Research Theme Champion: Environment & Sustainability

Professor Brendan Choat

Brendan Choat

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Brendan Choat obtained his BSc (Hons) in 1997 (JCU) and his PhD in 2003 (JCU).

From 2003-2005 he worked as a Post Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. He held a second Post Doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis from 2005-2008.

In 2008 he returned to Australia to take up a Research Fellowship at ANU before moving to a Senior Research Lectureship at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment. He is an editor for the PrometheusWiki Project and on the editorial review board of Tree Physiology.

Brendan was awarded a Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers in 2010. In 2013 he was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship for his work in mapping drought responses in trees.

Areas of Research / Teaching Expertise

The growth and survival of plants is strongly tied to the effective balance of water loss and carbon gain. In vascular plants, the xylem tissue constitutes a hydraulic system that must supply water to the transpiring leaf surface at a rate that allows for a net positive carbon balance.

The efficiency of this system is therefore of paramount importance to plant productivity and survival. However, water transported in the xylem is under tension and is therefore subject to cavitation. The resultant gas void (embolism) blocks conduits and leads to a reduction in hydraulic conductivity, which in turn can impact on leaf gas exchange and ultimately cause die back and death of the plant.

Brendan is studying how the structure of the xylem achieves a compromise between features that promote efficiency of transport to the leaves while preserving safety from cavitation. The questions are of great importance in both natural and agricultural systems.