The Choat Lab

Plant Hydraulics and Water Relations

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New PhD Scholarship available!

We are now seeking a highly motivated PhD student to contribute to a new Australian Research Council Discovery project that aims to resolve a number of long-standing questions regarding hydraulic function of plants: at what point in the process of water stress do emboli form in xylem conduits? How do plants recover from these drought-induced disruptions to water transport?

In the project, the student will utilize cutting edge non-invasive imaging techniques to study the dynamics of drought-induced cavitation in plants. These techniques allow unambiguous measurement of how cavitation is propagated within and between different plants organs (leaves, stems, roots). These measurements will be used to establish thresholds in lethal water stress for a range of plant species.

The student will be based at HIE but will be expected to travel to the University of Tasmania for collaborative work with A. Prof. Tim Brodribb during the course of the project. There will also be opportunities for travel to France for collaborative work with Dr Sylvain Delzon and Dr Herve Cochard (INRA), and Dr Philippe Marmottant (CNRS).

To apply for this scholarship please contact me at

Further details on the application process can be found here.

Applications close on 31 March 2017.

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New paper in PNAS: hydraulic traits explain patterns of drought induced mortality in trees

Drought- and heat-induced regional tree mortality events around the world.

Drought- and heat-induced regional tree mortality events around the world.

Brendan Choat was a co-author on a study recently published in PNAS. The study, lead by Bill Anderegg (University of Utah) discovered a strong link between the mortality of tree species resulting from drought and plant hydraulic traits. Data were gathered from 33 published studies of tree mortality that included 475 tree species and more than 760,000 individual trees. Mortality rates for each species were then compared to 10 tree physiological traits, searching for commonalities. The traits included wood density, rooting depth, and basic leaf characteristics as well as plant hydraulic traits such as vulnerability to embolism and sapwood specific conductivity. The results provide support for the hypothesis that hydraulic traits capture key mechanisms determining mortality and highlight that physiological traits can improve vegetation model prediction of tree mortality during climate extremes.

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Jen Peters wins research grant from the Wet Tropics Management Authority

Congratulations to PhD student Jen Peters who was recently awarded a Student Research Grant from the Wet Tropics Management Authority! The title of Jen’s research grant is “Assessing Vulnerability to Water Limitation of Australian’s Tropical Rainforest” and will contribute to her thesis project examining the vulnerability of Australian forests to drought. This grant will fund her research at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory where she will characterize stem and leaf vulnerability to drought stress for the dominant tree canopy species.

Jen Peters (right) at the Daintree Rainforest study site

Jen Peters (right) at the Daintree Rainforest study site.

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Visit from Herve Cochard

Herve, Rosana and Brendan at Mt Banks NP, NSW

Herve, Rosana and Brendan at Mt Banks, NSW

We were lucky enough to receive a visit from Dr Herve Cochard, aka “The General” of INRA. Herve, a world leader in plant hydraulics, is a close collaborator with the lab and a co-sponsor of Rosana’s Marie Curie Fellowship. Here we are at Mt Banks in the Blue Mountains NP, NSW.

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Brendan Choat receives Thomson Reuters citation award for 2015

Brendan Choat was awarded a Thomson Reuters 2015 Citation and Innovation Award for 2015. In total, 11 Australian Research Groups were selected to receive Citation Awards in recognition of their outstanding contribution to research. In addition, 8 Australian organisations were recognised for their excellence in innovation. Brendan and his colleague A/Prof Tim Brodribb (University of Tasmania) received the citation award in Plant & Animal Science for their research in “Drought and tree mortality”. See full details at the Thomson Reuters site here.

ISI award choat

Brendan receiving his award with David Brown, (Global Head of Sales and Service for Thompson Reuters IP & Science) and Jeroen Prinsen (Senior Director at Thomson Reuters IP & Science)