; Galloway, Laura F. 2016. Evolution of marginal populations of an invasive vine increases the likelihood of future spread. New Phytologist. 209: 1773-1780.

Evans, Gregory A.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Galloway, Laura F. 2013. Evolution of competitive ability within Lonicera japonica's invaded range. International Journal of Plant Sciences. 174(5): 740-748.

Kilkenny, Francis F.; Galloway, Laura F. 2013. Adaptive divergence at the margin of an invaded range. Evolution. 67(3): 722-731.

Beans, Carolyn M.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Galloway, Laura F. 2012. Climate suitability and human influences combined explain the range expansion of an invasive horticultural plant. Biological Invasions. 14: 2067-2078.

Kilkenny, Francis F.; Galloway, Laura F. 2008. Reproductive success in varying light environments: direct and indirect effects of light on plants and pollinators Oecologia. 155: 247–255.

Education

  • University of Virginia, Ph.D., Biology, 2011
  • Humboldt State University, Certificate Of Study, Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing, 2004
  • University of California at Santa Cruz, B.A., Environmental Studies, 2000
  • Professional Experience

    Research Biologist, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station
    2013 to present

    Research Geneticist, USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station
    2011 to 2013

    Professional Organizations

    • Society for Range Management, Member ( 2018 to present )
    • Natural Areas Association, Member ( 2016 to present )
    • Society for Ecological Restoration, Member ( 2016 to present )
    • America Society of Naturalists, Member ( 2010 to present )
    • Society for the Study of Evolution, Member ( 2010 to present )

    Awards

    Special Achievment in GIS Award, 2017
    For three publications utilizing GIS in creative ways. Given by ESRI.
    USDA Certificate of Merit, 2017
    For Superior performance in accomplishing mission work of benefit to the Forest Service, the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program, and stakeholders and partners.
    Science Delivery Award, 2017
    For excellence in science delivery to stakeholders, primarily for activities related to the Great Basin Native Plant Project. Given by RMRS.
    Five Year Service Award, 2016
    In recognition of Five Years of service in the Government of the United States of America. Given by USFS RMRS
    USDA Certificate of Merit, 2016
    For excellent assistance in conveying information about the National Seed Strategy and incorporating the strategy in research, science plans, grant proposals, technology transfer and GBNPP funding efforts. Given by USFS RMRS
    USDA Certificate of Merit, 2016
    For superior performance in leading the Great Basin Native Plant Project, including incorporating it into the Great Basin Consortium, co-leading the GBC conference, and developing significant incoming funds and outgoing agreements. Given By USFS RMRS
    USDA Forest Service Chief's Award, 2016
    To the writing team of "Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A Comprehensive Synthesis" for the category of Sustaining Forests and Grasslands. Given by USFS
    USDA Certificate of Merit, 2015
    For superior performance in developing knowledge and delivering science to stakeholders of the RMRS Grasslands, Shrublands and Desert Ecosystems Sciences Program. Given by USFS RMRS
    Early Career Scientist Publication, 2014
    For "Adaptive Divergence at the Margin of an Invaded Range." Given by USFS RMRS
    USDA Certificate of Merit, 2013
    For superior performance and leadership in meeting the mission of the Grasslands, Shrublands and Desert Ecosystem Science Program Fiscal Year 2013. Given by USFS RMRS
    Presidential Fellowhip., 2004
    For outstanding incoming student in Biology. Given by the University of Virginia.
    Mark B. Rhea Fellowship, 2003
    For outstanding student in geographical information systems. Given by Humboldt State University.

