Michael Roderick

Michael Roderick and pan evaporation station. Image from ANU ScienceWise

Lab research

Mainly looking at how water availability has changed, both globally, and in Australia, and how it might change in future, with special reference to both agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Greatest achievement

Development of a general physical basis for understanding why pan evaporation has been declining worldwide. By establishing that physical basis, we are now in a strong scientific position to understand the more complex biological (e.g. agricultural, ecological) and hydrologic impacts of climate change.

Next big thing

We are just beginning to use climate models on the ANU supercomputer. We hope to be able to tackle some new challenges including (i) how changes in the land surface (e.g. land clearing, CO2 fertilisation) feedback to the regional climate, and (ii) whether current climate models can reproduce the observed decline in pan evaporation. In the longer term I see an increasing focus on plant water use, elevated CO2 and irrigation.

Science Hero

Willard Gibbs (1839- 1903) - considered to be one of the main contributors to modern equilibrium thermodynamics. Two papers, published in an obscure journal in 1873 and 1875, laid the foundation for nearly all of modern physical chemistry including current understanding of osmotic pressure that remains so central to understanding plant water relations.

Source: Lab leader feature, RSB Newsletter, March 2014.

ANU ScienceWise articles

More on Michael Roderick

Dr Michael Roderick graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in surveying from the Queensland University of Technology in 1984 and subsequently worked as a surveyor across northern Australia until 1990. He completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Geographic Information Systems at the University of Queensland in 1990. He was a lecturer at the School of Spatial Sciences, Curtin University of Technology from 1993-1996 and completed a PhD in satellite remote sensing and environmental modelling at Curtin University in 1994. He joined the Australian National University as a Research Fellow in 1996 and currently holds a joint appointment as a Senior Fellow between the Research School of Earth Sciences and the Research School of Biology. He is also an associate editor of Water Resources Research.

Dr Roderick’s principle research interests are in environmental physics, global climate change science, ecohydrology (including plant-water relations), remote sensing and ecological dynamics. He has made a major international contribution to understanding the water-energy-carbon linkage.

An advocate of national and international scientific collaboration, Dr Roderick co-instigated and co-organized the first international scientific meeting to address the observed decline in evaporative demand and the implications for the terrestrial water balance, hosted in 2004 by the Australian Academy of Science. He has also acted as an advisor to the National Science Foundation’s program on Ecohydrology. He led the Theoretical Developments in Carbon Cycle Science program of the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting from 2001-2006.

In 1999, Dr Roderick received the J.B.S. Haldane prize of the British Ecological Society for research linking water-energy-carbon-nutrients at a leaf scale and in 2004 he received a Top100 award for his research on evaporation. He was awarded the Australasian Science Prize in 2009 for his research on evaporation and changing water availability.

Dr Roderick is also an active supervisor and mentor to emerging scientists. He is currently supervising three PhD scholars, and has seen seven of his PhD scholars graduate since 2001.

Source: The ANU Climate Change Research Institute: Michael Roderick., Jan 2012.

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