John Evans

John Evans gained his PhD in 1984 (ANU) under the supervision of Professor Graham Farquhar. After post doctoral fellowships in Cambridge (UK) at the Plant Breeding Institute and CSIRO Plant Industry (Canberra), he won a Queen Elizabeth II fellowship and returned to ANU in 1988. He was deputy CEO-Science for the CRC for Greenhouse Accounting (2003-2006) and Head of the Division of Plant Sciences (2014-2016). Currently he is a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, an associate editor for Plant Physiology and on the editorial board of Plant, Cell & Environment. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2013 in recognition of his research on photosynthesis.

Research interests

John Evans is a plant physiologist who has specialised in quantitatively linking biochemical and anatomical properties to the performance of leaves and plants. Photosynthesis research has been the focus throughout his career. His research has made significant impacts in three areas:

  1. Relating photosynthesis to nitrogen
  2. Quantifying the conductance to CO2 diffusion within leaves
  3. Analysing how plants acclimate to their light environment.

He has examined how nitrogen is partitioned between various photosynthetic proteins, how their distribution through leaves interacts with the distribution of light and CO2 diffusion within leaves. He is currently interested in improving photosynthesis to increase crop yields and is targetting the pathway of CO2 diffusion into the chloroplast, the light reactions of photosynthesis and using hyperspectral reflectance to phenotype wheat. His lab specialises in the measurement of gas exchange using infra red gas analysers, tuneable lasers to measure stable isotopes in CO2 and water,  chlorophyll fluorescence and hyperspectral reflectance.

Recent grants

  • (2014-2020) $22M MR Badger, RT Furbank, S von Caemmerer, JR Evans, GD Farquhar, GD Price, S Whitney, G Hammer, D Jordan, M Chen, O Ghannoum, W Quick, A Condon ARC CoE for Translational Photosynthesis CE140100015
  • (2016-2019) $4M IWYP64 grant Hall A, Hall N, Parry MAJ, Carmo-Silva E, Reynolds M, Sukumaran S, Furbank RT, Evans JR. Using next generation approaches to exploit phenotypic variation in photosynthetic efficiency to increase wheat yield (Australian component funded by GRDC)
  • (2011-2013) S von Caemmerer, JR Evans, MM Barbour Oxygen isotope discrimination during C4 photosynthesis ARC DP110104269 ($330K)
  • (2010-2012) OK Atkin, JR Evans, MG Tjoelker, SA Sitch, JJ Lloyd Leaf respiration under drought: a global perspective ARC DP1093759 ($330K)
  • (2009) W Hillier, PJ Pace, TJ Wydrzynski, OK Atkin, MR Badger, DG Price, JR Evans, SM Whitney, S von Caemmerer, GD Farquhar, A multiple ion membrane inlet mass spectrometer. ARC LE0989408 ($150K)
  • (2008) JR Evans and S von Caemmerer, Trace gas analyser for stable isotopes of CO2, ANU major equipment grant ($155K)
  • (2007-2009) JR Evans and S von Caemmerer, What limits carbon dioxide diffusion inside leaves? Dissecting the diffusion path with Arabidopsis mutants ARC DP0771413 ($265K)
  • (2006) MR Badger et al. Plant Phenomics Imaging and Analysis Facility ARC LE0668487 ($553K).

Recent International conference presentations

  • 2017    Improving photosynthetic rate per unit nitrogen in crops. Gordon Research Conference CO2 assimilation in plants: Genome to Biome, April 30-May 5, Lucca, Italy.
  • 2016    CO2 diffusion and transport within leaves during photosynthesis. Photosynthesis Congress, Maastricht 8 August
  • 2011 Scaling-relationships linking respiration/photosynthesis to leaf traits: importance of N allocation. Workshop: Understanding global constraints to leaf respiration: applications for large scale predictive models. Edinburgh, June 20-22
  • 2010 Membrane physiology in leaves, Earth's lungs. RN Robertson Plenary lecture, OzBio, Melbourne.
  • 2008 Significant limitations to CO2 diffusion inside leaves: a popular concept but problematic methodology. Gordon Research Conference CO2 assimilation in plants: Genome to Biome, University of New England, Maine, USA.
  • 2008 Does internal conductance vary with irradiance? European Science Foundation exploratory workshop Mesophyll conductance to CO2: mechanisms, modelling and ecological implications, Sa Coma, Mallorca, Spain
  • 2006 Balancing light capture with distributed metabolic demand during C4 photosynthesis IRRI conference on ‘Supercharging the rice engine: C4 rice’, Philippines.


