Examining the role of plant physiology in the amplification of heat extremes

Climate models project an increase in the frequency, magnitude and intensity of future heatwaves.

However, plant responses to high temperatures and drought effects on photosynthetic physiology, are poorly constrained by data in models. Evaluation of land-atmosphere feedbacks have largely ignored the role of the vegetation, limiting our capacity to project the role of plants in heat extremes. Observations point to novel responses by plants to water stress, responses not currently captured by models. Similarly, the response of vegetation-atmosphere interactions to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is uncertain in models.

This PhD will translate the latest experimental insight into the Australian climate modelling framework, examining the role of the vegetation in predictions of past and future heatwaves in Australia. It will use innovative science, woven with biophysics and high-performance computing.

The project is based at the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, under the supervision of Dr Martin De Kauwe, Professor Andrew Pitman and Professor Belinda Medlyn at Western Sydney University (WSU).

The successful candidate will become part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes– an international research consortium of five Australian universities (The University of New South Wales, Monash University, The University of Melbourne, The University of Tasmania and The Australian National University) and a suite of outstanding national and international Partner Organizations. The Centre provides excellent opportunities for travel and graduate student development.

We are looking for expressions of interest from outstanding graduates with a strong academic record including Honours Class I or equivalent. Graduates with a strong background in plant ecophysiology, mathematics, physics, atmospheric science, engineering or similar quantitative sciences are particularly encouraged to apply. Programming experience with fortran 90, Python or R, is desirable but not essential.

Questions may be directed to Martin De Kauwe (m.dekauwe@unsw.edu.au). Expressions of interest including a CV, full academic transcript, and the names of up to three academic referees should be sent to arccss.grad@unsw.edu.au.

Note: this is not an official application, if your expression of interest is accepted we will guide you through the application process.