I was born in Maastricht in the extreme SE of the Netherlands, a region that has a foreign feel to it as there are hills and even some vineyards. With a father being a passionate amateur biologist (beetles, birds, plants and all the rest) it did not come as a surprise that I decided to study biology. I completed my Masters Degree at Utrecht University in 1991 (with majors in plant ecology and ecophysiology). I then undertook a PhD at the same University, working on the ecophysiological mechanisms that maintained male sterile individuals in otherwise hermaphroditic populations of the Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata): a combined population genetic and plant ecophysiological project. Thereafter, my PhD supervisor, Professor Hans Lambers moved to Western Australia, and convinced me to join UWA for two years (from 1998). During that time I got fascinated with the extraordinary diversity of plant life in this region. I collaborated with my colleague Dr Erik Veneklaas on a project considering mechanisms that contribute to the coexistence of plant species in the highly diverse Banksia woodlands of SW Australia. Thereafter, I was successful in obtaining a ARC-Linkage grant with Kings Park and Botanic Gardens Authority. This project investigated the ecophysiological adaptations of Hakea species endemic to shallow-soil ironstone communities and led to fascinating insights in the importance of root system morphology for species distribution patterns. Then I took up a postdoctoral fellowship researching the possible involvement of climate change (i.e drought) in the crown decline of wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo). This project mainly involved investigating the water relations of wandoo and tree species that co-occurred with it that seemed to be less affected. Thereafter, I took up a shared position between the UWA School of Plant Biology and the Department of Environment and Conservation (2007-2012). Currently (May 2013), I am in a tenured position as a lecturer in Plant Conservation Biology and Ecophysiology.
I am currently involved in the supervision of the following PhD students:
* Sebastian Lamoureux: Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions and their influence on reactive mine waste cover system performance. Commenced in 2013.
* Jason Hamer: Keeping up with climate change: the vulnerability of eucalypt species to a drying climate in south-western Australia. Commenced in 2012.
* Juan Camilo Garibello Pena: Influence of seed traits at the individual and population level on the competition between native species and annual weeds in the Western Australian wheatbelt. Commenced in 2011.
* Christine Allen: Improving rare flora translocation success through an ecophysiological approach. Commenced in 2010.
I am the coordinator for the Conservation Biology major and the deputy coordinator for the Botany major.
Currently I coordinate and teach in the second year units 'Conservation Biology (BIOL2261)' and 'Global Climate Change and Biodiversity (ENVT2221)'.
I have always had a fascination for the incredible diversity of life forms that inhabit the earth. Each habitat or ecosystem has it own suite of species that seem particularly well adapted to their specific environmental conditions. What are the adaptations that make species thrive in their own particular habitat and how could these adaptations possibly hamper them in establishing in neighboring habitats (i.e. generalization, specialization, trade-offs, phenotypic plasticity)? What mechanisms enable the coexistence of many species? SW Australia, as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, seems particularly well suited to address some of these key evolutionary questions. Therefore my overall research objective is to use my skills in plant ecophysiology to greatly enhance our understanding of plant species distribution patterns. This is especially relevant to the many threatened plant species in SW Australia. Their continued persistence in a much warmer and possibly drier climate is largely dependent on our understanding of these species’ habitat requirements (i.e. biotic and abiotic), threats and evolutionary potential. Therefore my research aims at providing basic knowledge on the evolutionary drivers of plant species rarity and commonness, but is also essential for the conservation of threatened species and communities.