  • Professor Susanne von Caemmerer, ANU (Canberra, Australia)
  • Professor Owen Atkin, ANU (Canberra, Australia)
  • Professor Marilyn Ball, ANU (Canberra, Australia)
  • Dr Spencer Whitney, ANU (Canberra, Australia)
  • Professor Jill Gready, ANU (Canberra, Australia)
  • Dr Margaret Barbour, Sydney University (Sydney, Australia)
  • Professor Steve Tyerman, University of Adelaide (SA, Australia).

Selected publications

Evans JR and Clarke VC. (2019) The nitrogen cost of photosynthesis. J Experimental Botany 70, 7-15.
Earles JM, Buckley TN, Brodersen CR, Busch FA, Cano FJ, Choat B, Evans JR, Farquhar GD, Harwood R, Huynh M, John GP, Miller ML, Rockwell FE, Sack L, Scoffoni C, Struik PC, Wu A, Yin X, Barbour MM. (2019) Embracing 3D complexity in leaf carbon–water exchange. Trends in Plant Science 24, 15-24Silva-Pérez V, Furbank RT, Condon AG and Evans JR (2017) Biochemical model of C3 photosynthesis applied to wheat at different temperatures. Plant Cell and Environment 40, 1552-1564.
Flohr BM, Hunt JR, Kirkegaard JA, Evans JR and Lilley JM (2018) Genotype x management strategies to stabilise the flowering time of wheat in the south-eastern Australian wheat belt. Field Crops Research 69, 547-560.
Silva-Perez V, Molero G, Serbin SP, Condon AG, Reynolds, MP, Furbank RT & Evans JR, (2018) Hyperspectral reflectance as a tool to measure biochemical and physiological traits in wheat. Journal of Experimental Botany 69, 483-496.
Evans JR, Morgan PB and von Caemmerer S (2017) Light quality affects chloroplast electron transport rates estimated from chlorophyll fluorescence measurements. Plant & Cell Physiology 58, 1652-1660.
Onoda, Y Wright IJ, Evans JR, Hikosaka K, Kitajima Kaoru, Niinemets U, Poorter H,Tosens T and Westoby M (2017) Physiological and structural tradeoffs underlying the leaf economics spectrum. New Phytologist 214,1447-1463.
Groszmann M, Osborn HL and Evans JR (2017) Carbon dioxide and water transport through plant aquaporins. Plant Cell and Environment 40, 938-961.
von Caemmerer S and Evans JR (2015) Temperature responses of mesophyll conductance differ greatly between species. Plant Cell & Environment 38: 629-637.
Tazoe Y, von Caemmerer S, Estavillo GM, Evans JR (2011) Using tunable diode laser spectroscopy to measure carbon isotope discrimination and mesophyll conductance to CO2 diffusion dynamically at different CO2 concentrations.  Plant Cell & Environment.
von Caemmerer S, Evans JR, (2010) Enhancing C3 photosynthesis Plant Physiology 154, 589-592. 
Evans JR, Kaldenhoff R, Genty B. & Terashima I. (2009). Resistances along the CO2 diffusion pathway inside leaves. Journal of Experimental Botany 60, 2235-2248.
Harrison MT, Edwards EJ, Farquhar GD, Nicotra AB and Evans JR. (2009). Nitrogen in cell walls of sclerophyllous leaves accounts for little of the variation in photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency. Plant Cell & Environment 32: 259-270. 
Edwards EJ, McCaffery S and Evans JR. (2006) Phosphorus availability and elevated CO2 affect biological nitrogen fixation and nutrient fluxes in a clover-dominated sward. New Phytologist 169:157-167. (5)
Edwards EJ, McCaffery S and Evans JR. (2005) Phosphorus status determines biomass response to elevated CO2 in a legume: C4 grass community. Global Change Biology 11:1968-1981. (0)
Ghannoum O, Evans JR, Chow WS, Andrews TJ, Conroy JP, and von Caemmerer S (2005) Faster Rubisco is the key to superior nitrogen-use efficiency in NADP-malic enzyme relative to NAD-malic enzyme C4 grasses. Plant Physiology 137:638-650.(15)
Evans JR and Vogelmann TC (2003) Profiles of 14C fixation through spinach leaves in relation to light absorption and photosynthetic capacity. Plant Cell & Environment 26: 547-560. (Cover photo) (23).
Evans, JR and Poorter, H. (2001) Photosynthetic acclimation of plants to growth irradiance: The relative importance of SLA and nitrogen partitioning in maximising carbon gain. Plant Cell & Environment 24:755-776. 
Evans, JR (1989) Photosynthesis and nitrogen relationships in leaves of C3 plants. Oecologia 78, 9-19.


All publications

Plants in Action, a textbook.

Biol2115 Comparative Physiology