Michael J Aspinwall

Assistant Professor

Biology • College of Arts & Sciences

Areas of Expertise

Plant physiological ecology, global change biology, forest ecology and management


B.S. The Ohio State University (2004)

M.S. North Carolina State University (2007)

Ph.D. North Carolina State University (2010)

Postdoctoral Research Scientist, University of Texas at Austin (2010-2012)

Research Fellow, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University (2012-2017)


My research program in plant physiological ecology is largely focused on: 1) developing a physiologically-based understanding of evolutionary adaptation, and 2) determining the patterns and mechanisms involved in physiological acclimation to environmental change and abiotic stress. I am also interested in developing a global perspective of genetic variation in physiological acclimation, or the way in which adaptation influences acclimation.


I am particularly interested in the following fundamental questions: Does physiological acclimation improve plant growth and fitness in variable or stressful environments? Are there predictable patterns of genetic variation in physiological acclimation across plant function types, species, and populations? If so, is variation in acclimation associated with patterns of adaptation (i.e. environmental selection) within and across species or species/population biogeography (e.g. species distribution)?


Ultimately, I hope that by understanding the patterns, mechanisms, and fitness implications of genetic variation in physiological acclimation we can improve predictions of plant species responses to environmental change, and C and H2O fluxes over space and time. To date, my study systems have included broadleaved trees (Eucalyptus spp.), conifers (Pinus), and perennial C4 grasses (Panicum spp). 


Lastly, I have long-standing interests in understanding how genetic and environmental factors combine to influence forest ecosystem function, as well as forest responses to disturbance and threats. At UNF, I hope to explore these and many other important questions relevant to coastal ecosystems. 

Grants and Contracts Awarded

An assessment of root to shoot balance in tree stock for landscape planting in Australia. Horticulture Innovation Australia. Investigators: Mark Tjoelker, Mike Aspinwall, Remko Duursma, Sebastian Pfautsch, David Thompson. Western Sydney University. Funding received: $276,400.

Publications & Presentations



Pfautsch S, Aspinwall MJ, Drake JE, Doria LC, Langelaan R, Tissue DT, Tjoelker MG, Lens F (2017) Traits and trade-offs in whole-tree hydraulic architecture along the vertical axis of Eucalyptus grandis. Annals of Botany (In Press).


Aspinwall MJ, Jacob VK, Blackman CJ, Smith RA, Tjoelker MG, Tissue DT (2017) The temperature response of leaf dark respiration in 15 provenances of Eucalyptus grandis grown in ambient and elevated CO2. Functional Plant Biology (In press).


Caddy-Retalic S, Anderson AN, Aspinwall MJ, Breed MF, Byrne M, Christmas MJ, Dong N, Evans BJ, Fordham DA, Guerin GR, Hoffmann AA, Hughes AC, van Leeuwen SJ, McInerney FA, Prober SM, Rossetto M, Rymer PD, Steane DA, Wardle GM, Lowe AJ (2017) Bioclimatic transect networks: powerful observatories of ecological change. Ecology and Evolution (In Press).


Drake JE, Power SA, Duursma RA, Medlyn BE, Aspinwall MJ, Choat B, Creek D, Eamus D, Maier C, Pfautsch S, Smith RA, Tjoelker MG, Tissue DT (2017) Stomatal and non-stomatal limitations of photosynthesis under drought: a comparison of model formulations. Agriculture and Forest Meteorology (In press).


Aspinwall MJ, Varhammar A, Blackman CJ, Tjoelker MG, Ahrens C, Byrne M, Tissue DT, Rymer PD (2017) Adaptation and acclimation both influence photosynthetic and respiratory temperature responses in Corymbia calophylla. Tree Physiology, 37, 1095-1112.


Blackman CJ, Aspinwall MJ, Tissue DT, Rymer PD (2017) Genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity contribute to greater leaf hydraulic tolerance in response to drought in warmer climates. Tree Physiology, 37, 583-592.


Taylor SH, Lowry DB, Aspinwall MJ, Bonnette JE, Fay PA, Juenger TE (2016) Phenotypic plasticity and QTL for leaf physiological traits in lowland Panicum virgatum. BioEnergy Research, 9, 1241-1259.


Lovell JT, Shakirov EV, Schwartz S, Lowry DB, Aspinwall MJ, Taylor SH, Bonette J, Palacio-Mejia JD, Hawkes CV, Fay PA, Juenger TE (2016) Promises and challenges of eco-physiological genomics in the field: tests of drought responses in switchgrass. Plant Physiology, 172, 734-748.


