PhD Scholarships Available

I have three PhD scholarships available as part of my ARC Laureate Fellowship project to develop a unified Dynamic Vegetation Model for Australia. I’m looking for folks with a passion for plant ecology and a strong quantitative background. The scholarships offer four years of funding + a tuition waiver for international students. You’ll join a great team of researchers on our Hawkesbury campus at the foot of the beautiful Blue Mountains. More details here:

Congratulations Mingkai Jiang – DECRA success

Thrilled for my post-doc Dr Mingkai Jiang who has been successful in winning an ARC-funded DECRA fellowship. Mingkai’s project, titled “Assessing Eucalyptus forest responses to rising CO2 and climate change,” will combine meta-analysis, data assimilation and ecosystem modelling to study how Eucalypts respond to rising CO2 and extremes of heat and drought. Congrats Mingkai!

New EucFACE results

Our new study on the fate of carbon in a mature forest under CO2 enrichment was published in Nature today. Led by postdoc Mingkai Jiang, with contributions from 48 co-authors, the study shows that the forest did not sequester additional CO2. The plants photosynthesised more, but the additional carbon taken up was rapidly returned to the atmosphere through plant and soil respiration. 

These findings have global implications: models used to project future climate change, and impacts of climate change on plants and ecosystems, currently assume that mature forests will continue to absorb carbon over and above their current levels, acting as carbon sinks. The findings from EucFACE suggest that those sinks may in actual fact be weaker or absent for forests on low-nutrient soils. Without mature forests acting as sinks, we have even less time than we thought to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the media release here

Read the study here

Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowship

I’m thrilled to have been selected as the 2019 ARC Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow.

Fifteen years ago I was at home with my second baby, wondering what my future held. I was hoping to work part-time, but I didn’t see how I was going to be able to do that and stay in science. We talk about the ‘leaky pipeline’ for women in science – I was very much at the point of ‘leaking out’.

But the leaky pipeline is a terrible analogy, because there is no way to leak back in to a pipe. We need a better analogy. Highways, for example, have both off-ramps and on-ramps. We are encouraged to take off-ramps. Take a break, attend to our personal needs, do a bit of sightseeing and then take the on-ramp refreshed and ready to drive on. People who take off-ramps have a better journey! The key is providing on-ramps so they can get back onto the highway.

In my role as Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow I particularly want to foster a discussion about how we provide on-ramps for women (and men) who want to take detours. I’m hoping that my own experience of working part-time for ten years before going on to win a Laureate fellowship will serve as an example and inspiration for that discussion.

I’m also hoping to spread the word to girls and women about the importance of maths and computing in all fields of science. My own field is ecology, but my background is in mathematics. It’s noticeable that while there are many women working in ecology, there are many fewer working in computational ecology – yet that’s where many of the most important advances are being made right now. Building women’s confidence in the areas of maths and computing is crucial to improving women’s representation in science across the board.


Laureate Fellowship

I am thrilled to have won an ARC Laureate Fellowship!

The goal of my fellowship research is to build a dynamic vegetation model (DVM) focusing on Australian vegetation. My plan is to build a community model to bring a wide range of different types of data together that will allow us to identify the factors that determine Australian vegetation distribution, and make predictions for the kinds of vegetation shifts that we might expect in the near future as climate change gets underway. We’ve needed this model for a long time – this fellowship will provide the resources to make it a reality.

Unique New PhD Opportunity: Identifying Drivers and Mechanisms of Climate-related Tree Mortality

The intellectual opportunity of a lifetime! This PhD position is a co-tutelle between HIE and Lund University in Sweden. Under the supervision of Ben Smith, Brendan Choat, Ali Mansourian and myself, the student will analyse drought mortality in Australia and Sweden. Learn cutting-edge modelling and analysis techniques, apply them to an emerging global problem, in two amazing parts of the world. Apply by 7 August!

Dead Tree Detective

Announcing the Dead TreScreen Shot 2018-12-17 at 7.46.28 ame Detective – a citizen science effort to track tree death in Australia.

Around the world, there are increasing reports of tree death from drought and heatwaves. But what about Australia’s trees? Although they can seem remarkably resilient, they are also prone to large-scale dieback. Scientists are still trying to understand the causes and thresholds for this dieback, but we need more on-the-ground observations. After all – if a tree falls in the forest, and no-one is around is around to hear it, did it really die?

The Dead Tree Detective ( is hosted by the Atlas of Living Australia’s Biocollect platform. If you notice dead or dying trees in your area, simply upload a photograph with the date and location, then answer a few questions to help identify the possible causes. If you like, revisit the location in following months to document whether trees recover or not.


Journal Club Best Of 2018

#oneforjournalclub has voted! Our winner this year:

Sensitivity of atmospheric CO2 growth rate to observed changes in terrestrial water storage Humphrey, Zscheischler, Ciais, Gudmundsson, Sitch & Seneviratne

We found this global-scale analysis to be a powerful and convincing demonstration of the role of water availability in the global carbon cycle.

Our runner-up:

Iterative near-term ecological forecasting: needs, opportunities & challenges Dietze, Fox, Beck-Johnson, Betancourt, Hooten, Jarnevich, Keitt, Kenney, Laney,  Larsen,  Loescher, Lunch, Pijanowski, Randerson, Read, Tredennick, Vargas, Weathers, White

This review paper is already strongly influencing our thinking.

Honourable mentions also went to the following papers:

Global land change from 1982 to 2016  Song, Hansen, Stehman, Potapov, Tyukavina, Vermote, Townshend

Evapotranspiration and water yield of a pine‐broadleaf forest are not altered by long‐term atmospheric [CO2] enrichment under native or enhanced soil fertility  Ward, Oren, Kim, Kim, Tor-ngern, Ewers, McCarthy, Oishi, Pataki, Palmroth, Phillips, Schafer

Climate Change and Drought: the Soil Moisture Perspective  Berg, Sheffield

Unsaturation of vapour pressure inside leaves of two conifer species  Cernusak, Ubierna, Jenkins, Garrity, Rahn, Powers, Hanson, Sevanto, Wong, McDowell, Farquhar

Well done to all authors – we are a tough mob to please!