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 a senior lecturer at James Cook University- Cairns.  I am looking for students to join my lab, so if you are interested in discussing a research project, please do get in touch.

  • BS2460: Fundamentals of Ecology (Level 2; CNS)
  • BS5460: Fundamentals of Ecology (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ3220: Population and Community Ecology (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ3225: Technological Applications in Ecology (Level 3; CNS)
  • BZ5220: Population and Community Ecology (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5225: Technological Applications in Ecology (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC1102: Modelling Natural Systems (Level 1; CNS & TSV)
  • SC1109: Modelling Natural Systems-Advanced (Level 1; CNS)
  • Carbon dioxide and water vapour exchange between plants and the atmosphere
  • Stable isotopes as recorders of plant physiological processes
  • Tropical plant ecophysiology
  • Refixation of respired carbon dioxide by photosynthetic bark
  • 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
  • 2018 - Make Our Planet Great Again Laureate- Campus France
  • 2010 - Charles Darwin University Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Performance in Research
  • 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

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 89+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Lucas Cernusak from 2000 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

How vulnerable are eucalypts to future droughts?

Indicative Funding
$52,680 over 3 years (administered by UNSW)
This project will examine how resilient Eucalyptus sp. are to future droughts by combining data synthesis, manipulative experiments and modelling. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency, magnitude and duration of future droughts, with major environmental and socio-economic consequences for Australia. Our predictive capacity is extremely limited: experiments are limited in scale and cannot capture important global change interactions, whilst models do not represent the functional characteristics and adaptions of eucalypts. We will develop a strong evidence- and process-based understanding to quantify the functional behaviour of droughtadapted Eucalyptus species and leverage this insight to make robust future model projections.
Martin De Kauwe, Patrick Meir, Lucas Cernusak and Andrew Pitman in collaboration with Vanessa Haverd (The University of New South Wales, Australian National University, College of Science & Engineering and Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation)
eucalypts; ecosystem model; Drought; biogeochemistry; land surface; Ecophysiology

Natural Environment Research Council - Standard Research Grant

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

Indicative Funding
$195,382 over 3 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, Lina Mercado, 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

QLD Department of Environment and Science - Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships

Environmentally responsive biocomposite fertilisers

Indicative Funding
$100,000 over 3 years (administered by University of Queensland)
Nutrient pollution, caused by fertiliser inefficiencies, is a pervasive and ongoing problem that contributes prominently to the decline of the Great Barrier Reef and increased input costs for Queensland farmers. This project aims to deliver innovative fertilisers for Queensland?s expanding agro-nanotechnology sector with a commercial product for local manufacturers to service our bioeconomy. The project capitalises on strong industry partnership and expertise in advanced material design and manufacture, IP in material engineering and crop science. Environmentally responsive fertilisers are novel and cost-effective formulations, based on urea, tailored starches and functional additives, and a step towards high-yielding, high-efficiency agriculture.
Lucas Cernusak, Bronwyn Laycock, Suzanne Schmidt, Paul Luckman, Damien Batstone, Steven Pratt and Matthew Reading (College of Science & Engineering, The University of Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries & Forestry)
Nitrogen pollution; Great Barrier Reef; Polymer; Sugar cane; Fertilizer; Bioefficiency

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Hydraulic control on water use, growth and survival in tropical rainforest

Indicative Funding
$26,522 over 3 years (administered by ANU)
Tropical rainforests are sensitive to climate variability, especially drought, but despite large effects regionally and globally this sensitivity is poorly understood. The focus of this project will be to measure the drought-related limits to water transport in the woody xylem tissue of trees in Australian tropical rainforests, in order to understand how this influences tree water use, photosynthesis, health and mortality risk. The intention is to compare forests that contrast strongly in seasonal drought stress, and to use the information to develop a model designed for speciesdiverse forest, with subsequent potential global application. The outcomes will inform fundamental ecology, conservation science and Earth system model development.
Patrick Meir and Lucas Cernusak in collaboration with Rafael Oliveira, Maurizio Mencuccini, David Galbraith and Emanuel Gloor (Australian National University, College of Science & Engineering, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, University of Edinburgh and University of Leeds)
Tropical Forest; Drought; hydraulic failure; sapflow; Ecosystem Function; model development

Advisory Accreditation:

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.

  • Use of entomopathogenic fungi to control Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and increase agricultural productivity: Can tech-enabled attract-and-infect trapping devices increase fruit yield? (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Contribution of Polyploidy to Weed Invasiveness and Control (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Influence of Elevated Carbon Dioxide on the Defensive Chemistry of Tropical Tree Leaves (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Fruit development in Theobroma cacao: understanding the limitations to optimized cacao production. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Are Mountain-Top Endemic Plants Constrained in their Distributions by Physiology? (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Carbon cycling in tropical rainforests (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Integrating Climate Adaptation into Rainforest Restoration Plantings (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Climate Change Effects on Tropical Trees: Phenology, Eco-Physiology and Stable Isotopes of Amazon Forest Species under Increasing CO2 (PhD , Primary 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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