Aspinwall MJ, Fay PA, Hawkes CV, Lowry DB, Khasanova A, Whitaker BK, Bonnette J, Johnson N, Juenger TE (2016) Intraspecific variation in precipitation responses of a widespread C4 grass depend on site water limitation. Journal of Plant Ecology, 10, 310-321.


Aspinwall MJ, Drake JE, Campany C, Varhammar A, Ghannoum O, Tissue DT, Reich PB, Tjoelker MG (2016) Convergent acclimation of leaf photosynthesis and respiration to prevailing ambient temperatures under current and warmer climates in Eucalyptus tereticornis. New Phytologist, 212, 354-367.


Dijkstra FA, Carrillo Y, Aspinwall MJ, Maier C, Canarini A, Choat B, Tahaei H, Tissue DT (2016) Water, nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiencies by four tree species in response to water and nutrient additions. Plant and Soil, 406, 187-199.


Blackman CJ, Aspinwall MJ, Resco de Dios V, Smith R, Tissue DT (2016) Leaf photosynthetic, economics and hydraulic traits are decoupled among genotypes of a widespread species of eucalypt grown under ambient and elevated CO2. Functional Ecology, 30, 1491-1500.


Drake JE, Tjoelker MG, Aspinwall MJ, Reich PB, Barton CVM, Duursma RA (2016) Does physiological acclimation to climate warming stabilize the ratio of canopy respiration to photosynthesis? New Phytologist, 211, 850-863.


Resco de Dios V, Loik ME, Smith R, Aspinwall MJ, Tissue DT (2016) Genetic variation in circadian regulation of nocturnal stomatal conductance enhances carbon assimilation and growth. Plant, Cell & Environment, 39, 3-11.


Lowry DB, Taylor SH, Bonnette J, Aspinwall MJ, Asmus AL, Keitt TH, Tobias CM, Juenger TE (2015) QTLs for biomass and developmental traits in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). BioEnergy Research, 8, 1856-1867.


Aspinwall MJ, Loik ME, Resco de Dios V, Tjoelker MG, Payton PR, Tissue DT (2015) Utilizing intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity to bolster agricultural and forest productivity under climate change. Plant, Cell and Environment, 38, 1752-1764.


Falster DS, Duursma RA, Ishihara MI, Barneche DR, FitzJohn RG, Varhammar A, Aiba M, Ando M, Anten N, Aspinwall MJ, et al. (2015) BAAD: a biomass and allometry database for woody plants. Ecology, 96(5), 1445.


Drake JE, Aspinwall MJ, Pfautsch S, Rymer PD, Reich PB, Smith RA, Crous KY, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O, Tjoelker MG (2015) The capacity to cope with climate warming declines from temperate to tropics within two widely distributed Eucalypts: a climate shift experiment. Global Change Biology, 21, 459-472.


Meyer E, Aspinwall MJ, Lowry DB, Palacio-Mejía JD, Logan TL, Fay PA, Juenger TE (2014) Integrating physiological, transcriptional, and metabolomic responses to drought stress and recovery in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). BMC Genomics, 15, 527.


Pfautsch S, Aspinwall M, Drake J, Choat B, Tissue D, Burykin T, Tjoelker M (2013) Putting the puzzle together: investigating hydraulic functioning and water transport at high spatial resolution in tall trees. Acta Horticulturae, 991, 245-252.


Aspinwall MJ, Lowry DB, Taylor SH, Juenger TE, Hawkes CV, Johnson MVV, Kiniry JR, Fay PA (2013) Genotypic variation in traits linked to climate and aboveground productivity in a widespread C4 grass: evidence for a functional trait syndrome. New Phytologist, 199, 966-980.


Rico C, Pitterman J, Polley HW, Aspinwall MJ, Fay PA (2013) The effect of subambient to elevated atmospheric CO2 on vascular function in Helianthus annus: implications for plant response to climate change. New Phytologist, 199, 956-965.


King JS, Liu L, Aspinwall M (2013) Tree and forest responses to interacting elevated atmospheric CO2 and tropospheric O3: a synthesis of experimental evidence. In: Climate change, air pollution and global challenges: understanding and perspectives from forest research. Matyssek R, Clarke N, Cudlin P, Mikkelsen TN, Tuovinen J-P, Wieser G, Paoletti E (eds). Elsevier, Oxford, UK.  pp. 180-208.


Aspinwall MJ, King JS, McKeand SE (2013) Productivity differences among loblolly pine genotypes are independent of individual-tree biomass partitioning and growth efficiency. Trees – Structure and Function, 27, 533-545.


