A Window into plants

Optical techniques allow us to understand plant function and dysfunction non-invasively. Utilising imagery from 3D scans (MicroCT) and optical cameras we will capture how plants respond to climatic extremes like heat, drought and freezing, with a focus on trees. 

This project will include a series of experiments which use intact plants both in the field and in pots to answer questions like: 

  1. What is the mechanistic cause of leaf browning in summer? 
  2. How do combined manipulations of temperature, soil moisture and air moisture (VPD) cause or exacerbate damage to the plant water transport system (xylem)? 
  3. What is the long-term impact of heat stress on leaf function? 

This work will help to uncover the process of, and mechanisms behind, plant damage and death in the face of climatic extremes. These results will aid our ability to predict both immediate and long-term damage in different tree species in a changing climate. 

3D scan of the inside of a stem of an Australian trees species (Allocasuarina verticillata) highlighting the xylem, photo: Kate Johnson
Kate arranging small trees in a water-bath to measure leaf heat tolerance, photo: Alice Gauthey
Optical cameras attached to leaves to track damage due to heat and drought, Photo: Charlotte Grossiord
Optical cameras
Optical cameras and Kate

For more information contact Kate Johnson