Post Doctoral Research Fellow
During my PhD (2011-2015) under the supervision of Prof Tim Brodribb and A/Prof Greg Jordan at the School of Natural Sciences (University of Tasmania), my central objective was to explore how coordinated spacing of leaf veins and stomata is maintained during leaf development. This work demonstrated that the ‘dilution’ of veins and stomata by differential epidermal cell expansion (and perhaps mesophyll cell expansion) appears to be a general mechanism capable of maintaining a constant ratio between vein and stomatal density both within and across a diverse range of vascular plant species. Leaf cells expand more in the shade than the sun, and more in some species compared with others, which increases the space between veins and stomata concomitantly reducing their density. These relationships provide an insight into how plants construct leaves that can efficiently replace transpired water and maintain maximum carbon assimilation for the minimum investment in vein and stomatal infrastructure. Achieving this maximises the energetic return for investments made during leaf construction increasing the energy available for growth and reproduction.
After completing my PhD I continued on in Prof Brodribb’s lab taking up a postdoctoral position investigating embolism (air bubble) formation in the water conducting system (xylem) of plants. This work was particularly focussed on visualising xylem embolism using new non-invasive techniques (optical method and X-ray micro-computed tomography). We recently received Australian Research Council Linkage Project funding to collaborate with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University and local agribusiness Botanical Resources Australia Pty. Ltd to develop a quantitative stress tolerance framework for an important crop species (pyrethrum: Tanacetum cinerariifolium). This project will use a new optical approach to define the risks of water, heat and frost stress to plant production. This knowledge will be combined with crop water status monitoring technology in a way that will allow crop managers to avoid damaging stress events and water over expenditure.