I am a plant ecophysiologist interested in the mechanisms that permit plants to survive when times are tough. I have a particular focus on how the roughly 6% of plant species that exhibit a water-conserving type of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) respond to temperature, water-limitation and to changing concentrations of atmospheric CO2. I study Australian CAM clades, species in Central America (in collaboration with Klaus Winter at STRI, Panama), and most recently, SE Asian and New Guinea groups with collaborators in Singapore, PNG and Oxford. Australian species with CAM include many epiphytic orchids and hoyas, ant-plants, succulents of coastal and inland saline areas, temperate and tropical Calandrinia from across the continent, and a few fresh-water species.

I am also (i) assisting in evaluating growing Agave as a biofuel feedstock crop in the seasonally-dry tropics of Australia. An Australian industry partner, AusAgave, and I are currently trialling an Agave crop for biomass production, a world first, and (ii) participating in a project that attempts to understand how Australian lowland rainforest may respond to increasing water-limitation.

Long-term projects include a census of Australian CAM species and determining how many orchids and hoyas exhibit CAM and what are the phylogenetic and environmental connections between those species.

In collaboration with Dr Jon Luly (JCU) and Prof Michelle Waycott (Adelaide), I am also attempting to understand the functional biology of Australia's tallest desert tree, Acacia peuce.

  • AG1007: Introduction to Plants and Animals for Veterinary Science (Level 1; TSV)
  • BC2013: Principles of Biochemistry (Level 2; TSV)
  • BC2014: Principles of Biochemistry for Pharmacy Students (Level 2; TSV)
  • BM1000: Introductory Biochemistry and Microbiology (Level 1; TSV)
  • BZ3615: Plant Survival in a Land of Fire, Flood and Drought (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ5615: Plant Survival in a Land of Fire, Flood and Drought (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • TV1102: Cell Biology and Biochemistry for Veterinary Science and Agriculture (Level 1; TSV)
  • Carbon metabolism in CAM plants and tropical epiphytes
  • Responses of tropical plants to increasing atmospheric CO2
  • Physiology and ecology of Australian desert plants
  • Ecophysiology of Australian ant-plants
  • Biofuel feedstocks for the wet-dry tropics
  • Responses of tropical biomes to drought
  • 2012 to present - Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (PAN)
  • 2012 to present - Professor, Tropical Biology, JCU (AUS)
  • 2004 to 2011 - Reader, Tropical Plant Sciences, JCU (AUS)
  • 2004 - Magdalen College Visiting Fellow, Oxford (UK)
  • 2003 - Queensland-Smithsonian Fellow, STRI (PAN)
  • 1996 to 2003 - Senior Lecturer, Tropical Plant Sciences, JCU (AUS)
  • 1993 to 1995 - Lecturer, Botany and Tropical Agriculture, JCUNQ (AUS)
  • 1987 to 1993 - Research Fellow, Waite Research Institute, University of Adelaide (AUS)
  • 1982 to 1987 - Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (GER)
  • 1980 to 1982 - Post-doc, University of Wisconsin - Madison (USA)
  • 1975 to 1980 - PhD, Australian National University (AUS)
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 67+ research outputs authored by Prof Joe Holtum from 1999 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Australia's distinctive succulent flora

Indicative Funding
$364,400 over 3 years
We will investigate why Australia, the driest vegetated continent, has no landscape dominated by large succulents but nevertheless supports a distinctive, diverse and widespread succulent flora. Focusing on terrestrial succulents and epiphytic orchids, we will explore the evolution, assembly and biodiversity of Australia?s succulent flora, evaluating the roles of genetic composition, photosynthetic physiology, aridity, fire, soil nutrients and salinity in its historical expansion, and assessing the resilience of the assemblages to changing climate. Of particular interest will be how the most water-use efficient type of photosynthesis, crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), is expressed across the succulent landscape.
Joe Holtum, Mike Crisp, Darren Crayn, Erika Edwards, Klaus Winter and Rowan Sage (College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, Australian Tropical Herbarium, Brown University, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Toronto)
succulents; succulent flora; epiphytic orchids

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or 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.

  • Interactions Among Fungi, Ants, and the Ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Influence of Elevated Carbon Dioxide on the Defensive Chemistry of Tropical Tree Leaves (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Origins of the Northern Australian Flora: Role of the Sunda-Sahul Floristic Exchange (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Nitrogen Economies and Trapping Capacities of Selected North Queensland Drosera (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Mangrove Restoration, A Case for an Evidence Based Approach (2015, PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Agronomic Management to Maximise Irrigated Soybean Profitability in Southern NSW (2015, Masters , Associate 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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