Doctor John Drake

Dr John DrakeI joined the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in August 2012 as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Ecosystem Function and Integration group. I consider myself a biogeochemist and an ecophysiologist, and I am interested in the interactions between soil nutrient cycling and plant physiological responses to climate change.

I was trained as a tree ecophysiologist in Evan DeLucia's lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and obtained my Ph.D in 2010. I studied biogeochemistry as a postdoc in Adrien Finzi's lab at Boston University from 2010 to 2012, focusing on the effects of roots on soil nutrient fluxes.

Previous research

I was part of a large collaborative research project at the Duke Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) site for part of my Ph.D project. At Duke FACE, a warm-temperate pine forest was exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations for 15 years.

My work on fine-root respiration and whole-ecosystem element budgets helped to establish that the long-term stimulation of C storage under elevated CO2 was made possible by increased mining of soil N by the trees at this site, likely via increased root exudation and allocation to ectomycorrhizal fungi.

Also as part of my Ph.D, I established a chronosequence of loblolly pine forests and investigated how the physiological controls of forest C fluxes changed as the dominant pines aged and the forest experienced secondary successional change in species composition. Photosynthesis of the pines decreased with forest age as these trees became taller and experienced increasing hydraulic limitation of photosynthesis, however the decline in pine productivity was partially ameliorated at the ecosystem level by increasing production of later-successional broadleaved trees.

I was involved in a number of research projects during my post-doc at Boston University. For one of these projects, I simulated root exudation in the field in a cold-temperate forest by trickling solutions of carbohydrates and organic acids through 'fake root' microlysimeters. I demonstrated that root exudation alone is sufficient to stimulate microbial biomass and enzyme activity in soils, but only when these exudates contain a small amount of N to support the synthesis of the N-rich microbes and enzymes. This suggests that root exudation of amino acids is critically important for the interaction between roots and soil microbes.

Areas of research / teaching expertise

  • Tree ecophysiology, including photosynthesis, respiration, and water-relations
  • Belowground processes such as root respiration and soil exo-enzyme activities
  • Whole ecosystem biogeochemistry, C and nutrient budgets

Awards and recognition

  • 2011 The Elizabeth Sulzman Award for best work done as a graduate student, 96th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Austin, TX. $250, Biogeosciences section
  • 2010 Billings Award for the best student oral presentation at the 95th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Pittsburgh, PA. $500, Physiological Ecology Section
  • 2008, 2009 Election to the list of teachers ranked excellent by their students, University of Illinois, "outstanding" rating. Was ranked in top 10% of teachers in the category "overall teaching effectiveness" by students.
  • 2007 Election to Phi Kappa Phi, University of Illinois
  • 2005 University of Illinois Distinguished Fellowship
  • 2005 Summa Cum Laude, 3.93 GPA, Hope College
  • 2005 Election to Phi Beta Kappa, Hope College Chapter
  • 2005 Senior Sigma Xi Research Award, Hope College
  • 2005 Patterson Memorial Prize, outstanding biology student, Hope College
  • 2005 De. Kruif Writing Prize in Biology, best research paper, Hope College


  • Is physiological flexibility of forest trees constrained by home climate in a rapidly warming world?
    2014-2017: Australian Research Council
  • 2011 Partitioning CO2 fluxes with isotopologue measurements and modeling to understand mechanisms of forest carbon sequestration. Scott Saleska (PI), with Eric Davidson, Adrien Finzi, Rich Wehr, and Paul Moorcroft (co-PIs). Contributed to proposal and research, but my institution did not allow post-docs to be named as co-PIs. $1,040,000. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research.
  • 2011 Microbial Diversity in Winter Soils in Temperate Forest Ecosystems. Grant to Alison Greco and Adrien Finzi through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities program at Boston University, $1500. I contributed to the proposal, research, and mentoring of this undergraduate student.
  • 2011 The stoichiometry of root exudation in New England forests: insights from a theoretical model and field experiment. Grant to Bridget Darby and Adrien Finzi through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities program at Boston University, $1500. I lead the proposal, research, and mentoring of this undergraduate student.
  • 2009 Summer Research Grant, $1000, University of Illinois
  • 2006 Travel Grant, $500, University of Illinois

Selected publications

Ellsworth DS, Anderson IC, Crous KY, Cooke J, Drake JE, Gherlenda AN, Gimeno TE, Macdonald CA, Medlyn BE, Powell JR, Tjoelker MG, Reich PB, (2017) 'Elevated CO2 does not increase eucalypt forest productivity on a low-phosphorus soil', Nature Climate Change, vol.7, no.4, pp 279-282

Aspinwall MJ, Drake JE, Campany C, Vårhammar A, Ghannoum O, Tissue DT, Reich PB, Tjoelker MG, (2016) 'Convergent acclimation of leaf photosynthesis and respiration to prevailing ambient temperatures under current and warmer climates in Eucalyptus tereticornis', New Phytologist, vol.212, no.2, pp 354-367

Drake JE, Macdonald CA, Tjoelker MG, Crous KY, Gimeno TE, Singh BK, Reich PB, Anderson IC, Ellsworth DS, (2016) 'Short-term carbon cycling responses of a mature eucalypt woodland to gradual stepwise enrichment of atmospheric CO2 concentration', Global Change Biology, vol.22, no.1, pp 380-390

Drake JE, Tjoelker MG, Aspinwall MJ, Reich PB, Barton CVM, Medlyn BE, Duursma RA, (2016) 'Does physiological acclimation to climate warming stabilize the ratio of canopy respiration to photosynthesis?' New Phytologist, vol.211, no.3, pp 850-863

