Elisa Stefaniak



Thesis Title

Do Plants Hedge Their Bets? Modelling optimal plant behaviour?

View Elisa's Winning 3MT Presentation 2018

Project description

My work focuses on the topic of carbon allocation in plants. Specifically, I look at carbon storage: a necessary plant component that buffers carbon­compounds against the risks of carbon loss due to inadequate photosynthesis supply (often observed during some sort of stress such as drought or after some disturbance such as fire). Much is still not understood about how carbon is allocated to storage: especially whether this pool actively competes with other pools such as growth and reproduction or whether only leftover carbon is allocated to storage. One way of testing that is by comparing what would be the optimal carbon allocation with measured plants’ allocation. I create models of carbon allocation that find the optimal allocation strategy in stressed environments given realistic goals associated with plant reproductive success and survival. To do this I create a framework consisting of a combination of methods such as statistical mechanics, optimal control and dynamic programming. Using this framework I intend to find the optimal storage allocation strategy and compare it with existing data to see whether plants really do hedge their bets.


Boer MM, De Dios VR, Stefaniak EZ, Bradstock RA, (2021) 'A hydroclimatic model for the distribution of fire on Earth', Environmental Research Communications, vol.3, no.3, Articles no.035001


Professor Belinda Medlyn, Professor David Tissue