I am a plant ecologist, who uses traits to explore plant ecological strategies, with a primary interest in plant silicon. I teach at all undergraduate levels, with both face to face and distance teaching experience and specialise in engaging, innovative approaches encouraging student-led exploration and learning. I am an Open Media Fellow, responsible for co‐ordinating and leading free learning and broadcast in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Faculty.
I am a Senior Lecturer in Ecology at The Open University where I contribute to modules across levels, postgraduate training and my reserach continues on plant silicon and ecological strategies spanning pollination, growth rates, responses to climate change, invasive species and plant-animal interactions.
I am a plant functional ecologist, interested in the different roles species play in ecosystems. I use plant trait analysis as a powerful tool to compare the functions of different species and describe ecological strategies.
A main reserach interest is the functional ecology of plant silicon, that is, how plants use silicon. I examined the role of silicon in the leaf dry mass economics spectrum, patterns in responses of stressed plants to silicon fertiliser, trade-offs between carbon and silicon herbivore defences in a natural system and the effect of silicon on leaf biomechanics. In 2016 I co-edited two journal special issues on plant silicon in Functional Ecology and Frontiers in Plant Sciences and podcasts about my siliceous research are here and here.
My research on invasive species encompasses the introduction and spread and population dynamics of an Australian semi-arid weed, as well as carbon capture, growth and reproductive strategies of diverse weeds across the globe.
I was a post-doc with Prof. Angela Moles in her Big Ecology Lab at the University of New South Wales and using a huge dataset, I tested hypotheses about the distribution of simple vs compound leaves, rapid evolution in an introduced species and Christmas trees. As a post-doc with Prof. David Ellsworth at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at the University of Western Sydney, I examined the effects of elevated CO2 on photosynthesis in trees and understorey plants at the EucFACE facility, phosphorus recycling in photorespiration and determinants of stomatal conductance in forest systems. With Dr Ian Wright, I examined changes in relationships between leaf traits, biomass allocation and tree growth rates in savannah ecosystems.
I taught at Macquarie Univeristy, Sydney, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, from 2012-2015. At The Open University, I have been invovled in the production of new science modules and pioneering was of increasing access to field studies for distance eduction students through remotely-accessed student-led field investigations.
I regularly contribute to outreach activities including:
I am a committee member of the British Ecolgocial Society Teaching and Learning Special Interest Group, BES Education and Careers committee and an associate editor for Functional Ecology.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Co-investigator||01/Oct/2017||30/Sep/2021||NERC NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)|
CENTA is a geographically and scientifically coherent consortium offering a wide range of excellent NERC science embedded in a vibrant multidisciplinary environment. The Universities (Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Open and Warwick) and Institutes (British Geological Survey and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) have a strong track record of producing PhD graduates fit for further research or other relevant employment. The Open University STEM Faculty has match-funded 3 studentships in the 2017 intake.