    Featured Publications

    Publications

    Edwards, Fred; Kulpa, Sarah M.; Kilkenny, Francis F., 2019. Application of national seed strategy concepts [Chapter 6]
    Baughman, Owen W.; Agneray, Alison C.; Forister, Matthew L.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Espeland, Erin K.; Fiegener, Rob; Horning, Matthew E.; Johnson, Richard C.; Kaye, Thomas N.; Ott, Jeffrey E.; St. Clair, John Bradley; Leger, Elizabeth A., 2019. Strong patterns of intraspecific variation and local adaptation in Great Basin plants revealed through a review of 75 years of experiments
    Kilkenny, Francis F.; Edwards, Fred; Irwin, Jessica; Barga, Sarah C., 2018. Great Basin Native Plant Project: 2017 Progress Report
    Shock, Clinton C.; Feibert, Erik B. G.; Rivera, Alicia; Saunders, Lamont D.; Shaw, Nancy L.; Kilkenny, Francis F., 2018. Irrigation requirements for seed production of three leguminous wildflowers of the U.S. Intermountain West
    Kilkenny, Francis F.; Edwards, Fred; Irwin, Jessica; Barga, Sarah C., 2017. Great Basin Native Plant Project: 2016 Progress Report
    Shock, Clinton C.; Feibert, Erik B. G.; Rivera, Alicia; Saunders, Lamont D.; Shaw, Nancy L.; Kilkenny, Francis F., 2017. Irrigation requirements for seed production of two Eriogonum species in a semiarid environment
    Chambers, Jeanne C.; Beck, J.L.; Bradford, J.B.; Bybee, J.; Campbell, S.; Carlson, J.; Christiansen, T.J.; Clause, K.J.; Collins, G.; Crist, M.R.; Dinkins, J.B.; Doherty, K.E.; Edwards, F.; Espinosa, S.; Griffin, K.A.; Griffin, P.; Haas, Jessica R.; Hanser, S.E.; Havlina, D.W.; Henke, K.F.; Hennig, J.D.; Joyce, Linda A.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Kulpa, S.M.; Kurth, L.L.; Maestas, J.D.; Manning, M.; Mayer, K.E.; Mealor, B.A.; McCarthy, C.; Pellant, M.; Perea, M.A.; Prentice, K.L.; Pyke, D.A.; Wiechman, L.A.; Wuenschel, A., 2017. Science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome: Linking the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy to long-term strategic conservation actions
    Kilkenny, Francis F.; Edwards, Fred; , 2016. Great Basin Native Plant Project: 2015 Progress Report
    Shock, Clinton C.; Feibert, Erik B. G.; Rivera, Alicia; Saunders, Lamont D.; Shaw, Nancy L.; Kilkenny, Francis F., 2016. Irrigation requirements for seed production of five Lomatium species in a semiarid environment
    Finch, Deborah M.; Pendleton, Rosemary L.; Reeves, Matt C.; Ott, Jeffrey E.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Ford, Paulette L.; Runyon, Justin B.; Rumble, Mark A.; Kitchen, Stanley G., 2016. Rangeland drought: Effects, restoration, and adaptation [Chap. 8]
    Kilkenny, Francis F.; Halford, Anne; , 2015. Great Basin Native Plant Project: 2014 Progress Report
    Kilkenny, Francis F.; Shaw, Nancy L.; Gucker, Corey, 2014. Great Basin Native Plant Project: 2013 Progress Report
    Kilkenny, Francis F.; St. Clair, Brad; Horning, Matt, 2013. Climate change and the future of seed zones
    A Forest Service technician setting up a weather data-logger at a bluebunch wheatgrass common garden near Richfield Idaho.
    Natural selection varies across landscapes and populations often adapt to local environmental conditions. Using a literature review of common garden studies published between 1941 and 2017, we documented the commonness of three signatures of local adaptation in plants native to North America's Great Basin. Our results demonstrate widespread habitat‐related population differentiation and local adaptation across the Great Basin. 
    Background This study shows that postfire seeding can have lasting effects on successional patterns in Great Basin plant communities. While the abundance and dominance of particular species are likely to change over time, the initial seed-mix can have a strong influence on later plant community composition. This emphasizes the importance of designing seed mixes that take into account probable long-term successional trajectories and of implementing long-term monitoring of postfire seedings whenever possible. Studies like this one can help in predicting future succession in postfire seedings.
    Mature bluebunch wheatgrass reproductive seed stalks just before dispersal. Photo by Francis Kilkenny
    Over the last decade, decisions surrounding the provenance, or the geographic origin of a seed source, has sparked a debate whether or not to use local native or nonlocal native seed. A new paper turns a traditionally theoretical discussion into specific priority actions for researchers and practitioners involved in restoration.
    Mature bluebunch wheatgrass reproductive seed stalks just before dispersal. Photo by Francis Kilkenny
