About

I study how human activities impact tropical rainforest plant and wildlife communities.  I am especially interested in how vulnerable wildlife and plant species are affected by major land-use and climate change.  My work spans much of the tropical world, including the Amazon and tropical Australia.

I have maintained a long-term involvement at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project in Brazil, which is the largest, longest-running experimental study into how human land-use impacts rainforest communities. This dataset has also contributed significantly to our current understanding of forest dynamics, floristic diversity and carbon stock and pulses in tropical rainforests.  

In Australia, I have developed an extensive research program that continues my work in global change and tropical forests at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory (DRO), where we have initiated an ambitious experiment to induce an artifical drought in order to study its effects on rainforest biodiversity.  My other research programs include understanding the biotic and abiotic drivers of secondary forest composition and carbon sequestration, and how fragmentation and human land-use influences disease vectors. I am lead investigator on $1.6 million in research grants and have authored more than 100 peer-reviewed reserach articles. 

Teaching
  • BZ3755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ5755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 5; TSV)
Interests
Professional
  • Ecology Conservation Biology Restoration ecology Climate change Rainforest ecology
Experience
  • 2010 to 2015 - Tropical Leader, James Cook University (Cairns)
  • 2001 to 2009 - Post-doctoral researcher, STRI (Brazil & Panama)
  • 1996 to 2001 - Herbarium manager, BDFFP (Brazil)
  • 1990 to 1995 - Conservation officer, QNPWS (Cairns)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 2014 to 2017 - ARC Future Fellow ($680,000), Global Change: Rainforest responses to experimental drought
  • 2012 to 2015 - Lead Investigator, ARC Discovery Grant ($365,000), Response and vulnerability of tropical rainforest plants to experimental drought
  • 2011 to 2014 - Lead investigator, ARC Linkage Grant ($460,000), Accelerating species and biomass gains in tropical secondary forests
  • 2011 to 2014 - Lead Investigator, NERP/RRRC Grant ($102,000), Land use and disease dynamics across the Torres Straits
Fellowships
  • 2015 to 2050 - Fellow of the Royal Society of Quensland
  • 2007 to 2009 - NSF Post-doctoral Fellow, STRI Panama
  • 2004 to 2006 - Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, STRI Panama
  • 2002 to 2004 - NASA LBA Post-doctoral Fellow, INPA Brazil & STRI Panama
Memberships
  • 2009 to 2016 - Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Reseach Institute
  • 1996 to 2016 - Research Associate, Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, Brazil
  • 2013 to 2015 - President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)
  • 2011 to 2014 - Deputy Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee of the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Cairns
  • 2009 to 2011 - Councilor of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
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 72+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Susan Laurance from 1999 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Future Fellowships

Global Change: Rainforest responses to experimental drought

Indicative Funding
$680,065 over 5 years
Summary
How will rainforests respond if droughts increase in the future? In a globally unique experiment, I will examine how Australian tropical rainforests are affected by a large-scale experimental drought, using a canopy crane to assess plant responses at all vertical forest levels. I will contrast demographic and physiological responses of an array of plant species and functional groups between experimental and control plots where tree growth, composition, soil water and atmospheric exchange have been monitored since 1999. Drought responses of key species and functional groups will be compared with their distributions across regional rainfall gradients to yield crucial insights into the potential impacts of future climate change on rainforests.
Investigators
Susan Laurance (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
rainforest ecology; climate change adaptations; Ecophysiology

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Water use strategies in tropical rainforest plants

Indicative Funding
$5,000
Summary
Tropical rainforest plants are important for the maintenance of biodiversity on Earth. Understanding the different strategies of water transport among rainforest plant lifeforms will assist in predicting the effects of severe droughts on tropical forest ecosystems of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. To date most research has focused on rainforest trees despite the fact that other lifeforms contribute more than half of a tropical forests' biodiversity. I will expand on my previous research into plant water use to study species from all plant lifeforms (eg vines, pioneer shrubs, pioneer trees, mature phase shrubs, mature phase trees, hemiepiphytes)
Investigators
Susan Laurance and Deborah Apgaua in collaboration with R Santos (College of Science & Engineering and Universidade Federal de Lavras)
Keywords
plant anatomy; ecosystem biology; drought tolerance; Tropical Rainforest

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
  • Development of a Passive Sentinel System for the Detection of Arboviruses (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Quantifying the Value of Riparian Forest Corridors for Medium and Large Mammals in Indonesia's Acacia and Oil Palm Plantations. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Examining the Functional Role of Large Herbivores in Seed Dispersal (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Floristic Diversity and Patch Dynamics in hyper-disturbed rainforest fragments; Is Cyclone-disturbance and habitat fragmentation driving functional convergence in tree assemblages towards early successional states? (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Vegetation Communities of Cape Your Peninsula: Evaluating Queensland's Regional Ecosystem Classification (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • A Thorough Cost Assessment of REDD+ in Southeast Asia. (Masters, 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
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Location
  • E2.024, Sir Robert Norman Building (Cairns campus)
Advisory Accreditation
Primary Advisor
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