Alexander Cheesman is a Senior Research Fellow working at James Cook University and  the University of Exeter in the UK,

He is a plant eco-physiologist and soil scientist interested in the dynamic interaction of tropical systems in a changing world. He is an active researcher on issues of climate change,  air pollution, nutrient management, and plant physiology.

Alex completed his PhD in Soil and Water Science at the University of Florida, USA, much of the field work for which was carried out in the remote wetlands of Panama. This led to a 2 year post-doctoral research fellowship at STRI with Dr Klaus Winter, a position funded jointly by the Smithsonian Institute Global Earth Observatory (SIGEO) and Center for Tropical Forest Studies (CTFS), now called CTFS-ForestGEO, with the objective of researching the effects of increasing temperature upon tree physiology in the tropics.  From June 2013 to June 2018 he worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at James Cook University (JCU) working with Dr Lucas Cernusak on issues of plant ecophysiology adaptation and acclimation. Since 2018 he has held a senior research fellow role at JCU and the University of Exeter in the UK  primarily working on TropOZ - an interenational effiort to examine the impacts of air pollution  (and in particular ozone) on tropical systems.

  • Tropical plant ecophysiology
  • The impact of temperature on plant functional traits
  • Phosphorus in the soil plant continuum
  • Stable isotopes as recorders of plant physiological processes
  • The impact of tropospheric ozone on tropical systems
  • 2018 to present - Senior Research Fellow, University of Exeter (UK)
  • 2018 to present - Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University (Australia)
  • 2013 to 2018 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, James Cook University (Australia)
  • 2010 to 2013 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical research Institute (Panama)
  • 2006 to 2010 - PhD Soil and Water Science, University of Florida (USA)
  • 2001 to 2004 - BA Plant Science, Cambridge University (UK)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 51+ research outputs authored by Dr Alex Cheesman from 2010 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries - Contract Research

DAF technical support on water treatment systems

Indicative Funding
$70,000 over 3 years (administered by QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries)
DAF is seeking technical advice and support on an as-needs basis to provide; 1) Independent review of water treatment system projects, e.g. treatment wetlands, vegetated drains, bioreactors, 2) Technical advice and support to Agricultural Water Treatment project activities, ensuring technical accuracy and evidence based decisions, 3) The development of resources that represent latest science and knowledge of best practice. Time is to be billed as per schedule payable up to a maximum of $10,000 per 6 month period.
Alex Cheesman (College of Science & Engineering)
Nutrients; Water Quality; Treatment Systems; Bioreactors; Sustainable; Wetlands

Queensland Department of Environment and Science - Tender

Modelling unseen flow pathways of water and contaminants in the Wet Tropics: the role of alluvial palaeochannels

Indicative Funding
$44,982 over 1 year
Approximately 50% of nitrogen loss from agricultural landscapes in the Wet Tropics occurs via subsurface flow pathways. We know little about the partitioning of subsurface flows, especially through palaeochannels where field evidence shows them to be zones of preferential pathways of water movement and likely nutrients. This project, led by JCU, seeks to develop an adequate understanding of the role palaeochannels play in subsurface flow movement. We then make recommendations to the modelling community on how to model these landscapes better in order to guide intervention measures (e.g. bioreactors, constructed wetlands) to reduce nutrient release into environmentally sensitive coastal areas (GBR).
HanShe Lim, Paul Nelson, Alex Cheesman, Tony Weber, Liz Owen, Dennis Ah-Kee, Marcus Bulstrode and David Morrison (College of Science & Engineering, Alluvium Consulting, Jaragun Pty Ltd, DAF and Department of Natural Resources and Mines)
Palaeochannels; Contaminant transport; Subsurface flow; Wet Tropics

QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries - Contract Research

The effect of light intensity on leaf pigmentation and light utilisation in mango

Indicative Funding
The objective of this experimental work is to determine the effect of light intensity on leaf morphology, productivity and light utilisation in the commercial Mango cv. Calypso. Plant leaves contain a variety of pigments associated with specific physiological functions, including photosynthesis and photoprotection from excessive light. Within an individual tree-canopy, gradients in leaf age and microenvironment alter the balance of these functions and where resources are invested. By examining leaf-level function at specific points in a Mango tree architecture we hope to improve our understanding of how orchard management (such as pruning) can make trees more productive
Alex Cheesman and Lucas Cernusak (College of Science & Engineering)
calypso; cropping; mango; photosynthesis; pigments; water use

