About

My research seeks to understand the environmental and biological controls on carbon dioxide and water vapour exchange between plants and the atmosphere.  I use a range of measurement techniques to gain a deeper insight into these processes, including measurements of how the stable isotope compositions of carbon dioxide and water vapour change during photosynthesis and transpiration.  I am also interested in improving the interpretation of stable isotope signals in plant organic material, in order to gain insight into how leaf gas exchange has responded to global climate change through time and space.  I am especially interested using these tools to understand how tropical rainforests are responding to climate change, and what role they are likely to play in modulating the response of the global carbon cycle to human activity in the coming century.  I am currently an associate professor at James Cook University - Cairns Campus.  

Interests
Research
  • Forest responses to climate change
  • Carbon dioxide and water vapour exchange between plants and the atmosphere
  • Stable isotopes as recorders of plant physiological processes
  • Tropical plant ecophysiology
Experience
  • 2018 to present - Associate Professor, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2016 to 2017 - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2013 to 2015 - ARC Future Fellow, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2011 to 2012 - ARC Future Fellow, The Australian National University (Canberra, Australia)
  • 2007 to 2010 - ARC Postdoctoral Fellow, Charles Darwin University (Darwin, Australia)
  • 2005 to 2007 - Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama City, Panama)
  • 2004 to 2005 - Research Associate, Charles Darwin University (Darwin, Australia)
  • 2000 to 2004 - PhD Plant Science, The Australian National University (Canberra, Australia)
  • 1997 to 1999 - MSc Forest Resources, University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho, USA)
  • 1990 to 1996 - BSc Biology, University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 2022 - WSL Fellow, Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forests, Snow and Landscapes
  • 2018 - Make Our Planet Great Again Laureate- Campus France
  • 2010 - Charles Darwin University Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Performance in Research
Fellowships
  • 2011 to 2015 - Australian Research Council Future Fellow
  • 2007 to 2010 - Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow
  • 2006 to 2009 - Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Tupper Fellow
  • 2005 to 2006 - Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellow
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
More

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 148+ research outputs authored by Prof Lucas Cernusak from 2000 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Rainforest Protection Grant

Integrating climate adaptation into rainforest restoration

Indicative Funding
$15,000 over 3 years
Summary
Rainforest restoration aims to develop self-sustaining ecosystems, resilient to the potential negative effects of climate change. Key to this is identifying the physiological limitations and adaptive capacity of woody tree species used in revegetation plantings. Recent, albeit limited, research suggests that across species higher leaf thermal tolerance could be an adaptation to leaf temperature extremes. To improve our understanding on how tropical tree species will respond to current and future warming we need accurate estimates of leaf temperature extremes, as well as research into within-species variation in leaf thermal tolerance. I will address these knowledge gaps by combining measurements of leaf thermal tolerance and functional traits across a species distribution, with leaf energy balance modelling paramaterised during glasshouse experiments and field campaigns. These findings will aid in identifying vulnerable populations to climate change which will inform conservation and restoration efforts.
Investigators
Kali Middleby and Lucas Cernusak (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Leaf temperature; Climate Change; Thermal Tolerance; Adaptation potential; Rainforest Restoration; Tropical Forests

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Projects

Integrating climate adaptation into rainforest restoration plantings

Indicative Funding
$410,237 over 3 years, in partnership with Australian Genome Research Facility ($15,000)
Summary
This project aims to investigate the impact of within species adaptation to climate on reforestation success in the Australian Wet Tropics. For a suite of six species of tropical tree frequently employed in rainforest restoration plantings in northeast Queensland, we will test the hypothesis that collecting seed from populations in similar ecoclimatic settings to the planting site will result in superior seedling growth and survival. The results of the study will allow us to provide practical advice to reforestation practitioners about the importance of matching the provenance of seed source to planting sites, and opportunities for selecting provenances pre-adapted to predicted future climatic conditions at planting sites.
Investigators
Lucas Cernusak, Martin Breed, Susan Laurance and Darren Crayn in collaboration with Alexander Cheesman, Maurizio Rossetto, Christopher Noune and Kenneth Chan (College of Science & Engineering, Flinders University, University of Exeter, Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust and Australian Genome Research Facility)
Keywords
Restoration; Microbiome; Ecophysiology; Common garden; Adaptation; Rainforest

Qld Department of Employment, Economic Development & Innovation - TERN EIF scheme

TERN Australia Supersite Network.

