Academic Research

Metabolic Scaling Theory

The Metabolic Theory of Ecology (MTE) is one of the broadest attempts at a general theory for ecology. For plants, the theory describes processes from individuals to ecosystems and the theory has elicited both enthusiasm and controversy. We view MTE not as an ending point, but rather a collection of interrelated theories many of which require further development, evaluation and refinement. Our work in this area concentrates primarily on the relationship between plant geometry, function and biomass partitioning.

Plant Functional Traits

The last decade has seen a resurgence of interest in the explanatory power of plant functional traits. Characterizing variability in plant functional traits along resource gradients is becoming one of the most tractable ways to understand the generation and maintenance of community diversity. South Western Australia is an ideal place to perform such research due to its high diversity (a global hotspot) and endemism, and the fantastic and enigmatic traits of the plant species growing here.

Leaf Network Geometry and Topology

Leaf networks are extremely important in understanding how plants function. They have recently been shown to influence plant photosynthetic rates, leaf conductance, leaf economics, and are the most abundant plant macrofossil. They also display an amazing variety in form with numerous architectural classes having been described. Recent developments in the analysis of leaf vein images have opened up a suite of questions regarding the adaptive geometry and topology of leaf veins.

Biological Image Analysis

The advent of digital images has led to an explosion in the rate of new image generation and is one of the most common tools of the biologist and ecologist today. We’ve created new tools to help facilitate the translation from qualitative images to quantitative data. The first of these, LEAF GUI, is available online and you can learn about it here. We’ve also developed a tool to analyze stem cross sections called STEM GUI.

Our research could not have been done without the help of many hard working students a handful of whom are pictured here. From left to right from top: Brad Desmond, Erin Wendt, Kate Farrell, Farhad Amani, Belinda Martin, Jerome Yong, Libby Trevenen, Nadine Forde, Navot Kaur, Sarah Bird, Yingxin Huang and Sarah-Jane Knox.

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