Doctor Demi Sargent

Demi SargentI received a Bachelor of Science (Plant Science) in 2014, followed by a Master of Science (Plant Science) in 2016 from the University of Melbourne. In 2020 I obtained a PhD from the Australian National University under the supervision of Dr. Robert Sharwood (ANU; now at WSU), Dr. Warren Conaty (CSIRO), Prof. Spencer Whitney (ANU), Dr. Michael Bange (CSIRO) and Prof. David Tissue (WSU). My CRDC-supported PhD studied the thermal dependency of photosynthesis in cotton and its wild relatives (Gossypium spp.). During my PhD, I also developed a new R package – plantecowrap – to improve the species-specific and temperature-sensitive estimation of important parameters (maximal rates of carboxylation and electron transport; Vcmax and J) from photosynthetic CO2 response (A/Ci) curves.

My current position as a post-doctoral fellow (also supported by CRDC) at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment will continue investigating photosynthetic mechanisms associated with heat and drought stress tolerance in wild Gossypium species. This project, supervised by Rob Sharwood, Warren Conaty and David Tissue, aims to determine whether superior photosynthetic traits can be transferred to commercial cotton cultivars to improve cotton’s productivity and abiotic stress resilience under increasingly challenging climates.

Areas of research

My broad areas of research include the photosynthetic physiology and biochemistry of cotton and its wild relatives (Gossypium spp.), and heat and drought stress responses. Primarily, I am interested in the inter-species variation in thermal dependency of Rubisco and other photosynthetic enzymes. I am also investigating the anatomical characteristics that contribute to inter-species variation in mesophyll conductance, and the impact of this variation on species-specific responses of mesophyll conductance to heat and drought stress. My ultimate aim is to characterise the mechanisms of heat and drought stress resistance in Gossypium species during my current project towards the development of climate-adapted cotton varieties.

Awards and Grants
  • Society for Experimental Biology Conference Young Scientist Award Session Winner (plant science category), 2021
  • ABARES Science and Innovation Award (cotton category) for the project titled ‘The Gatekeeper to Photosynthesis: Mesophyll Conductance and Abiotic Stress in Cotton’, 2021
  • Australian Cotton Research Conference ‘Best Student Presentation’, 2019
  • Bruze Knox Prize, the University of Melbourne, awarded 2017 for academic excellence in the Master of Science
  • Dean’s Honours List, the University of Melbourne, awarded 2017
  • Master’s Thesis awarded First Class Honours, 2016
  • CSIRO Summer Research Scholar 2014/15
  • Australian Cotton Research Conference Travel Scholarship, awarded 2015 and 2017
  • Klemperer-Ducker Scholarship, the University of Melbourne, awarded 2015
  • Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) stipend scholarship for undertaking a PhD at the Australian National University, 2017-2020
  • Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) PhD Top-Up Scholarship, 2017-2020
  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Physiology PhD Top-Up Scholarship, 2018-2020

Conaty WC, Broughton KJ, Egan LM, Li X, Li Z, Liu S, Llewellyn DJ, MacMillan CP, Moncuquet P, Rolland V, Ross B, Sargent D, Zhu QH, Pettolino FA, Stiller WN, (2022) 'Cotton Breeding in Australia: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.13, Article no.904131

Sharwood RE, Quick WP, Sargent D, Estavillo GM, Silva-Perez V, Furbank RT, (2022) 'Mining for allelic gold: finding genetic variation in photosynthetic traits in crops and wild relatives', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.73, no.10, pp 3085-3108

Birrer KF, Conaty W, Cottee N, Sargent D, Francis ME, Cahill D, Long R, (2021) 'Can heat stress and water deficit affect cotton fiber wax content in field-grown plants?', Industrial Crops and Products, vol.168, Article 113559

Goodger JQD, Sargent D, Humphries J, Woodrow IE, (2021) 'Monoterpene synthases responsible for the terpene profile of anther glands in Eucalyptus polybractea R.T. Baker (Myrtaceae)' Tree Physiology, vol.41, no.5, pp 849-864

Stinziano JR, Roback C, Sargent D., Murphy BK, Hudson PJ, Muir CD, (2021) 'Principles of resilient coding for plant ecophysiologists', AoB Plants, vol.13, no.5, Article no.plab059