Indicative Funding
$15,532,202 over 14 years
Summary
The Australian Supersite Network will involve the establishment of a nationally consistent network of multidisciplinary and intensive ecosystem observatories "Supersites" to provide a comprehensive set of ecosystem measurements (vegetation dynamics/stocks, biodiversity, micrometeorology (climate, radiation, C and H2O fluxes), hydrology and biogeochemistry to serve the ecosystem dynamics, earth system science and modelling communities and ultimately provide information on how ecosystems will respond to future environmental change.
Investigators
Will Edwards and Lucas Cernusak in collaboration with Peter Grace, Suzanne Prober, Tim Wardlaw, Wayne Meyer and Lindsay Hutley (College of Science & Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, University of Adelaide and Charles Darwin University)
Keywords
carbon fluxes; Environmental Monitoring; terrestrial ecosystem research network; Eddy Covariance; Carbon Flux; Soil moisture; Ecosystem function; Water flux; Micrometeorology

Ecological Society of Australia - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

Integrating climate adaptation into rainforest restoration

Indicative Funding
$12,760 over 2 years
Summary
Rainforest restoration aims to develop self-sustaining ecosystems, resilient to the potential negative effects of climate change. Key to this is identifying the physiological limitations and adaptive capacity of woody tree species used in revegetation plantings. Recent, research suggests that across species higher leaf thermal tolerance could be an adaptation to leaf temperature extremes. To improve our understanding on how tropical tree species will respond to current and future warming we need accurate estimates of leaf temperature extremes, as well as research into within-species variation in leaf thermal tolerance. I will address these knowledge gaps by combining measurements of leaf thermal tolerance and functional traits across a species distribution, with leaf energy balance modelling paramaterised during glasshouse experiments and field campaigns. These findings will aid in identifying vulnerable populations to climate change which will inform conservation and restoration efforts.
Investigators
Kali Middleby and Lucas Cernusak (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Leaf Temperature; Climate Change; Thermal Tolerance; Adaptation potential; Rainforest restoration; Tropical forests

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

On the physiology of plant transpiration

Indicative Funding
$41,190 over 3 years (administered by Australian National University)
Summary
The aim is to better understand plant water use (transpiration): to determine the relative roles of the environment, both aerial [absorbed radiation, both long and short wave, humidity, windspeed and temperature] and below ground [e.g. soil moisture content and resistance to root penetration], and of the plant [stomata, water pathways inside the leaf, and root water status] in controlling transpiration rate. The project will improve formulae describing the environmental and biological aspects of transpiration. A novel technique will be developed to measure the water potential distribution within the leaf. Results will inform breeders of the abilities of different plants to transpire rapidly when demand is high, or to conserve water.
Investigators
Graham Farquhar, Lucas Cernusak and Abraham Stroock (Australian National University, College of Science & Engineering and Cornell University)
Keywords
Transpiration; Water cycle; Carbon Cycle; photosynthesis

QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries - Contract Research

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

Indicative Funding
$23,319
Summary
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
Investigators
Alex Cheesman and Lucas Cernusak (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
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)
Summary
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.
Investigators
Alex Cheesman and Lucas Cernusak (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Ozone; Sugarcane; Air Pollution; Climate Change Impacts
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
  • Attract and infect the Queensland fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni, using entomopathogenic fungi (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Determinants of spatial variation in population density in a tropical folivore community: Conservation implications in a changing environment (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Water-use efficiency responses and effect of environmental stresses on plants from different rainfall gradients in Australia (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Integrating Climate Adaptation into Rainforest Restoration Plantings (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • The Effects of Tropospheric Ozone on Tropical Plant Growth and Functioning (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Functional variation of plants along elevation gradients in tropical forest communities of Papua New Guinea (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Fruit development in Theobroma cacao: understanding the limitations to optimized cacao production. (PhD , Primary 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
  • E2.205, Sir Robert Norman Building (Cairns campus)
Advisory Accreditation
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