Adrienne Nicotra

Associate Dean (Research), College of Science

Prof Adrienne Nicotra is a plant evolutionary ecologist with interest in the capacity of plants to respond to environment and environmental change – what we call phenotypic plasticity. Her work focusses on native species from a wide range of environments, though she is particularly fond of mountain flora.  Adrienne joined ANU as a postdoctoral fellow in 1998 and has been there ever since, now as a Professor in the Division of Ecology and Evolution in the Research School of Biology. In addition to her research work, Adrienne teaches, supervises honours and postgraduate students and is the director of the Australian Mountain Research Facility.

Research interests

Research in my lab applies novel approaches in plant comparative ecology to the study of evolutionary ecology and ecophysiology to give insights into patterns and processes underlying plant function at multiple scales.

We are interested in phenotypic plasticity - the range of forms a given genetic individual can exhibit under different environments - and when and how it evolves and when it matters. We also have a soft spot for alpine ecology and enjoy exploring the links between plant reproductive ecology and ecophysiology.

A wide range of projects are underway in the lab and most of these provide options for undergraduate, Honours or PhD projects - see our Research projects for more detail and feel free to contact me if you'd like more information

Recent grants

  • 2023-2025  Leigh Andrea, Genevieve Wright, Adrienne Nicotra, Melessa Schroder, Maurizio Rossetto, Rosie McVeigh. Determining plant resilience to temperature stress in NSW alpine Threatened Ecological Communities. NSW Environmental Trust, Research 2022 grant.  
  • 2023-2027  Nicholson, Jaylen and Adrienne Nicotra, The influence of drought, heatwaves, and microclimate on culturally significant plants in Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park, Parks Australia
  • 2022-2027 Nicotra, Adrienne, Matthew Brookhouse, Saul Cunninghan, Jamie Pittock, Owen Atkin, Ben Smith, Paul Miller, Josh Dorrough, Melessa Schroder, John Wright, Rosie Cooney, ARC LP210300506. Understanding snow gum dieback for effective and integrated management
  • 2021-2023 Brookhouse Matthew, Saul Cunningham, Adrienne Nicotra, Patrick Meir, Graham Farquhar, Marta Yebra, Environmental drivers, landscape determinants and control of snow- gum dieback (NSW Environmental Trust) 
  • 2020-2023  Nicotra, Adrienne, Susanna Venn, Saul Cunningham, ARC Discovery DP200101382 Drivers of phenotypic evolution in a vulnerable alpine ecosystem 
  • 2020-2023  Venn, Susanna, Adrienne Nicotra, John Morgan, Samantha Grover, Adam Miller, Dave Cantril, Marie Keatley, ARC LP190100844 Building resilient alpine environments with less snow
  • 2019-2022 Nicotra, Leigh, Offord, Guja, Rosetto, Bravo, ARC LP (LP180100942) Living on the edge: how do Australian plants cope with extreme temperature? 
  • 2019-2020 Nicotra, Adrienne, Justin Borevitz ; Eelco Rohling ; Geoffrey Cary ; Angela Moles ; Mark Hovenden ; Ben Kefford ; Don Driscoll ; Susanna Venn ; William Cornwell ; David Keith ; Marta Yebra ; Gregory Summerell, ARC LIEF, LE190100039 Australian mountain environmental research infrastructure facility, AMRIF
  • 2017-2020 Kruuk, Loeske, Adrienne Nicotra and Christina Richards, ARC DP Program, DP170101681,  Multi-trait plasticity in response to a changing environment

Select Publications (since 2010):