Medlyn BE, De Kauwe MG, Zaehle S, Walker AP, Duursma RA, Luus K, Mishurov M, Pak B, Smith B, Wang Y-P, Yang X, Crous KY, Drake JE, Gimeno TE, Macdonald CA, Norby RJ, Power SA, Tjoelker MG, Ellsworth DS, (2016) 'Using models to guide field experiments: a priori predictions for the CO2 response of a nutrient- and water-limited native Eucalypt woodland', Global Change Biology, vol.22, no.8, pp 2834-2851

Drake JE, Aspinwall MJ, Pfautsch S, Rymer PD, Reich PB, Smith RA, Crous KY, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O, Tjoelker MG, (2015) 'The capacity to cope with climate warming declines from temperate to tropical latitudes in two widely distributed Eucalyptus species', Global Change Biology, vol.21, no.1, pp 459-472

Lin Y-S, Medlyn BE, Duursma RA, Prentice IC, Wang H, Baig S, Eamus D, De Dios VR, Mitchell P, Ellsworth DS, De Beeck MO, Wallin G, Uddling J, Tarvainen L, Linderson M-L, Cernusak LA, Nippert JB, Ocheltree TW, Tissue DT, Martin-StPaul NK, Rogers A, Warren JM, De Angelis P, Hikosaka K, Han Q, Onoda Y, Gimeno TE, Barton CVM, Bennie J, Bonal D, Bosc A, Löw M, Macinins-Ng C, Rey A, Rowland L, Setterfield SA, Tausz-Posch S, Zaragoza-Castells J, Broadmeadow MSJ, Drake JE, Freeman M, Ghannoum O, Hutley LB, Kelly JW, Kikuzawa K, Kolari P, Koyama K, Limousin J-M, Meir P, Da Costa ACL, Mikkelsen TN, Salinas N, Sun W, Wingate L, (2015) 'Optimal stomatal behaviour around the world', Nature Climate Change, vol.5, no.5, pp 459-464 

Brzostek ER, Greco A, Drake JE, Finzi AC, (2013) 'Root carbon inputs to the rhizosphere stimulate extracellular enzyme activity and increase nitrogen availability in temperate forest soils', Biogeochemistry, vol.115, no.s 1-3, pp 65-76

Drake JE, Darby BA, Giasson M-A, Kramer MA, Phillips RP, Finzi AC, (2013) 'Stoichiometry constrains microbial response to root exudation-insights from a model and a field experiment in a temperate forest', Biogeosciences, vol.10, no.2, pp 821-838

Drake JE, Giasson MA, Spiller KJ, Finzi AC, (2013) 'Seasonal plasticity in the temperature sensitivity of microbial activity in three temperate forest soils', Ecosphere, vol.4, no.6, Article No.UNSP 77  

Giasson MA, Ellison AM, Bowden RD, Crill PM, Davidson EA, Drake JE, Frey SD, Hadley JL, Lavine M, Melillo JM, Munger JW, Nadelhoffer KJ, Nicoll L, Ollinger SV, Savage KE, Steudler PA, Tang J, Varner RK, Wofsy SC, Foster DR, Finzi AC, (2013) 'Soil respiration in a northeastern US temperate forest: a 22-year synthesis', Ecosphere, vol.4, no.11, Article No.UNSP 140 

Pfautsch S, Aspinwall M, Drake J, Choat B, Tissue D, Burykin T, Tjoelker M, (2013) 'Putting the puzzle together: Investigating hydraulic functioning and water transport at high spatial resolution in tall trees', Acta Horticulturae, vol.991, pp 245-252

Drake JE, Darby BA, Giasson M-A, Kramer MA, Phillips RP, Finzi AC, (2012) 'Stoichiometry constrains microbial response to root exudation – insights from a model and a field experiment in a temperate forest', Biogeosciences Discussions, vol.9, pp 6899-6945

Drake JE, Oishi AC, Giasson M-A, Oren R, Johnsen KH, Finzi AC, (2012) 'Trenching reduces soil heterotrophic activity in a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) forest exposed to elevated atmospheric [CO2] and N fertilization', Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, vol.165, pp 43-52

Drake JE, Gallet-Budynek A, Hofmockel KS, Bernhardt ES, Billings SA, Jackson RB, Johnsen KS, Lichter J, McCarthy HR, McCormack ML, Moore DJP, Oren R, Palmroth S, Phillips RP, Pippen JS, Pritchard SG, Treseder KK, Schlesinger WH, DeLucia EH, Finzi AC, (2011) 'Increases in the Flux of Carbon Belowground Stimulate Nitrogen Uptake and Sustain the Long-Term Enhancement of Forest Productivity under Elevated CO2',  Ecology Letters, vol.14, no.4, pp 349-357

Drake JE, Davis SC, Raetz LM, DeLucia EH, (2011) 'Mechanisms of age-related changes in forest production: the influence of physiological and successional changes', Global Change Biology, vol.17, no.4, pp 1522-1535

Drake JE, Raetz LM, Davis SC, DeLucia EH, (2010) 'Hydraulic limitation not declining nitrogen availability causes the age-related photosynthetic decline in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.)', Plant, Cell and Environment, vol.33, no.10, pp 1756-1766

Peterson T, Rossmann B, Drake JE, Westervelt J, (2009) 'A spatially explicit model of red imported fire ant behavior for managing species at risk on military lands', US Army Corps of Engineers Research Laboratory, CERL Report No. TR-09-19

Drake JE, Stoy PC, Jackson RB, DeLucia EH, (2008) 'Fine-root respiration in a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) forest exposed to elevated CO2 and N fertilization', Plant, Cell and Environment, vol.31, no.11, pp 1663-1672

DeLucia EH, Drake JE, Thomas RB, Gonzalez-Meler M, (2007) 'Forest carbon-use-efficiency: is respiration a constant fraction of gross primary production?', Global Change Biology, vol.13, no.6, pp 1157-1167