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Associate Professor Jennifer Watling

Telephone +61 8 8313 5597
Fax +61 8 8313 6222
Building Benham Laboratories
Floor/Room 1
Campus North Terrace
Org Unit School of Biological Sciences

To link to this page, please use the following URL:

Biography/ Background

I am an affiliate Professor with the School of Biological Sciences, but am currently based at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. I was at the University of Adelaide between 2001-2015, and prior to that held a post-doctoral research position in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, UK.

My PhD research was conducted at the Australian National University in Canberra and also at James Cook University in north Queensland. 

From 2007-2009 I was the Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and prior to that the Associate Dean (International). 

I was Head of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences between 2012-2014.



  • PhD (1997) Plant Physiology. Jointly with James Cook University and the Australian National University

  • BSc (Hons) (1992) Plant Physiology. James Cook University, Qld Australia

  • BSc (1991) Botany/Zoology. James Cook University, Qld Australia

Teaching Interests

In conjunction with other academic staff at Adelaide, I supervise postgraduate research students within the School of Biological Sciences.


Post Doctoral Researchers

Dr Emma Steggles - Mine site rehabilitation of semi-arid vegetation in South Australia

Dr Hao Shen - Impact of Cassytha pubescens on host photosynthesis

Dr Jane Prider - Potential of Cassytha pubescens  as a biocontrol agent for gorse and broom

Dr Rebecca Miller - Mechanisms of heating in thermogenic plants.

Dr Nicole Grant - Mechanisms of heat production in thermogenic plants. Endeavour Award.


Current postgraduate students

Robert Cirocco - Effects of light, nutrients and water on the parasitic vine Cassytha pubescens and its hosts

Elizabeth Maciunas - Niche partitioning and population genetics in the parasitic genus Cassytha

Lening Huang - Impacts of climate change on photosynthesis in C3 and C4 plants.

Dhafer Albakre - Mistletoe impacts on native vegetation in western Saudi Arabia

Mitchell Star-Jones - Epiparasitism in misteltoes



Research Interests

Thermogenic Plants

I am interested in the phenomenon of heat production that occurs in a small number of plant species. Using stable oxygen isotopes, my group has demonstrated that the alternative pathway of respiration, catalysed by the Alternative Oxidase (AOX), is responsible for heat production in the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and Philodendron bipinnatifidum. Current work is focused on the structure and regulation of the AOX in these species and also on uncovering the mechanisms of heating in other thermogenic species such as Amorphophallus titanum that produces one of the largest inflorescences of all plants. We collaborate with colleagues from Japan, the USA and Spain on this project.

Parasitic Plants

I conduct research into a number of native parasitic plants and their impacts on host plants, both native and introduced. Current projects include a study of the native parasitic vine, Cassytha pubescens, and its impact on the introduced weeds gorse and broom. This work has demonstrated that C. pubescens has a significant impact on the mortality of gorse and broom and that this may be a consequence of impairment of the photosynthetic physiology of these hosts. Other projects are focused on the ecological role of parasitic plants in native vegetation. We collaborate with colleagues in China and the UK on this work.

Climate Change

I am interested in the impacts of elevated CO2 and climate change on plants. Currently we are developing techniques for examining the history of recent climate change in Antarctica using stable C and O isotopes in mosses. I also have projects researching the impacts of climate change on lichens in semi-arid regions of Australia.