    Native plant community restoration is a vital tool for preserving and maintaining diverse ecosystems that support wildlife and provide ecosystem functions essential to healthy human communities. The success of restoration projects depends on using plant materials that are adapted to local environmental and climatic conditions. Seed transfer guidelines and seed zones help land managers in selecting the right seed for the right place.
    Great Basin Native Plant Project Logo
    The Great Basin Native Plant Project seeks to increase the availability of genetically appropriate native plant materials and to provide the knowledge and technology required for their use in restoring diverse native plant communities across the Great Basin. This multi-state, collaborative research project was initiated in 2001 by the Plant Conservation Program of the BLM and the Grassland, Shrubland, and Desert Ecosystem Research Program of the Rocky Mountain Research Station.
    There is widespread interest in understanding the effectiveness of fuel treatments in mitigating the trajectory of wildfire suppression costs and how their effectiveness and longevity can be extended over large areas and landscapes. To date, there have been several studies that used a modeling approach to evaluate fuel treatment effectiveness at the landscape scale. However, empirical studies at this scale are rare because landscape-scale fuel treatment strategies have not been fully implemented or wildfires have not burned through implemented landscape fuel treatments. A thorough evaluation of what is currently available in the literature and lessons learned from forest and rangeland managers has not yet been conducted.
    Forbs are an integral component of terrestrial ecosystems and critical to pollinator health. However, we know very little about the biology of native forbs. Such knowledge is a prerequisite to developing restoration programs that use diverse forb species in restoration seeding.
    Seed-grown plants from multiple populations of three focal forb species will planted in gardens across the Great Basin in order to capture important information that affects where seeds are sourced for restoring native plants at specific locations.
    The goal of this partnership between RMRS and the Curlew National Grassland is to restore pollinator habitats and understand the best strategies to support forest botanists. Through a series of projects, partners will look into the needs and pitfalls of creating a seed menu tool. Specifically, the project will analyze the effectiveness of strategically planted forbs, or "islands", in restoring pollinator communities.
    Squirreltail (Elymus elymoides) can rapidly colonize disturbed sites, is relatively fire-tolerant, and is a potential competitor with medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum). Determining the extent to which adaptive genetic variation is related to climatic variation is needed to ensure that the proper germplasm is chosen for revegetation and restoration. This study provides (1) seed zones and seed transfer guidelines for developing adapted plant materials of squirreltail for revegetation and restoration in the Great Basin and adjacent areas and (2) guidelines for conservation of germplasm within the National Plant Germplasm System.
    Good drought tolerance and fibrous roots make prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) beneficial for revegetation and erosion control on mined lands, over septic systems, in construction areas, on burned sites, and in other disturbed areas. There is a need for greater genetic knowledge of this species to ensure adapted populations are used for restoration and revegetation projects. This study provides (1) seed zones and seed transfer guidelines for developing adapted plant materials of prairie junegrass for revegetation and restoration in the Great Basin and adjacent areas and (2) guidelines for conservation of germplasm within the National Plant Germplasm System.
    Previous research funded by the Great Basin Native Plant Project found that bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) populations differed in traits important for adaptation to precipitation and temperature (St. Clair et al. 2013). Forest Service scientists hypothesize that in the long-term, populations from local seed zones will better establish, survive, and reproduce than those from non-local seed zones. This study examines the efficacy of seed zones for bluebunch wheatgrass to ensure successful establishment and allow for long-term adaptation by maintaining genetic diversity.