Alexander Cheesman is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, currently seconded to James Cook University and working with TropOz - an international research program investigating the role of tropospheric ozone on tropical plants.

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, nutrient management, and plant physiology.

He completed his B.A. in Plant Sciences from Cambridge University (Pembroke College) in 2004 before taking a job as a field assistant on Barro Colorado Island, a research site of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. It was here that he developed an attachment to tropical systems which continues to today. In 2010 he completed a 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 with his supervisor, Dr Benjamin Turner. 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.

  • BZ2008: Adaptation to Environmental Change (Level 2; TSV)
  • BZ2808: Adapting to Environmental Challenges (Level 2; CNS)
  • BZ5008: Adaptation to Environmental Change (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5808: Adapting to Environmental Challenges (Level 5; CNS)
  • 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
  • 2018 to present - Senior Research Fellow, University of Exeter (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

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 26+ 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.

Natural Environment Research Council - Standard Research Grant

Ozone impacts on tropical vegetation; implications for forest productivity (Trop-Oz)

Indicative Funding
$195,382 over 2 years (administered by University of Exeter)
Tropospheric ozone is the third most significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas and has been shown to reduce global plant productivity though oxidative stress. Although tropical forests have been highlighted as being potentially being vulnerable to this ozone damage, few studies have looked at role of ozone in these regions. This project will provide comprehensive measurements of the effects of ozone on plant physiology in tropical forests and use this new knowledge to parameterise global land-surface models.
Alex Cheesman, Lucas Cernusak, Stephen Sitch, Timothy Hill, Nadine Unger, Gina Mills, Harry Harmens and Felicity Hayes in collaboration with Klaus Winter, Benjamin Turner, Johan Uddling, Paulo Artaxo, Gerd Folberth, Yoshiko Kosugi and Kho Lip Khoon (College of Science & Engineering, University of Exeter, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology - Cumbria, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Goteborg University, Universidade de S?o Paulo, Met Office, Kyoto University and Malaysian Palm Oil Board)
Ozone; Global modelling; Climate change; Forest; Air pollution

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science - Innovations Connections

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

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 2 years, in partnership with Mainstream Aquaculture ($52,594 over 2 yrs)
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 4 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, HanShe Lim, Bithin Datta, Colin MacGregor, Ian Layden, Nathan Waltham, Bart Dryden and Mark Bayley (College of Science & Engineering, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, TropWATER, Terrain Natural Resource Management (Wet Tropics) and Australian Wetland Consulting)
sugarcane; Water quality; nitrate; runoff; Wet Tropics; Great Barrier Reef

Terrain Natural Resource Management - Contract Research

WTMIP Johnstone Catchment Bioreactor Site-01 Piezo Survey

Indicative Funding
In the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (WTMIP), bioreactor 'walls' are being trialled for their ability to remove nitrate from shallow groundwater leaving sugarcane fields. Bioreactor walls consist of a woodchip-filled trench, approximately 20m long x 2m deep x 0.6m wide, perpendicular to groundwater flow direction. To determine their effectiveness, the removal of nitrate from water flowing through them must be measured. That involves continuous measurements of water table height and nitrate concentration in piezometers (shallow wells) around the bioreactor, and one-off a) measurements of hydraulic conductivity and b) accurate survey of piezometer locations (ie. this project).
Paul Nelson, Alex Cheesman and Shannon Todd (College of Science & Engineering)
Water Quality; Nitrate; bioreactor; Groundwater; Sugarcane; Hydrology

ABRS - Reef Trust Phase III

Australian Banana Growers Council: Denitrifying Bioreactors

Indicative Funding
$30,000 over 2 years (administered by Australian Banana Growers Council)
This project in conjunction with Australian Banana Growers Council seeks to establish the effectiveness of denitrification bioreactors as an on-farm technology to remove excess dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) leaving farms in the Wet Tropics bioregion. The Russell River catchment has been identified as a hotspot for DIN loading to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, and this work represents a novel approach to curb DIN loading to natural systems. Denitrifying bioreactors route drainage water through a high carbon substrate under anaerobic conditions to encourage denitrification (the conversion of DIN to atmospheric N2). This project will involved detailed site monitoring, installation and scientific evaluation of a bioreactor wall in the headwaters of the Russell River catchment.
Paul Nelson and Alex Cheesman (College of Science & Engineering)
Banana; Water Quality; Nitrate; Runoff; Wet Tropics; Great Barrier Reef

FNQ NRM Ltd (Terrain Natural Resource Management) - Tender

Soil/landscape assessment and monitoring design for WTMIP `Catchment Repair and Treatment Systems Design Phase?

Indicative Funding
$35,511 (administered by Australian Wetlands Consulting Pty Ltd)
This project contributes to the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (WTMIP) in the Johnstone and Tully catchments. The `Catchment repair and treatment systems? activity area of the WTMIP aims to reduce nitrogen loads in runoff by installing and restoring wetlands and installing `denitrification bioreactors?. As part of the design phase of that activity we will assess soil and landscape features at the proposed sites and design the monitoring program to assess their effectiveness. This assessment and monitoring design will be done in collaboration with Australian Wetland Consulting and Alluvium, who will design the installations themselves.
Paul Nelson, Alex Cheesman and Nathan Waltham (College of Science & Engineering and TropWATER)
Sugarcane; Water Quality; Nitrate; Runoff; Wet Tropics; Great Barrier Reef

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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