  1. Satyanti, A., L. K. Guja and A. B. Nicotra (2019). "Temperature variability drives within-species variation in germination strategy and establishment characteristics of an alpine herb." Oecologia 189(2): 407-419.
  2. Saatkamp, A., A. Cochrane, L. Commander, L. K. Guja, B. Jimenez‐Alfaro, J. Larson, A. Nicotra, P. Poschlod, F. A. Silveira and A. T. Cross (2019). "A research agenda for seed‐trait functional ecology." New Phytologist 221(4): 1764-1775.
  3. Goh, C. H., A. B. Nicotra and U. Mathesius (2019). "Genes controlling legume nodule numbers affect phenotypic plasticity responses to nitrogen in the presence and absence of rhizobia." Plant, cell & environment 42(5): 1747-1757.
  4. Arnold, P. A., A. B. Nicotra and L. E. Kruuk (2019). "Sparse evidence for selection on phenotypic plasticity in response to temperature." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 374(1768): 20180185.
  5. Arnold, P. A., L. E. Kruuk and A. B. Nicotra (2019). "How to analyse plant phenotypic plasticity in response to a changing climate." New Phytologist 222(3): 1235-1241.
  6. Supple, M. A., J. G. Bragg, L. M. Broadhurst, A. B. Nicotra, M. Byrne, R. L. Andrew, A. Widdup, N. C. Aitken and J. O. Borevitz (2018). "Landscape genomic prediction for restoration of a Eucalyptus foundation species under climate change." eLife 7: e31835.
  7. Satyanti, A., A. B. Nicotra, T. Merkling and L. K. Guja (2018). "Seed mass and elevation explain variation in seed longevity of Australian alpine species." Seed Science Research: 1-13.
  8. Saatkamp, A., A. Cochrane, L. Commander, L. K. Guja, B. Jimenez‐Alfaro, J. Larson, A. Nicotra, P. Poschlod, F. A. Silveira and A. T. Cross (2018). "A research agenda for seed‐trait functional ecology." New Phytologist.
  9. Mocko, K., A. B. Nicotra and C. S. Jones (2018). "Extent of Solar Tracking Differs between Two Co-occurring Congeneric Geophytes That Differ in Leaf Shape." International Journal of Plant Sciences 179(2): 162-173.
  10. Harris, R., L. Beaumont, T. Vance, C. Tozer, T. Remenyi, S. Perkins-Kirkpatrick, P. Mitchell, A. Nicotra, S. McGregor and N. Andrew (2018). "Biological responses to the press and pulse of climate trends and extreme events." Nature Climate Change 8(7): 579.
  11. Drake, J. E., M. G. Tjoelker, A. Vårhammar, Belinda E. Medlyn, P. B. Reich, A. Leigh, S. Pfautsch, C. J. Blackman, R. López, M. J. Aspinwall, K. Y. Crous, R. A. Duursma, D. Kumarathunge, M. G. De Kauwe, M. Jiang, A. B. Nicotra, D. T. Tissue, B. Choat, O. K. Atkin and C. V. M. Barton (2018). "Trees tolerate an extreme heatwave via sustained transpirational cooling and increased leaf thermal tolerance." Global Change Biology 24(6): 2390-2402.
  12. Leigh, A., S. Sevanto, J. D. Close and A. B. Nicotra (2017). "The influence of leaf size and shape on leaf thermal dynamics: does theory hold up under natural conditions?" Plant, Cell & Environment 40(2): 237-248.
  13. Wilkins, O., C. Hafemeister, A. Plessis, M. M. Holloway-Phillips, G. M. Pham, A. B. Nicotra, G. B. Gregorio, S. V. K. Jagadish, E. M. Septiningsih, R. Bonneau and M. Purugganan (2016). "EGRINs (Environmental Gene Regulatory Influence Networks) in Rice That Function in the Response to Water Deficit, High Temperature, and Agricultural Environments." Plant Cell 28(10): 2365-2384.
  14. Nicotra, A. B., C. Chong, J. G. Bragg, C. R. Ong, N. C. Aitken, A. Chuah, B. Lepschi and J. O. Borevitz (2016). "Population and phylogenomic decomposition via genotyping-by-sequencing in Australian Pelargonium." Molecular Ecology 25(9): 2000-2014.
  15. Holloway-Phillips, M., H. Huai, A. Cochrane and A. Nicotra (2016). "Differences in seedling water-stress response of two co-occurring Banksia species." Australian Journal of Botany 63(8): 647-656.
  16. Goh, C. H., A. B. Nicotra and U. Mathesius (2016). "The presence of nodules on legume root systems can alter phenotypic plasticity in response to internal nitrogen independent of nitrogen fixation." Plant, cell & environment 39(4): 883-896.
  17. Cochrane, A., G. L. Hoyle, C. J. Yates, T. Neeman and A. B. Nicotra (2016). "Variation in plant functional traits across and within four species of Western Australian Banksia (Proteaceae) along a natural climate gradient." Austral Ecology 41(8): 886-896.