Some recent publications

Cirocco RM, Waterman MJ, Robinson SR, Facelli JM, Watling JR (2015) Native hemiparasite and light effects on photoprotection and photodamage in a native host. Functional Plant Biology, 42, 1168-1178

Hill KE, Hill RS, Watling JR (2015) Do CO2, temperature, rainfall and elevtion influence stomatal traits and leaf width in Melaleuca lanceolata across southern Australia? Australian Journal of Botany, 62, 666-673

Hill KE, Guerin G, Hill RS, Watling JR (2015) Temperature influences stomatal density and maximum potential water loss through stomata of Dodonea viscosa subsp. angustissima along a latitude gradient in southern Australia. Australian Journal of Botany, 62, 657-665

Ginman E, Prider J, Matthews J, Virtue J, Watling JR (2015) Sheep as vectors for branched broomrape (Orobanche ramosa subsp. mutelii) seed dispersal. Weed Biology and Management, 15, 61-69

Burnell OW, Connell SD, Irving AD, Watling JR, Russell BD (2014) Contemporary reliance on bicarbonate acquisition predicts increased growth of seagrass Amphibolis antarctica in a high-CO2 world. Conservation Physiology 2, DOI: 10.1093/conphys/cou052

Escoto-Rodriguez M, Facelli JM, Watling JR (2014) Do wide crowns in arid woodland trees reflect hydraulic limitation and reduction of self-shading? Evidence from tree architecture and carbon isotope ratios in Acacia papyrocarpa. Functional Plant Biology 41, 1221-1229

Ming R, VanBuren R, Liu Y, Yang M, Han Y, Li L-T, Zhang Q, Kim M-J, Schatz MC, Campbell M, Li J, Bowers JE, Tang H, Lyons E, Ferguson AA, Narzisi G, Nelson DR, Blaby-Haas CE, Gschwend AR, Jiao Y, Der JP, Zeng F, Han J, Jia Min X, Hudson KA, Singh R, Grennan AK, Karpowicz SJ, Watling JR et al (2013) Genome of the long-living sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn). Genome Biology 14, R41.

Miller RE, Grant NM, Giles L, Ribas-Carbo M, Berry JA, Watling JR, Robinson SA (2011) In the heat of the night-alternative pathway respiration drives thermogenesis in Philodendron bipinnatifidum. New Phytologist, 189 1013-1026 Featured on Cover

Prider J, Facelli JM, Watling JR (2011) Three is a crowd: Multispecies interactions among a plant parasite, a pollinator and a seed predator affect the reproductive output ofCytisus scopariusAustral Ecology, 36 167-175.

Grant NM, Miller RE, Watling JR, Robinson SA (2010) Distribution of thermogenic activity in floral tissues of Nelumbo nucifera. Functional Plant Biology. 37 1085-1095.

Shen H, Prider JN, Facelli JM, Watling JR (2010) The influence of the hemiparasitic angiosperm Cassytha pubescens on photosynthesis of its host Cytisus scoparius. Functional Plant Biology 37 14-21

Mohammadian MA, Hill RS, Watling JR (2009) Stomatal plugs and their impact on fungal invasion in Agathis robusta. Aust J Bot 57 389-395

Grant NM, Onda Y, Kakizaki Y, Ito Y, Watling JR, Robinson SA (2009) Two Cys or not two Cys? that is the question; Alternative oxidase in the thermogenic plant Nelumbo nucifera. Plant Physiology 150 987-995

Miller RE, Watling JR, Robinson SA (2009) Functional transition in the floral receptacle of the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera): from thermogenesis to photosynthesis. Functional Plant Biology 36(5) 471-480

Prider J, Watling JR, Facelli JM (2009) Impacts of a native parasitic plant on an introduced and a native host species: implications for management of an invasive weed. Annals of Botany, 103: 107-115 




Professional Associations

American Society of Plant Biologists

Australian Society of Plant Scientists

British Ecological Society


Associate Editor for Functional Ecology

Expertise for Media Contact

CategoriesEnvironment, Science & Technology
ExpertisePlant responses to rising carbon dioxide and temperatures; physiology and ecology; parasitic plants; salinity, drought and high light; plant responses to abitotic stress; stomatal modifications in Australian plants; stomatal physiology; physiology; biochemistry; ecology; thermogenic plants
NotesAlt phone: (08) 8303 3999

Entry last updated: Sunday, 24 Jan 2016

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