About

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.

Teaching
  • 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)
  • BZ1007: Introduction to Biodiversity (Level 1; TSV)
  • BZ1008: Functional Biology (Level 1; TSV)
  • BZ3001: Field Studies in the Equatorial Tropics: Borneo (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ3210: Rainforest Ecosystems (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ3615: Plant Survival in a Land of Fire, Flood and Drought (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ5210: Ecology of Tropical Forest Ecosystems (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5615: Plant Survival in a Land of Fire, Flood and Drought (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • SC1101: Science: Nature, Knowledge and Understanding (Level 1; TSV)
  • TV1102: Cell Biology and Biochemistry for Veterinary Science and Agriculture (Level 1; TSV)
Interests
Research
  • 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
Experience
  • 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)
Publications

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
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ResearchOnline@JCU stores 61+ 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
Summary
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.
Investigators
Joe Holtum, Mike Crisp, Darren Crayn, Erika Edwards, Klaus Winter and Rowan Sage (College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, Division of Tropical Environments & Societies, Brown University, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Toronto)
Keywords
succulents; succulent flora; epiphytic orchids

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Nitrogen economy of the vulnerable rainforest sundew Drosera schizandra

Indicative Funding
$1,746
Summary
The project will investigate the acquisition of nitrogen (N) and prey capture by the rainforest carnivorous sundew Drosera schizandra. D. schizandra is one of only three rainforest species of carnivorous sundews in the world and endemic to Mount Bartle Frere of Wooroonooran National Park. Captured prey will be identified and measured to detect prey composition and biomass. Using N isotope ratios, the project will determine the relative contributions of prey and soil N. The outcome of the project will contribute to the ecology of rainforest carnivorous sundew and better understanding on N plasticity of the few rainforest sundews.
Investigators
Irwan Lovadi, Joe Holtum, Simon Robson and Charles Clarke (College of Science & Engineering and Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Keywords
Drosera schizandra; Droseraceae; Rainforest; Prey capture; Nitrogen; Ecology

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Interactions among fungi, ants, and the ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii

Indicative Funding
$3,000
Summary
Myrmecodia beccarii is a vulnerable endemic ant-plant of far north Queensland. This ant-plant provides ants with housing in specialised tunnels and chambers. Fungi were discovered in these chambers almost 40 years ago but their identity and functional roles have never been determined. I will explore the ecological interactions among fungi, ants and M. beccarrii to establish and define this tripartite mutualism. To do this, I will conduct field work to determine the distribution of fungal species within M.beccarii and field/greenhouse experiments to investigate the interactions and functional roles of fungi. The results will be used to inform the conservation of M. beccarri.
Investigators
Melinda Greenfield, Sandra Abell, Lori Lach and Joe Holtum (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Myrmecodia beccarii (Rubiaceae); Ant-plants; Fungi; Philidris cordata (Formicidae)

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Interactions among fungi, ants, and the ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii.

Indicative Funding
$3,993
Summary
Myrmecodia beccarii is a vulnerable endemic ant-plant of far north Queensland. This ant-plant provides ants with housing in specialised tunnels and chambers. Fungi were discovered in these chambers over 30 years ago but their identity and functional roles have never been determined. I will explore the ecological interactions between fungi, ants and M. beccarii to establish and define this tripartitie mutualism. To do this, I will conduct field work to determine the distribution of fungal species within M. beccarii and field/greenhouse experiments to investigate the interactions and functional roles of fungi. The results will be used to inform the conservation of M. beccarii.
Investigators
Melinda Greenfield, Sandra Abell, Lori Lach and Joe Holtum (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Myrmecodia beccarii; Ant-plants; Fungi; Philidris cordata

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Response and vulnerability of tropical rainforest plants to experimental drought

Indicative Funding
$365,000 over 3 years
Summary
How will tropical forests respond if droughts should increase in the future? In a globally unique experiment, we will induce artificial rough in an Australian tropical rainforest and then use a canopy crane to assess plant responses at all vertical forest layers. We will contrast demographic and physiological responses of an array of plant species and functional groups, compared to nearby experimental-control plots where tree growth, composition, soil water and atmospheric exchange have been monitored since 1999. Drought responses for key species and functional groups will be compared with their distributions across regional rainfall gradients to yield novel insights into potential rainforest responses to future climate change.
Investigators
Susan Laurance, Joe Holtum, Bill Laurance and Paul Nelson in collaboration with Jonathan Lloyd and Maurizio Mencuccini (College of Science & Engineering, University of Leeds and University of Edinburgh)
Keywords
rainforest ecology; climate change adaptations; Ecophysiology
Supervision

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.

Current
  • Interactions Among Fungi, Ants, and the Ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Ectoine Gene Cassette Transformation into Cyanobacteria/Microalgae for the Improvement of Salinity and Temperature Resilience. (PhD , Associate Advisor)
  • Nitrogen Economies and Trapping Capacities of Selected North Queensland Drosera (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Origins of the Northern Australian Flora: Role of the Sunda-Sahul Floristic Exchange (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
Completed
Collaboration

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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Email
Phone
Location
  • 23.105, Marine & Tropical Biology 1 (Townsville campus)
Advisory Accreditation
Primary Advisor
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