PS PhD Exit Seminar - Tender freaks: Exploring resilience to global change among fringe-dwelling forest species.

Abstract: Global climate change is challenging many forested ecosystems with drought, mean temperature increases, heat waves, and biotic agent outbreaks. Escalating forest dieback occurrences in response to changing abiotic and biotic pressures have large implications for ecosystem structure, biodiversity, and terrestrial carbon and hydraulic fluxes. My PhD research comprised several independent studies exploring drought physiology along environmental gradients; in my exit seminar, I will present two. Firstly, I’ll explore how acclimation of branch and leaf water relations during seasonal atmospheric drought can sustain gas exchange and increase stem hydraulic safety in a mangrove species from Far North Queensland. Secondly, I’ll report on several iterative studies exploring how variation in traits among snow-gum subspecies is associated with elevation-dependent spatial patterns of snow-gum woodland dieback throughout the Australian Alps.

I originate from dense suburbia atop degraded farmland on the outskirts of Melbourne. I am motivated by a fear of missing opportunities to understand the complexities of natural ecosystems and opportunities to intervene in their conservation in meaningful ways. I came to the ANU in 2016 because I wanted to be educated by high-performing researchers while enjoying the surrounding wilderness areas. Since then, I’ve been stalking the halls of the RSB as a field/lab technician and an undergraduate –honours- PhD student, capturing scientists at all stages of their careers and studying them. During this time, I’ve reflexively said yes to any opportunities to participate in crop and eco-physiology research projects within the Ball, Atkin, Meir and Nicotra Groups. My Honours research explored foliar water uptake pathways and associated water relations in mangroves of the Sonneratia genus and was supervised by Marilyn Ball, Patrick Meir and John Evans. During my PhD, I have increasingly focused on exploring how differences in physiology among species may contribute to differences in resilience or vulnerability under future climates.