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CRC for Forestry News 11 - CRC researcher shares expertise in France

A CRC for Forestry/CSIRO researcher is readjusting to life in Australia after three months sharing and building his expertise in France.  Dr Tony O’Grady arrived in Bordeaux in August where he visited the Ephys group at INRA, which houses a number of leading plant physiologists and modellers and shares many areas of interest with the CSIRO.

Tony O'Grady family photo France3Dr Tony O'Grady relaxes with his family during his trip to France

The trip was partly funded by a prestigious CSIRO Julius Career award Tony received in 2010, which allocates $150 000 over three years to develop and retain outstanding early to mid-career scientists. Further funding was provided by the TRANZFOR program, which is aimed at strengthening research partnerships between three European research organisations from France, Portugal and the United Kingdom and two organisations from Australia and New Zealand.

Tony gained his PhD in 2000 from the Northern Territory University, and joined the CSIRO in 2009. He is involved in projects around Australia, focusing on understanding hydraulic constraints on plant water use, identifying and quantifying ecosystem dependence on groundwater, constraints on productivity of arid ecosystems, and processes driving the development of stand structure and size class distributions and forest productivity, the latter focusing on overstory/understory interactions in forest systems.

The visit was hosted by Denis Loustau from France’s national agricultural research organisation, INRA, and was designed to build stronger international relationships between INRA and CSIRO, review mass and energy exchanges in managed forests with a particular emphasis on overstory and understory fluxes, and review and analyse plant responses to elevated C02.

Along with the exotic location and culture, Tony says there were several research-related highlights of his trip, among them being asked to provide the opening lecture for the ecohydrology session at the European Ecological Federation meeting in Avila, Spain, in September where he discussed his recent work on estimating groundwater discharge in data poor areas.

During his stay, Tony also submitted several papers, including one comparing the growth and water balance responses to drought in eucalypt and pine plantations of similar age. The research found that the high eucalypt growth rates can have a larger impact on water balance than similar aged pine plantations but are also likely to be more vulnerable to future drought regimes predicted for this region of France, raising questions over the suitability of eucalypts as an alternative plantation species.

Tony also worked with French researcher, Jean Sebastien Jacquet, on an ongoing study examining the impacts of defoliation and its interaction with drought on the productivity of Pinus pinaster plantations.  Jean Sebastien is now planning a visit to Hobart in 2012 to get assistance with the analysis and interpretation of these data sets and make connections with the forest health and mortality group in Hobart.

Tony hopes to use the remainder of his Julius Career Award funds to return to France and also build collaborations with the United States.  However, for now, it’s back to the daily grind in his home town. Welcome back Tony.