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Turnbull, Johanna Dr.

Associate Lecturer

Research Overview


  • I am an early career plant ecophysiologist conducting research in stress biology, photosynthesis, and plant response to climate change. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms behind plant tolerance to extreme environmental stress and have been involved in long term monitoring of Antarctic mosses at Casey station (State of the Environment Indicator 72) since its inception in 2000. I have used Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISAs), High Performance Liquid Chromatography, spectrophotometric assays, microscopy and chlorophyll fluorescence to monitor health and stress markers in plants. I am a motivating and supportive tertiary educator, engaging students with a range of active learning strategies. In 2017 I  introduced a blended delivery model into the Universities largest first year subject.

Impact Story


  • Plants in Antarctica are changing at a faster rate than first anticipated. There is well documented greening in the Arctic and on the Antarctic peninsula as ice retreats exposing more land. These regions are amongst the most rapidly warming on the planet. Warmer temperatures and increasing melt promote plant growth. Meanwhile on the continent, so far, there has been little evidence of warming so plant responses were expected to be slow and difficult to detect, until now.<br /><br />Alarmingly after only 13 years monitoring plant ecosystems we observed significant changes in the moss beds near Australia’s Casey station in East Antarctica. We have recently shown that these lush moss beds of the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica are rapidly drying due to cooler, windier summers caused by ozone depletion and climate change. We have developed advanced ways to analyse preserved climate records captured within these old-growth moss shoots establishing these miniature plants as accurate proxies to detect climate change in coastal East Antarctica. Our research has provided a history of the region's changing climate and these novel techniques can be used to determine sites in Antarctica where mosses are at risk of drying and dying.<br /><br />Our results show for the first time that climate change and ozone depletion are drying East Antarctic moss beds and demonstrate that Antarctic communities are already being affected despite a relatively small change so far. How these plant communities fare in future depends on implementation of and compliance with the Montreal Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement. Continued monitoring of these moss beds is important so that Antarctic Environmental Managers can protect these fascinating plant communities for the future.

Research Overview


  • I am an early career plant ecophysiologist conducting research in stress biology, photosynthesis, and plant response to climate change. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms behind plant tolerance to extreme environmental stress and have been involved in long term monitoring of Antarctic mosses at Casey station (State of the Environment Indicator 72) since its inception in 2000. I have used Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISAs), High Performance Liquid Chromatography, spectrophotometric assays, microscopy and chlorophyll fluorescence to monitor health and stress markers in plants. I am a motivating and supportive tertiary educator, engaging students with a range of active learning strategies. In 2017 I  introduced a blended delivery model into the Universities largest first year subject.

Impact Story


  • Plants in Antarctica are changing at a faster rate than first anticipated. There is well documented greening in the Arctic and on the Antarctic peninsula as ice retreats exposing more land. These regions are amongst the most rapidly warming on the planet. Warmer temperatures and increasing melt promote plant growth. Meanwhile on the continent, so far, there has been little evidence of warming so plant responses were expected to be slow and difficult to detect, until now.<br /><br />Alarmingly after only 13 years monitoring plant ecosystems we observed significant changes in the moss beds near Australia’s Casey station in East Antarctica. We have recently shown that these lush moss beds of the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica are rapidly drying due to cooler, windier summers caused by ozone depletion and climate change. We have developed advanced ways to analyse preserved climate records captured within these old-growth moss shoots establishing these miniature plants as accurate proxies to detect climate change in coastal East Antarctica. Our research has provided a history of the region's changing climate and these novel techniques can be used to determine sites in Antarctica where mosses are at risk of drying and dying.<br /><br />Our results show for the first time that climate change and ozone depletion are drying East Antarctic moss beds and demonstrate that Antarctic communities are already being affected despite a relatively small change so far. How these plant communities fare in future depends on implementation of and compliance with the Montreal Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement. Continued monitoring of these moss beds is important so that Antarctic Environmental Managers can protect these fascinating plant communities for the future.