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Australian Society of Plant Scientists Plant Biology today, from a perspective of an ecophysiologist [FORMERLY AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY OF PLANT PHYSIOLOGISTS]

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Australian Society of Plant Scientists

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Australian Society of Plant Scientists

Plant Biology today, from a perspective of an ecophysiologist


A paper presented at the 13th meeting of the Federation of European Societies of Plant Physiology, held in Heraklion, Crete, by Hans Lambers, President of ASPS

URLs and Office Holders updated in Feb 2008

Web site


A bit of History of

the Australian Society

  • The ASPP was founded in 1958
  • The Foundation President was Joe G. Wood, the first native-born Professor of Botany
  • His successor was Sir Rutherford N. Robertson
  • Many celebrities followed in their footsteps, including Lloyd Evans (’71), Hal Hatch (’79), John Pate (’81), Michael Pitman (’85), Jan Anderson (’92), Barry Osmond (’94) and Joe Wiskich (’96)‏
  • In 2002, the name change to Australian Society of Plant Scientists became effective

The Executive

Council of ASPS

Executive President:

Professor David Day(University of Sydney, Sydney)‏


Assoc Prof Robyn Overall(University of Sydney, Sydney))‏


Dr Tony Ashton(CSIRO-Plant Industry, Canberra)‏

Public officer:

Dr Marilyn Ball(RSBS ANU, Canberra)‏


Our Discipline Representatives

Genetics & molecular biology: Dr Patrick Finnegan (U. Western Australian, Perth)‏

Cell biology: Dr David McCurdy (U. of Newcastle , Newcastle)‏

Plant-microbe interaction: Dr Peer Schenk (U. Queensland, Brisbane)‏

Whole plants: Assoc Prof Michael Tausz (U. Melbourne, Creswick)‏

Plant development: Dr Dennis Greer (Charles Sturt Univ, Wagga Wagga)‏

Environmental & ecophysiology: Global change: Dr Oula Ghannoum (U. Western Sydney,Hawkesbury, Sydney)‏

Plant science education: Dr Chris Ford (U. Adelaide, Adelaide)‏

Student representative : Crystal Sweetman (Flinders Univ, Adelaide)‏


Some of our


  • One ‘junior’ award for excellence in research (prize)‏
  • ‘Senior’ awards for excellence (lecture)‏
  • One award for excellence in teaching
  • We are associated with Functional Plant Biology [formerly Australian Journal of Plant Physiology]
  • An electronic Newsletter: Phytogen (under the editorship of Andrew Netting and Helen Irving)‏
  • Anannual meeting:Combio
  • Job alerts (email and website)
  • Produced a leading textbook: Plants in Action

Some statistics

  • Main source of income from membership fees
  • We have 527 paying members (2001)‏
  • 25% student members (reduced fee)‏
  • 30% of our budget spent on student travel grants
  • Our annual meeting with other societies (Combio) provides additional income

A personal


  • Plant biology has changed dramatically over the last few decades
  • When I was a student at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), in the 1970s, there were sharp boundaries between biochemistry, genetics, physiology and ecology
  • The discipline molecular genetics was just emerging, but molecular biology was not a term that was used in those days

A personal


  • I started lecturing as Professor of Ecophysiology in 1985, at Utrecht University (the Netherlands)‏
  • Then, the boundaries between physiology and molecular biology began to disappear
  • When I wrote a textbook on Plant Physiological Ecology with Terry Chapin and Thijs Pons (1990s), I realised:
    • the absolute need to use molecular techniques in physiology and physiological ecology
    • that molecular biologists could get off track, if there were no full appreciation of the whole plant context

A personal


  • What is true for plant biology today, will be valid for plant biology in the next decades
  • Molecular tools will further increase in importance, but an ecophysiological context must be provided to make the new knowledge relevant
  • Many ecophysiological projects in my group at the University of Western Australia, in Perth, Australia, have a molecular component
  • We need to use this integrated approach to further plant biology, and we should continue to break down existing barriers

A general


  • Microarrays and gene sequencing have become common techniques
  • Now it is back to the physiologist to work out function
  • We need to devise ways of phenotyping that can be used for the reverse genetics approach



These changes in the field of plant sciences are very much reflected in the change from:



Australian Society of Plant Scientists


An international


  • Australia has great strength in plant biology
  • On ISI’s list of highly cited authors in plant and animal sciences there are 7 plant scientists (out of 108) based in Australia
  • For a population of approx. 18 million, this is very high
  • For comparison (plant plus animal scientists):
    • Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Panama: 1
    • Belgium and South Africa: 2
    • Switzerland and Japan: 3
    • Canada: 6
    • United Kingdom: 9
    • Germany: 15
    • USA: 57