Natural Environment Research Council - Global Challenges Research Fund

Impacts of Air Pollution on Productivity of Natural and Cultivated Tropical C4 Grasses: Implications in the Face of Land Use Change in Brazil

Indicative Funding
$114,250 over 2 years (administered by University of Exeter)
The overall aim of this project is to assess the impact of currently observed, and more common future episodes of high ozone (O3) concentrations in the context of changing land-cover (from native C4 pasture to sugarcane) at the regional scale in southern Brazil. This information is of direct interest to governmental, non- governmental, private-sector, academic and community stakeholders with respect to the diverse benefits tropical grasses provide to society.
Alex Cheesman and Lucas Cernusak (College of Science & Engineering)
Ozone; Sugarcane; Air Pollution; Climate Change Impacts

Department of Industry - Innovations Connections

Improving performance of bioreactors for treating effluent from land- based aquaculture.

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 1 year, in partnership with Mainstream Aquaculture ($50,685)
Effluent from land-based aquaculture is problematic because of its nutrient content. This project aims to enhance the performance of `denitrification bioreactors? designed to remove nitrogen from effluent. It will be carried out on a barramundi farm near Innisfail. Availability of carbon appears to limit bioreactor performance, so the effect of adding molasses will be tested, under different conditions of salinity and retention time. The ability of the bioreactors to eliminate algae and parasites will also be tested. The results will be applicable to aquaculture farms throughout the tropics, facilitating more effective treatment of water leaving farms or being recirculated.
Alex Cheesman, Paul Nelson and Kelly Condon in collaboration with Marty Phillips (College of Science & Engineering and Mainstream Aquaculture Pty Ltd)
carbon; Barramundi (Lates calcarifer); water quality; Denitrification; Nitrate; pathogens

Department of Industry - Innovations Connections

Improving the quality of water for release from land-based aquaculture in northern Australia

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 1 year, in partnership with Mainstream Aquaculture ($52,594)
Effluent from land-based aquaculture farms is problematic because of its nutrient content. This project will be the first in Australia and the tropics to assess the ability of 'denitrification bioreactors' (woodchip-filled trenches) to remove suspended solids and nitrogen from effluent leaving an aquaculture farm. It will be carried out on a barramundi farm the Great Barrier Reef catchment in North Queensland. Changes in quality of water flowing through bioreactors will be measured under a range of likely operating conditions, including differences in salinity and effluent retention rate. The results will be applicable to aquaculture farms throughout the tropics, enabling a reduction in negative environmental impacts, and facilitating intensification and expansion of fish production without increasing nutrient export.
Paul Nelson and Alex Cheesman in collaboration with Shannon Todd (College of Science & Engineering)
fish farming; Barramundi (Lates calcarifer); Water Quality; Wet Tropics; Nitrate; Great Barrier Reef

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection - Tender

Denitrification bioreactor trial in the Russell catchment of the Wet Tropics

Indicative Funding
$235,087 over 3 years (administered by Jaragun Pty Ltd)
This project will establish the effectiveness of denitrification bioreactors as an on-farm technology for removing dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) in waters draining the Babinda Swamp Drainage Area. The region has been identified as a hotspot for DIN in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. This will be the first trial of denitrification bioreactors in the Wet Tropics. Denitrifying bioreactors route water through a high-carbon substrate under anaerobic conditions to encourage denitrification (the conversion of DIN to atmospheric N2). Two bioreactor configurations will be tested at two sites, and the potential for broader adoption will be assessed.
Paul Nelson, Alex Cheesman, Liz Owen, HanShe Lim, Bithin Datta, Colin MacGregor and Ian Layden in collaboration with Nathan Waltham, Bart Dryden and Mark Bayley (College of Science & Engineering, Jaragun Pty Ltd, DAF, TropWater, Terrain Natural Resource Management and Australian Wetlands Consulting)
sugarcane; Water quality; nitrate; runoff; Wet Tropics; Great Barrier Reef

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Water-use efficiency responses and effect of environmental stresses on plants from different rainfall gradients in Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Functional variation of plants along elevation gradients in tropical forest communities of Papua New Guinea (PhD , External Advisor)
  • The Effects of Tropospheric Ozone on Tropical Plant Growth and Functioning (PhD , External Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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