Lisa Ainsworth

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Lisa Ainsworth
Elizabeth Ainsworth at USDA ARS.jpg
Ainsworth in 2015, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service photo
Elizabeth Anna Ainsworth
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BS)
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (PhD)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
ThesisIntraspecific, Interspecific, and Seasonal Variation in Acclimation of Photosynthesis to Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration (2003)
Doctoral advisorStephen P. Long

Elizabeth Anna Ainsworth (commonly identified as Lisa Ainsworth) is an American molecular biologist currently employed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS).[1] She also is an Adjunct Professor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and was awarded the 2018 Crop Science Society of America Presidential Award. She is probably best known for her recent work concerning the effects of specific atmospheric pollutants, including ozone and carbon dioxide, on the productivity of selected major crops such as corn and soybeans.

Early life and education[edit]

Ainsworth grew up in small town Illinois, United States where she worked on a corn field.[2] Ainsworth earned a bachelor's degree at the University of California, Los Angeles.[3] Here she discovered ecology, and spent two semesters completing field work in Thailand.[2] Ainsworth was inspired by her first measurements of photosynthesis to dedicate her research career to plant biology.[2] She was a doctoral student under the supervision of Stephen P. Long at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign,[4] before spending a year as a Humboldt Fellow at Juelich Research Center.

Research and career[edit]

Ainsworth is a plant physiologist at the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service with the Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit. She holds an adjunct position at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Her research was the first to make use of biochemical and genomic tools to establish the mechanisms by which plants respond to climate change.[5] In particular, Ainsworth studies how rising levels of carbon dioxide and tropospheric ozone impact crop production. At the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign Ainsworth is a lead investigator of SoyFACE (Free Air Concentration Enrichment).[6] As part of SoyFACE Ainsworth leads an open-air laboratory that allows her to grow plants in atmospheric conditions that are similar to those predicted to be present in 2050.[3][7] It is important to grow the soybeans out of a greenhouse to ensure their phenotype is more representative of those farmed in the real world.[2]

SoyFACE is a multi-faceted study that involves the use of satellite instruments, ozone surface monitors, metablomic approaches and historical yield data.[8] This has involved monitoring genetic variation in maizes in response to elevated concentrations of ozone. To achieve this, Ainsworth has developed high-throughput DNA phenotyping to understand the genes and networks of genes responsible for ozone sensitivity. This allows her to establish the genetic changes that occur in plants due to climate change, as well as monitoring which plant species survive best in an effort to breed more ozone-tolerant varieties.[3][9][10] She showed that during the 2010s a large proportion of the United States soybean and corn harvest has been lost to ozone pollution.[5] She estimates that current ozone levels decrease corn yields by up to 10%, which is comparable to the amount lost to drought, flooding or pests.[11][12] In 2011 Ainsworth identified that future levels of ground-level ozone could reduce the yields of soybeans by almost one quarter by 2050.[9]

Academic service[edit]

Alongside her academic career, Ainsworth is involved with initiatives to increase the representation of women in science.[5][13] She has led summer camps for high school girls (Pollen Power) to teach young people about plant science and the Earth's future climate.[13] She is involved with the Plantae Women in Plant Biology network.[14]

Awards and honours[edit]

Her awards and honours include:

Selected publications[edit]

Her publications include:

  • Ainsworth, Elizabeth A. (2004). "What have we learned from 15 years of free‐air CO2 enrichment (FACE)? A meta‐analytic review of the responses of photosynthesis, canopy properties and plant production to rising CO2". New Phytologist. 165. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2004.01224.x. PMID 15720649.
  • Ainsworth, Elizabeth A. (2004). "Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide: plants FACE the future". Annual Review of Plant Biology. 55: 591–628. doi:10.1146/annurev.arplant.55.031903.141610. PMID 15377233.
  • Ainsworth, Elizabeth A. (2007). "The response of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance to rising CO2: mechanisms and environmental interactions". Plant, Cell & Environment. 30. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3040.2007.01641.x. PMID 17263773.

The publication list on her UICI web page identifies her as author or co-author of 33 articles about her work from 2014 through 2019.[24]

Ainsworth serves on the editorial board of Plant, Cell & Environment.[25] She appeared on the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers List in both 2016, 2017 and 2018.[26][27]


  1. ^ Lisa Ainsworth publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ a b c d Davis, Tinsley H. (2019). "QnAs with Elizabeth Ainsworth". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (33): 16162–16163. doi:10.1073/pnas.1911301116. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 6697868. PMID 31358623.
  3. ^ a b c "Elizabeth Ainsworth". Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. 2019-01-30. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  4. ^ Ainsworth, Elizabeth Anna (2003). Intraspecific, Interspecific, and Seasonal Variation in Acclimation of Photosynthesis to Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration. (PhD thesis). University of Illinois. hdl:2142/85008. OCLC 52717330. Free to read
  5. ^ a b c "Elizabeth Ainsworth". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  6. ^ "Mitigation of ozone pollution in crops to be featured in Elmer G. Heyne Crop Science Lecture". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  7. ^ "USDA ARS Online Magazine Vol. 57, No. 10". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  8. ^ Agricultural Research. [Science and Education Administration], U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Breeding ozone-tolerant crops". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  10. ^ "How to feed the world by 2050? Recent breakthrough boosts plant growth by 40 percent". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  11. ^ "Rising ozone is a hidden threat to corn". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  12. ^ Choquette, Nicole E.; Ogut, Funda; Wertin, Timothy M.; Montes, Christopher M.; Sorgini, Crystal A.; Morse, Alison M.; Brown, Patrick J.; Leakey, Andrew D. B.; McIntyre, Lauren M.; Ainsworth, Elizabeth A. (2019). "Uncovering hidden genetic variation in photosynthesis of field‐grown maize under ozone pollution". Global Change Biology. 25 (12): 4327–4338. doi:10.1111/gcb.14794. ISSN 1354-1013. PMC 6899704. PMID 31571358.
  13. ^ a b "Summer heats up with a week of science at IGB's Pollen Power camp | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  14. ^ "Plantae Community". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  15. ^ a b "Elizabeth "Lisa" Ainsworth | School of Integrative Biology | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  16. ^ "President's Medal". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  17. ^ "Charles Albert Shull Award". American Society of Plant Biologists. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  18. ^ "Lisa Ainsworth | Lisa Ainsworth's Laboratory | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  19. ^ "Medley - A Potpourri of Diverse Talent : USDA ARS". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  20. ^ "RIPE Researcher Lisa Ainsworth honored with NAS Prize | RIPE". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  21. ^ "NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  22. ^ "ARS Molecular Biologist Elizabeth Ainsworth Receives National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences : USDA ARS". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  23. ^ "Jacobson, Nahrstedt, and Xie Among Eight 2019 AAAS Fellows From Illinois | Illinois Computer Science". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  24. ^ "Recent publications." Accessed January 1, 2020.
  25. ^ "Plant, Cell & Environment". Wiley. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  26. ^ Yates, Diana. "Five Illinois researchers rank among world's most influential". Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  27. ^ Berbey, Jessica (2016-11-24). "Eight University researchers rank amid World's Most Influential". The Daily Illini. Retrieved 2019-12-22.