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The Monitor - Issue 5 - The French connection: Nathalie Long and carbon isotope discrimination

Nathalie LongFrench student Nathalie Long is using carbon isotope discrimination to consider genetic variability in Eucalyptus globulus as part of her PhD project at Murdoch University.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Nathalie undertook one year of specialised training in plant physiology followed by a masters degree in ecophysiology at the University of Sciences of Montpellier (France). During her masters degree, Nathalie visited Australia twice to work with Prof. Bernie Dell at Murdoch University on two separate projects: a three-month study of the response of Banksia species to waterlogging and a five-month investigation of the effect of ectomyccorhizal fungi inoculation on the physiology and growth of Eucalyptus gomphocephala.

Nathalie enjoyed working in Australia so much that she jumped at the chance of a PhD project in plant physiology with the CRC for Forestry. Nathalie started her PhD in September 2007 within Project 1.2.1 and is working in collaboration with scientists from Murdoch University and CSIRO.

Nathalie’s project focuses on the trade-off between carbon gain and water loss—water-use efficiency (WUE)—in Eucalyptus globulus plantations. WUE is closely related to stomatal aperture and conductance which in turn affect the ratio of carbon isotopes used by the leaf in photosynthesis and ultimately as carbohydrate. Consequently, the ratios of two different isotopes, 12C and 13C, can be used to estimate average stomatal behaviour over time and this is then considered an indicator of WUE at a tree scale.

Nathalie is using a stable carbon isotope discrimination technique to determine differences in the WUE of E. globulus genotypes from different geographical origins. Nathalie hopes to determine how useful and accurate carbon isotope discrimination techniques are as an indicator for WUE in a forestry context. More broadly, Nathalie intends to answer the question of whether or not a physiological indicator of WUE could be used in breeding programs to secure forest productivity in potentially drying environments.

In Nathalie’s project, other measurements at a leaf level (such as water potential, stomatal conductance, photosynthesis and transpiration) and at a tree level (such as sapflow and growth) will also form part of the experimental program. Nathalie will consider differences in WUE at both provenance and family levels and consider the relative advantages of using structural and current carbohydrate for the carbon isotope analyses.

Nathalie is based at CSIRO in Floreat Park, Western Australia and is supervised by Prof. Bernie Dell (Murdoch University), Dr Don White (CSIRO) and Dr Paul Drake (Murdoch University & CSIRO).

Nathalie Long

PhD candidate
Tel: 08 9333 6674