  18. Ramírez-Valiente, J., F. Valladares, A. Delgado, A. Nicotra and I. Aranda (2015). "Understanding the importance of intrapopulation functional variability and phenotypic plasticity in Quercus suber." Tree Genetics & Genomes 11(3): 1-11.
  19. Li, H., A. B. Nicotra, D. Xu and G. Du (2015). "Habitat-specific responses of leaf traits to soil water conditions in species from a novel alpine swamp meadow community." Conservation Physiology 3(1).
  20. Hoyle, G. L., K. J. Steadman, R. B. Good, E. J. McIntosh and A. B. Nicotra (2015). "Mimicking seasonal temperature changes reveals multiple seed germination strategies: an investigation of 54 alpine species." Frontiers in Plant Science 6.
  21. Cochrane, J. A., G. L. Hoyle, C. J. Yates, J. Wood and A. B. Nicotra (2015). "Climate warming delays and decreases seedling emergence in a Mediterranean ecosystem." Oikos 124: 150-160.
  22. Briceño Rodriguez, V. F., G. L. Hoyle and A. B. Nicotra (2015). "Seeds at risk: How will a changing alpine climate affect regeneration from seeds in alpine areas?" Alpine Botany 125: 59:68.
  23. Beever, E. A., J. O'Leary, C. Mengelt, J. M. West, S. Julius, N. Green, D. Magness, L. Petes, B. Stein, A. B. Nicotra, J. J. Hellmann, A. L. Robertson, M. D. Staudinger, A. A. Rosenberg, E. Babij, J. Brennan, G. W. Schuurman and G. E. Hofmann (2015). "Improving Conservation Outcomes with a New Paradigm for Understanding Species’ Fundamental and Realized Adaptive Capacity." Conservation Letters: n/a-n/a.
  24. Beckmann, E. A., G. M. Estavillo, U. Mathesius, M. A. Djordjevic and A. B. Nicotra (2015). "The Plant Detectives: innovative undergraduate teaching to inspire the next generation of plant biologists." Frontiers in Plant Science 6.
  25. Nicotra , A. B., E. A. Beever, A. L. Robertson, G. E. Hofmann and J. O'Leary (2015). "Assessing the components of adaptive capacity to improve conservation and management efforts under global change." Conservation Biology.
  26. Nicotra, A. B., D. L. Segal, G. L. Hoyle, A. W. Schrey, K. J. F. Verhoeven and C. L. Richards (2015). "Adaptive plasticity and epigenetic variation in response to warming in an Alpine plant." Ecology and Evolution 5(3): 634-647.
  27. Cochrane, A., C. J. Yates, G. L. Hoyle and A. B. Nicotra (2015). "Will among-population variation in seed traits improve the chance of species persistence under climate change?" Global Ecology and Biogeography 24(1): 12-24.
  28. Cochrane, J. A., G. L. Hoyle, C. J. Yates, J. Wood and A. B. Nicotra (2014). "Evidence of population variation in drought tolerance during seed germination in four Banksia (Proteaceae) species from Western Australia." Australian Journal of Botany 62(6): 481-489.
  29. Valladares, F., S. Matesanz, F. Guilhaumon, M. B. Araujo, L. Balaguer, M. Benito-Garzon, W. Cornwell, E. Gianoli, M. van Kleunen, D. E. Naya, A. B. Nicotra, H. Poorter and M. A. Zavala (2014). "The effects of phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation on forecasts of species range shifts under climate change." Ecol Lett 17(11): 1351-1364.
  30. Hopkins, A., R. McKellar, G. L. Worboys, A. B. Nicotra and R. B. Good (2014). Managing protected areas for climate change. Protected Area Governance and Management. W. G.L., M. Lockwood, A. Kothari, S. Feary and I. Pulsford. Canberra, ANU Press.
  31. Xie, H., Ash, J. E., Linde, C. C., Cunningham, S. and Nicotra, A.B. 2014. Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau Uplift Drives Divergence of Polyploid Poppies: Meconopsis, Viguier (Papaveraceae). - PLoS ONE 9: e99177.
  32. Hoyle, G. L., Cordiner, H., Good, R. B. and Nicotra, A. B. 2014. Effects of reduced winter duration on seed dormancy and germination in six populations of the alpine herb Aciphyllya glacialis (Apiaceae). - Conservation Physiology 2: cou015. (new OUP Journal, not ISI listed yet).
  33. Cochrane, J. A., Yates, C., Hoyle, G. L. and Nicotra, A. B. 2014. Climate warming delays and decreases seedling emergence in a Mediterranean ecosystem. - Oikos. (online early) IF 3.322.
  34. Cochrane, J. A., Hoyle, G. L., Yates, C. J., Wood, J. and Nicotra, A. B. 2014. Predicting the impact of increasing temperatures on seed germination among populations of Western Australian Banksia (Proteaceae) -Seed Sci Res. (online early) IF 1.931.
