The dominant questions in our lab group are, how do plants adapt to the environment, and how can understanding of these adaptations be used to improve the sustainability of human-environment interactions? We are interested in fundamental physiological and ecological questions, as well as using process knowledge to improve crop traits, irrigation scheduling, management of native forests for ecosystem services, and methods for measuring the function of intact plants.


Current projects:

  • Quantifying variation in integrated physiological phenotypes associated with drought resilience of yield in common bean, across 300 diverse genotypes drawn from a MAGIC population. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Collaborators: Troy Magney, Paul Gepts, Matthew Gilbert, Chris Wong (postdoc).


  • Assessing genetic variation and plasticity in the coordination of photosynthetic capacity with light environment within wheat canopies, across a diverse germplasm collection. Funded by the International Wheat Yield Partnership and GRDC. This project has now formally concluded, but a few key papers are in the final stages of preparation. Collaborators: William Salter, Andrew Merchant, Richard Richards, Richard Trethowan, Matthew Gilbert.


  • Using sap flow and ecophysiological measurements to understand how irrigation scheduling affects photosynthesis and stomatal function in almonds. The goal ultimately is to improve the physiological basis of irrigation in this thirsty crop, to make it more resilient for the future. Funded by the Almond Board of California. Collaborators: Heather Vice (student) and Matthew Gilbert.


  • Phenotyping for drought tolerance across diverse accessions of redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Funded by the Save the Redwoods League (to David Neale). Led by David Neale. Collaborators: Alison Scott, Alana Chin, Zane Moore.


  • Combining benchtop NMR and gas exchange to measure leaf hydraulic conductance and other key physiological parameters concurrently with varying leaf water potential and water content in intact leaves. Funded by a Seed Grant for International Activities from UC Davis. Collaborators: Andrew Merchant, Carel Windt, David Coleman.


  • Using dynamic high-resolution IR imaging to quantify and understand leaf boundary layer conductance in real, intact leaves, rather than rigid metal plates. Currently unfunded but supported by start-up funds. Collaborator: Marshall Pierce (student).


  • Using the theory of optimal carbon partitioning to understand apparent deviations between optimal and observed canopy profiles of photosynthetic capacity and water use. Currently unfunded.



Projects led by my colleagues:

  • A massive common-garden experiment to study integrated adaptations and acclimation to moisture and temperature in 10 eucalypt species, across a natural climate gradient in Australia. Funded by the National Science Foundation. Led by Tom Givnish, Kate McCulloh and Duncan Smith. Collaborators: Mark Adams, Amanda Salvi.


  • Using detailed 3D microscopy and spatially explicit modeling of mass, light and heat transport to identify ideotypes for improved water use efficiency in crops. Funded by the Australian Research Council. Led by Margaret Barbour. Collaborators: John Evans, Lamiae Azizi, Andrew McElrone, Craig Brodersen, Danny Tholen.


  • Using field experimentation and modeling to understand interactions between nitrate nutrition and salinity management under microirrigation. Funded by the 4R Research Fund. Led by Patrick Brown and Francisco Valenzuela Acevedo.