Aspinwall MJ, McKeand SE, King JS (2012) Carbon sequestration from 40 years of planting genetically improved loblolly pine across the southeast United States. Forest Science, 58, 446-456.


Fay PA, Polley HW, Jin VJ, Aspinwall MJ (2012) Productivity of well-watered Panicum virgatum does not increase with CO2 enrichment. Journal of Plant Ecology, 5, 366-375.


Aspinwall MJ, King JS, Booker FL, McKeand SE (2011) Genetic effects on total phenolics, condensed tannins and non-structural carbohydrates in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) needles. Tree Physiology, 31, 831-842.


Aspinwall MJ, King JS, McKeand SE, Bullock BP (2011) Genetic effects on stand-level uniformity, and above- and belowground biomass production in juvenile loblolly pine. Forest Ecology and Management, 262, 609-619.


Aspinwall MJ, King JS, Domec JC, McKeand SE, Isik F (2011) Genetic effects on transpiration, canopy conductance, stomatal sensitivity to vapor pressure deficit, and cavitation resistance in loblolly pine. Ecohydrology, 4, 168-182.


Aspinwall MJ, King JS, McKeand SE, Domec JC (2011) Leaf-level gas-exchange uniformity and photosynthetic capacity among loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) genotypes of contrasting inherent genetic variation. Tree Physiology, 31, 78-91.


Aspinwall MJ, Li B, McKeand SE, Isik F, Gumpertz ML (2010) Prediction of whole-stem alpha cellulose yield, lignin content, and wood density in juvenile and mature loblolly pine. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry, 34, 84-90.


Recent presentations


Aspinwall M. 2016. New insights into temperature adaptation and acclimation in plants: a physiological perspective (Invited Seminar). Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University. College Station, TX, USA. 1 December.


Aspinwall M. 2016. New insights into temperature adaptation and acclimation in plants: a physiological perspective (Invited Seminar). Department of Biology, University of North Florida. Jacksonville, FL, USA. 28 November.


Aspinwall M. 2016. Physiological acclimation and adaptation in plant populations. (Invited Seminar). Department of Biology, University of Central Florida. Orlando, FL, USA. 21 March.


Aspinwall M. 2015. Genetic and environmental controls over tree growth and function. (Invited Seminar). Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University. Raleigh, NC, USA. 15 December.


Varhammar A, Drake JE, Tjoelker MG, Aspinwall MJ. 2015. Pushing the envelope: narrowly and widely distributed eucalypts differ in response to climate warming. Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference. Adelaide, AUS. 1 December.


Rymer P, Blackman C, Aspinwall M, Tissue D, Byrne M. 2015. Do hotter and drier regions harbour adaptive variation for climate change? Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference. Adelaide, AUS. 1 December.


Drake JE, Tjoelker MG, Aspinwall MJ, Medlyn BE, Duursma, RA. 2015. Enduring the hot and dry: carbon-use-efficiency of Eucalyptus tereticornis trees exposed to warming and drought. Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference. Adelaide, AUS. 30 November.


Ghannoum O, Crous K, Campany K, Drake J, Aspinwall M, Tjoelker M. 2015. Poster: Seasonal and thermal photosynthetic acclimation in Eucalyptus tereticornis under current and warmer climates. Combio 2015, Melbourne, AUS. 29 September.


Aspinwall M, Pfautsch S, Varhammar A, Possell M, Drake J, Atkin O, Reich P, Tjoelker. 2015. Tree responses to heatwaves: is species distribution and thermal acclimation important? ComBio 2015, Melbourne, AUS. 30 September.


Aspinwall M. 2015. Tree responses to heatwaves: is species distribution and thermal acclimation important? (Invited Seminar). Sydney Ecophysiology Group Meeting. Sydney, AUS. 5 April.


Drake J, Aspinwall M, Tjoelker M, Reich P, Campany C. 2014. Too hot to handle? Physiological acclimation to climate warming in Eucalyptus tereticornis. Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference. Alice Springs, AUS. 30 September.


Sharwood RE, Crous K, Drake J, Aspinwall M, Whitney SM, Tjoelker M, Ghannoum O. 2014. Testing the limits of photosynthetic plasticity in tropical and temperate provenances of two widespread Eucalyptus species. ComBio 2014, Canberra, AUS. 1 October.


Khasanova A, Reichmann LG, Aspinwall M, Hawkes CV, Juenger T, Fay PA. 2014. Genotype and plant trait effects on soil CO2 efflux responses to altered precipitation in switchgrass. Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Sacremento, USA. 11 August.

AspinwallContact Information

Building 59, Room 2313

(904) 620-5626