Dr Michelle Murray

Outreach Fellow at Trinity College Botanic Garden since 2019, a new role enabled by the Cathcart Botany and Schuler funds.

I have been Outreach Fellow at Trinity College Botanic Garden since 2019, a new role enabled by the Cathcart Botany and Schuler funds. My role is wonderfully varied, and no two days are the same. Principally, I am responsible for the development of communications and outreach. I assist Prof. Jenny McElwain (Gardens Director) in developing and progressing the garden’s 10-year strategic plan, including various funding projects and being involved in the day-to-day management of the garden with our garden’s Curator. I am a keen advocate for the work of botanic gardens and the Trinity Botanic Garden in particular, which has a rich history and, as a university botanic garden, is unique in Ireland. The garden has been a teaching and research facility of the Department of Botany for over two centuries, and I also get involved in organising and teaching student practical sessions there.

Following a career change, I graduated with a BAgrSc in Horticulture from University College Dublin in 2011. Having discovered a love of plant physiology, I returned to UCD in 2012 to pursue an SFI-funded PhD programme with Prof. Jennifer McElwain’s then Plant Paleoecology Group in the School of Biology and Environmental Science. My research investigated the response of woody angiosperms to the 50 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 between 1990 and 2015 across multiple biomes. It compared morphological and physiological changes in historical and modern samples of woody plant leaf stomatal traits. The Smithsonian Herbarium’s CLAMP (Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Programme) collection of woody herbarium specimens from 173 sites across all biomes provided the historical baseline data. Twenty-two sites and almost two hundred woody taxa from this collection were selected and sampled across seven biomes in North America, Puerto Rico, and Fiji. I examined changes in stomatal anatomy and stomatal conductance (gas exchange) over three decades in response to elevated atmospheric CO2, changes in the relationship between leaf morphology and gas exchange, and impacts on water cycling and climate change.

In 2018 I took up an SFI-funded post-doctoral research position at Trinity College Dublin to continue my research and complete a current database of stomatal conductance and morphological responses of woody taxa to climate change.

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