Doctor Mike Aspinwall

Mike AspinwallDr Mike Aspinwall joined Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment as a postdoctoral research fellow in September 2012, coming from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mike is a plant physiological ecologist broadly interested in:

  • the determinants and implications of physiological variation among and within plant species
  • environmental, particularly climate change, effects on physiological processes; and 
  • the combined effects of genetic variability and environmental change on physiological processes ranging from the gene to ecosystem level.

Mike received his PhD in 2010 from North Carolina State University under the supervision of Drs John King and Steve McKeand.  His PhD research examined genetic effects on leaf-level and whole-tree physiology, hydraulic traits, and foliar biochemistry, as well as the effect of genetic homogeneity on physiological and ecosystem-level production uniformity in Pinus taeda L.

At the University of Texas at Austin, his research aimed to understand the evolution of physiological traits which underlie local adaptation in the C4 tallgrass prairie species, Panicum virgatum L. This research incorporated the use rainout shelters to study the response of differentially adapted genotypes to altered precipitation, and examined linkages between gene expression and physiology under variable soil moisture conditions.

Mike was also a part of a team of researchers at the USDA studying the structure and function of grassland ecosystems as affected by variable atmospheric CO2.

At UWS, Mike is involved in several projects aimed at understanding the effects of elevated CO2, temperature, and altered precipitation on Australian forests.

Areas of research

Leaf-level carbon dynamics, biochemistry, and water relations; biomass partitioning; photochemistry; stem hydraulics; sapflow; forest genetics; gene expression – physiology linkages

Teaching expertise

  • Research leader/mentor at USDA-ARS Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory, Temple, TX (2011 & 2012)
  • Research mentor for "Biology of Biofuels" Research Experience for Undergrads (REU), University of Texas at Austin
  • Graduate teaching assistant in tree physiology and silviculture, North Carolina State University

Awards and recognition

  • "Carbon sequestration from 40 years of planting genetically improved loblolly pine across the southeast United States" publication featured in North Carolina State University press release entitled 'Land of the Pine'.
  • North Carolina State University Charles B. Davey Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Biological Sciences.
  • North Carolina State University Donald Moreland Endowed Fellowship in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry.

Selected publications

Book Chapters

King JS, Liu L, Aspinwall M, (2013) 'Tree and forest responses to interacting elevated atmospheric CO2 and tropospheric O3: a synthesis of experimental evidence', In: Climate change, air pollution and global challenges: understanding and perspectives from forest research. Matyssek R, Clarke N, Cudlin P, Mikkelsen TN, Tuovinen J-P, Wieser G, Paoletti E (eds). Elsevier


Aspinwall MJ, Fay PA, Hawkes CV, Lowry DB, Khasanova A, Bonnette J, Whitaker BK, Johnson N, Juenger TE (2017) ' Intraspecific variation in precipitation responses of a widespread C4 grass depends on site water limitation', Journal of Plant Ecology, vol.10, no.2, pp 310-321

Blackman CJ, Aspinwall MJ, Tissue DT, Rymer PD, (2017) 'Genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity contribute to greater leaf hydraulic tolerance in response to drought in warmer climates', Tree Physiology, vol.37, no.5, pp 583-592

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

Blackman CJ, Aspinwall MJ, Resco de Dios V, Smith RA, Tissue DT, (2016) 'Leaf photosynthetic, economics and hydraulic traits are decoupled among genotypes of a widespread species of eucalypt grown under ambient and elevated CO2', Functional Ecology, vol.30, no.9, pp 1491-1500

Dijkstra FA, Carrillo Y, Aspinwall MJ, Maier C, Canarini A, Tahaei H, Choat B, Tissue DT, (2016) 'Water, nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiencies of four tree species in response to variable water and nutrient supply', Plant and Soil, vol.406, no.1 pp 187-199

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

Lovell JT, Shakirov EV, Schwartz S, Lowry DB, Aspinwall MJ, Taylor SH, Bonnette J, Palacio-Mejia JD, Hawkes CV, Fay PA, Juenger TE, (2016) 'Promises and challenges of eco-physiological genomics in the field: Tests of drought responses in switchgrass', Plant Physiology, vol.172, no.2, pp 734-748

Resco de Dios V, Loik ME, Smith R, Aspinwall MJ, Tissue DT, (2016) 'Genetic variation in circadian regulation of nocturnal stomatal conductance enhances carbon assimilation and growth', Plant, Cell and Environment, vol.39, no.1, pp 3-11

Taylor SH, Lowry DB, Aspinwall MJ, Bonnette JE, Fay PA, Juenger TE, (2016) 'QTL and Drought Effects on Leaf Physiology in Lowland Panicum virgatum', BioEnergy Research, vol.9, no.4, pp 1241-1259

Aspinwall MJ, Loik ME, de Dios VR, Tjoelker MG, Payton PR, Tissue DT, (2015) 'Utilizing intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity to bolster agricultural and forest productivity under climate change', Plant Cell and Environment, vol.38, no.9, pp 1752-1764, SI