  35. Briceño, V. F., Harris-Pascal, D., Nicotra, A. B., Williams, E. and Ball, M. C. 2014. Variation in snow cover drives differences in frost resistance in seedlings of the alpine herb Aciphylla glacialis -Environ Exp Bot (online early) IF 3.553.
  36. Richards, C. L., Boruta, M., Bossdorf, O., Coon, C. A. C., Foust, C. M., Hughes, A. R., Kilvitis, H. J., Liebl, A. L., Nicotra, A. B., Pigliucci, M., Robertson, M. H. and Schrey, A. W. 2013. Epigenetic mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity. - Integrative and Comparative Biology 53: E179-E179. IF 3.02.
  37. Jones, C. S., Martinez-Cabrera, H. I., Nicotra, A. B., Mocko, K., Marais, E. M. and Schlichting, C. D. 2013. Phylogenetic Influences on Leaf Trait Integration in Pelargonium (Geraniaceae): Convergence, Divergence, and Historical Adaptation to a Rapidly Changing Climate. - Am J Bot 100: 1306-1321. IF 2.59, 2 citations.
  38. Hoyle, G. L., Venn, S. E., Steadman, K. J., Good, R. B., McAuliffe, E. J., Williams, E. R. and Nicotra, A. B. 2013. Soil warming increases plant species richness but decreases germination from the alpine soil seed bank. - Global Change Biology 19: 1549-1561. IF 6.91, 1 citation.
  39. Goh, C. H., Vallejos, D. F. V., Nicotra, A. B. and Mathesius, U. 2013. The Impact of Beneficial Plant-Associated Microbes on Plant Phenotypic Plasticity. - J Chem Ecol 39: 826-839. IF 2.46.
  40. Alcorn, P. J., Forrester, D. I., Thomas, D. S., James, R., Smith, R. G. B., Nicotra, A. B. and Bauhus, J. 2013. Changes in Whole-Tree Water Use Following Live-Crown Pruning in Young Plantation-Grown Eucalyptus pilularis and Eucalyptus cloeziana. - Forests 4: 106-121. IF 1.09, 1 citation.
  41. Alcorn, P. J., Forrester, D. I., Smith, R. G. B., Thomas, D. S., James, R. N., Nicotra, A. B. and Bauhus, J. 2013. Crown structure and vertical foliage distribution in 4-year-old plantation-grown Eucalyptus pilularis and Eucalyptus cloeziana. - Trees-Structure and Function 27: 555-566. IF 1.93, 2 citations.
  42. Alcorn, P. J., Forrester, D. I., Smith, R. G. B., Thomas, D. S., James, R., Nicotra, A. B. and Bauhus, J. 2013. The influence of site quality on timing of pruning in Eucalyptus pilularis and Eucalyptus cloeziana plantations. - Aust For 76: 25-36. IF 0.98, 4 citations.
  43. Leigh, A., Sevanto, S., Ball, M. C., Close, J. D., Ellsworth, D. S., Knight, C. A., Nicotra, A. B. and Vogel, S. 2012. Do thick leaves avoid thermal damage in critically low wind speeds? - New Phytol 194: 477-487. IF 6.74, 6 citations.
  44. Nicotra, A.B. and McIntosh, E. 2011. PrometheusWiki: online protocols gaining momentum. - Funct Plant Biol 38: iii-v. IF 2.47
  45. Nicotra, A.B., Leigh, A., Boyce, C. K., Jones, C. D., Niklas, K. J., Royer, D. L. and Tsukaya, H. 2011. The evolution and functional significance of leaf shape in the angiosperms. - Funct Plant Biol 38: 535-552. IF 2.47, 36 citations.
  46. Leigh, A., Zwieniecki, M. A., Rockwell, F. E., Boyce, C. K., Nicotra, A. B. and Holbrook, N. M. 2011. Structural and hydraulic correlates of heterophylly in Ginkgo biloba. - New Phytol 189: 459-470. IF 6.74, 5 citations.
  47. Davidson, A. M., Jennions, M. and Nicotra, A. B. 2011. Do invasive species show higher phenotypic plasticity than native species and, if so, is it adaptive? A meta-analysis. - Ecol Lett 14: 419-431. IF 17.95, 104 citations.
  48. Nicotra, A. B. and Davidson, A. 2010. Adaptive phenotypic plasticity and plant water use. - Funct Plant Biol 37: 117-127. IF 2.47, 31 citations.
  49. Nicotra, A. B., Atkin, O. K., Bonser, S. P., Davidson, A. M., Finnegan, E. J., Mathesius, U., Poot, P., Purugganan, M. D., Richards, C. L., Valladares, F. and van Kleunen, M. 2010. Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate. - Trends Plant Sci 15: 684-692. IF 11.81, 136 citations.

I convene, Field Studies in Functional Ecology (Biol2203) and Advanced Field Studies in Functional Ecology (Biol3303), a 2 week intensive course held in the Australian alpine or the tropics of Australia and South East Asia, depending on the year. Check out our course videos here:  Kosciuszko National Park in December 2016 and the Daintree Rainforest in July 2017.

A wide range of projects are underway in the lab and most of these provide options for undergraduate, Honours or PhD projects - see my Lab projects for more detail.