Welcome to the Plant-Climate Interaction Lab

We are a group of researchers and students who are interested in understanding how plants adapt to climate and atmospheric change in the deep geological past, recent historical past and present day. We use this information to predict how contemporary plant species may respond to future climate change and how the functioning of modern ecosystems may change. We use the innate adaptability and sensory capacity of plants to the environment around them to record how atmospheric composition and environmental conditions have changed over geological time. We have developed, tested and widely utilized biological CO2 sensors (also known as paleo-CO2 proxies) based on fossil plant stomata to reconstruct changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past 400 million years.

We investigate how plant adaptations observed in fossils, herbarium specimens and living plants are influenced by atmospheric change, particularly carbon dioxide and oxygen.  In turn we study how plants can influence larger scale processes such as the movement of water between vegetation and atmosphere within the hydrological cycle and how plants influence the movement of elements such as nitrogen and carbon between plant, soil and rock via weathering.

Our science is both observational and experimental. We use advanced microscopy and state-of-the-art chemical analyses (including C isotopes) of fossil plants to reconstruct ancient environmental conditions.  We conduct paleo-atmosphere simulation experiments where we subject living plants to the climatic and environmental conditions of the deep past in controlled climate chambers. We conduct fieldwork in Ireland and globally to collect fossil plants and to make modern measurements on living plant physiology and behaviour.

The lab is highly multidisciplinary with expertise in paleobotany, pant ecophysiology, experimental paleoecology, biogeochemistry and ecosystem modelling. The lab group includes many different career stages from undergraduate student to postgraduate student to post-doctoral fellow and research assistant. The lab group is open, welcoming and diverse. We collaborate with many scientists and engineers around the world, particularly with colleagues at the University of California Davis, Baylor University Texas and University Claude Bernard Lyon. Where possible we use our science and knowledge to assist with the production of environmental reports, policies and programmes for national agencies such as the EPA and the Irish Government. Currently, for example a number of lab members are working on Ireland’s first National Climate Assessment Report for Ireland funded by the EPA.

Welcome to our website we hope you enjoy delving into our research.