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

Falster DS, Duursma RA, Ishihara MI, Barneche DR, FitzJohn RG, Vårhammar A, Aiba M, Ando M, Anten N, Aspinwall MJ, Baltzer JL, Baraloto C, Battaglia M, Battles JJ, Bond-Lamberty B, van Breugel M, Camac J, Claveau Y, Coll L, Dannoura M, Delagrange S, Domec J-C, Fatemi F, Wang Feng, Gargaglione V, Goto Y, Hagihara A, Hall JS, Hamilton S, Harja D, Hiura T, Holdaway R, Hutley LS, Ichie T, Jokela EJ, Kantola A, Kelly JWG, Kenzo T, King D, Kloeppel BD, Kohyama T, Komiyama A, Laclau J-P, Lusk CH, Maguire DA, le Maire G, Mäkelä A, Markesteijn L, Marshall J, McCulloh K, Miyata I, Mokany K, Mori S, Myster RW, Nagano M, Naidu SL, Nouvellon Y, O'Grady AP, O'Hara KL, Ohtsuka T, Osada N, Osunkoya OO, Peri PL, Petritan AM, Poorter L, Portsmuth A, Potvin C, Ransijn J, Reid D, Ribeiro SC, Roberts SD, Rodríguez R, Saldaña-Acosta A, Santa-Regina I, Sasa K, Selaya NG, Sillett SC, Sterck F, Takagi K, Tange T, Tanouchi H, Tissue DT, Umehara T, Utsugi H, Vadeboncoeur MA, Valladares F, Vanninen P, Wang JR, Wenk E, Williams R, de Aquino Ximenes F, Yamaba A, Yamada T, Yamakura T, Yanai RD, York RA, (2015) 'BAAD: a Biomass And Allometry Database for woody plants', Ecology, vol.96, pp 1445–1445

Fay PA, Reichmann LG, Aspinwall MJ, Khasanova AR, Polley HW, (2015) 'A CO2 Concentration Gradient Facility for Testing CO2 Enrichment and Soil Effects on Grassland Ecosystem Function', Jove-Journal of Visualized Experiments, no.105, Article no.e53151

Lowry DB, Taylor SH, Bonnette J, Aspinwall MJ, Asmus AL, Keitt TH, Tobias CM, Juenger TE, (2015) 'QTLs for Biomass and Developmental Traits in Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)', Bioenergy Research, vol.8, no.4, pp 1856-1867Aspinwall MJ, Loik ME, Resco de Dios V, Tjoelker MG, Payton PR, Tissue DT, (2014) 'Utilizing intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity to bolster agricultural and forest productivity under climate change', Plant, Cell & Environment, (in press)

Meyer E, Aspinwall MJ, Lowry DB, Palacio-Mejía JD, Logan TL, Fay PA, Juenger TE, (2014) 'Integrating transcriptional, metabolomic, and physiological responses to drought stress and recovery in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.)', BMC Genomics, vol.15, p 527

Aspinwall MJ, King JS, McKeand SE, (2013) 'Productivity differences among loblolly pine genotypes are independent of individual-tree biomass partitioning and growth efficiency', Trees, vol.27, no.3, pp 533-545

Aspinwall MJ, Lowry DB, Taylor SH, Juenger TE, Hawkes CV, Johnson M-VV, Kiniry JR, Fay PA, (2013) 'Genotypic variation in traits linked to climate and aboveground productivity in a widespread C4 grass: evidence for a functional trait syndrome', New Phytologist, vol.199, no.4, pp 966-980

King J, Liu L, Aspinwall M, (2013) 'Tree and forest responses to interacting elevated atmospheric Co2 and tropospheric O3: A synthesis of experimental evidence', Developments in Environmental Science, vol.13, pp 179-208

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

Rico C, Pittermann J, Polley HW, Aspinwall MJ, Fay PA, (2013) 'The effect of subambient to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration on vascular function in Helianthus annuus: implications for plant response to climate change', New Phytologist, vol.199, no.4, pp 956-965

Aspinwall MJ, McKeand SE, King JS, (2012) 'Carbon sequestration from 40 years of planting genetically improved loblolly pine across the southeast United States', Forest Science, vol.58, no.5, pp 446-456

Fay PA, Polley HW, Jin VL, Aspinwall MJ, (2012) 'Productivity of well-watered Panicum virgatum does not increase with CO2 enrichment', Journal of Plant Ecology, vol.5, no.4, pp 366-375

Aspinwall MJ, King JS, Booker FL, McKeand SE, (2011) 'Genetic effects on total phenolics, condensed tannins and non-structural carbohydrates in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) needles', Tree Physiology, vol.31, pp 831-842

Aspinwall MJ, King JS, McKeand SE, Bullock BP, (2011) 'Genetic effects on stand-level uniformity, and above- and belowground biomass production in juvenile loblolly pine', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.262, pp  609-619

Aspinwall MJ, King JS, Domec J-C, McKeand SE, Isik F, (2011) 'Genetic effects on transpiration, canopy conductance, stomatal sensitivity to vapor pressure deficit, and cavitation resistance in loblolly pine', Ecohydrology, vol.4, pp 168-182

Aspinwall MJ, King JS, McKeand SE, Domec J-C, (2011) 'Leaf-level gas-exchange uniformity and photosynthetic capacity among loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) genotypes of contrasting inherent genetic variation', Tree Physiology, vol.31, pp 78-91

Aspinwall MJ, Li B, McKeand SE, Isik F, Gumpertz ML, (2010) 'Prediction of whole-stem α-cellulose yield, lignin content, and wood density in juvenile and mature loblolly pine', Southern Journal of Applied Forestry, vol.34, no.2, pp 84-90