Doctor Andrea Westerband

Andrea WesterbandBiography

Andrea is a plant ecologist and field ecophysiologist with an interest in plant acclimation and adaptation to resource limitation. She combines large-scale field campaigns with greenhouse projects to test ecological theories, with the goal of understanding how trait variation impacts higher order ecological processes. Previously, she has studied the optimization of photosynthesis, the role of environmentally-driven trait variation for mediating community assembly, and the mechanisms by which leaf-level physiology impact population dynamics. Currently, she explores how plants optimize the allocation of carbon towards different tissues, and how this is driven by the environment.

Andrea received her PhD in Biology from the University of Miami in 2016, having developed a mathematical model to examine how population dynamics respond to variation in light and leaf photosynthesis. She then held a postdoctoral appointment (2016-2018) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she studied invasive plants, before moving to Australia in 2018. She is currently a postdoc working with Dr Ian J Wright. She is also actively engaged in science education and outreach across multiple academic levels.

You can read more about her research expertise and interests on her personal webpage (

Areas of research/teaching expertise

Andrea’s research aims to bridge the gap between population biology and ecophysiology. She has previously used size-structured demographic models to examine how leaf photosynthesis influences plant growth, and its downstream impacts upon population growth rates. After completing her doctoral dissertation, she shifted her research focus towards ecophysiology, and has been involved in various research projects that explore how the environment drives variation in plant resource use strategies.

Andrea has a considerable amount of teaching experience, and is actively engaged in science education and outreach programs within her local community and with the international scientific community. She has previously taught university courses in General Biology, Ecology, Biodiversity, and Plant Biology, among others.


(Total: $101,585.64 USD or $159,550AUD)

AmountAgency (Award Dates)
$60,255.64Hermon Slade Foundation, AUS (2020-2023)
$15,000.00Vaughn-Jordan Foundation, USA (2013-2016)
$4,200.00Organization for Tropical Studies, Graduate Research Fellowship (2015)
$3,750.00Organization for Tropical Studies, Graduate Research Fellowship (2014)
$1,250.00University of Miami, Department of Biology, Internal Research Funds (2015)
$1,080.00University of Miami, Department of Biology, Internal Research Funds (2014)
$3,600.00University of Miami, Department of Biology, Internal Research Funds (2013)
$1,200.00University of Miami, Department of Biology, Internal Research Funds (2012)
$1,000.00Heliconia Society International (2015)
$5,000.00University of Miami, College of Arts and Sciences Summer Award (2014)
$1,500.00University of Miami, Center for Latin American Studies (2013)

Selected publications

Fan, B., Westerband, A.C.*, Wright, I.J., Gao, P., Ding, N., Ai, D., Tian, T. Zhao, X. Sun, K. Shifts in plant resource use strategies across climate and soil gradients in dryland steppe communities. Plant and Soil (Accepted) *shared first authorship

Westerband, A.C., Knight, T.M., Barton, K.E. 2023. A test of island plant syndromes using resource use traits. Journal of Systematics and Evolution.

Westerband, A.C., Wright, I.J., Maire, V., Paillassa, J., Prentice, I.C., Atkin, O.K., Bloomfield, K.J., Cernusak, L.A., Dong, N., Gleason, S.M., Guilherme Pereira, C., Lambers, H., Leishman, M.R., Malhi, Y., Nolan, R.H. 2023. Coordination of photosynthetic traits across soil and climate gradients. Global Change Biology, 29: 856-873.

Lei, Z., Westerband, A., Wright, I.J., He, Y., Zhang, W., Cai, X., Zhou, Z., Liu, F., Zhang, Y. 2022. Leaf trait covariation and controls on leaf mass per area (LMA) following cotton domestication. Annals of Botany, 130(2):231-243.

Westerband, A., Wright I.J., Eller, A.S.D., Cernusak, L.A., Reich, P.B., Perez-Priego, O., Chhajed, S.S., Hutley, L.B., Lehmann, C.E.R. 2022. Nitrogen concentration and physical properties are key drivers of woody tissue respiration. Annals of Botany, 129 (6): 633-646.

Liu, Z., Dong,N., Zhang, H., Zhao M., Ren, T., Liu C., Westerband, A., He, N. 2021. Divergent long- and short-term responses to environmental gradients in specific leaf area of grassland species. Ecological Indicators, 130: 108058.

Barton, K., Westerband, A., Ostertag, R., Stacy, E., Drake, D., Litton, C., Winter, K., Cordell, S., Fortini, L., Bennett, G., Krushelnycky, P., Kawelo, K., Feliciano, K., and Knight, T. 2021. Hawai’i forest review: Synthesizing the ecology, evolution, and conservation of a model system. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 52: 125631.

Westerband, A., J. Funk, and K. Barton. 2021. Intraspecific trait variation in plants: a renewed focus on its role in ecological processes. Annals of Botany, 127(4): 397-410.

Westerband, A., T. Knight, and K. Barton. 2021. Intraspecific trait variation and reversals of trait strategies across key climate gradients in native Hawaiian plants and non-native invaders. Annals of Botany, 127 (4): 553-564.

Paillassa, J., Wright, I.J., Prentice, I.C., Pepin, S., Smith, N.G., Ethier, G., Westerband, A.C., Lamarque, L.J., Han, W., Cornwell, W.K. and Maire, V. 2020. When and where soil is important to modify the carbon and water economy of leaves. New Phytologist, 228: 121-135.

Westerband, A., T. Knight, and K. Barton. 2020. Intraspecific variation in seedling drought tolerance and associated traits in a critically endangered, endemic Hawaiian shrub. Plant Ecology and Diversity, 13(2): 159-174.

Westerband, A., A. Kagawa-Viviani, K. Bogner, K, D. Beilman, T. Knight, and K. Barton. 2019. Seedling drought tolerance and functional traits vary in response to the timing of water availability in a keystone Hawaiian tree species. Plant Ecology, 220(3): 321-344.

Westerband, A., and C. Horvitz. 2017. Photosynthetic rates influence the population dynamics of herbs in stochastic light environments. Ecology, 98: 370-381.

Westerband, A., and C. Horvitz. 2017. Early life conditions and precipitation influence the performance of widespread understory herbs in variable light environments. Journal of Ecology, 105: 1298-1308.

Westerband, A., and C. Horvitz. 2015. Interactions between plant size and canopy openness influence vital rates and life-history tradeoffs in two Neotropical understory herbs. American Journal of Botany, 102: 1290-1299.

Westerband, A., M. Dovčiak, G. LaQuay-Velazquez, J.S. Medeiros. 2015. Aspect influences soil moisture and species coexistence in semi-arid pinyon-juniper woodlands of the southwestern United States. The Southwestern Naturalist, 60: 21-29.