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North Shore District Group

Scholarship Recipient


Valette Williams Scholarship in Botany - Recipient 2020

Shubham Chhajed

The Val Williams Scholarship in Botany is sponsored by the North Shore Group of the Australian Plants Society. The Scholarship honours the memory of our former esteemed member, Val Williams (1937-2004). 

The project must contribute to the knowledge of the ecology, conservation or propagation of native plants in the Sydney and surrounding regions.

The Scholarship, valued at $3000 this year, attracted eight applicants, a mix of Honours, Masters and PhD students, from three universities.

Congratulations to Shubham Chhajed, recipient of the 2020 Val Williams Scholarship in Botany.

Project Title:
Hydraulic drivers of photosynthetic variation in co-occurring plant species in Sydney region: a least-cost theory approach

PhD candidate, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University

Growing up as a farmer’s son naturally made me curious about plants. I was amazed that all plants use the same resources (water, light, nutrients etc.) to carry out photosynthesis and yet, there is a stupendous amount of variation in their photosynthetic output. This childhood curiosity of mine turned into a scientific passion and has been the primary focus of my previous and current research work.
During my undergraduate research at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, I studied plant responses to water, nutrients, and temperature stresses and the underlying eco-physiological mechanisms. For my PhD at Macquarie University, I decided to focus on the investments that plants make to acquire and use these resources. Investments towards these multiple resources are interchangeable and plants balance them to achieve the optimal level of photosynthesis while incurring the least total cost. I seek to understand how plants manage to achieve this balance and what traits assist in the optimization. Preliminary results show that hydraulic traits such as rooting depth and water storage ability of plants are closely related to photosynthetic output at a short time scale. The Val Williams Scholarship would enable me to test these hydraulic trait – photosynthetic trait relationships at a longer time scale via a foliar δ13C analysis. δ13C is a stable carbon isotope signature that represents the ratio of 13Carbon to 12Carbon in leaves. It will significantly expand the scope of my current study and facilitate understanding long-term effects of plant hydraulic properties. I am excited to see what the isotope analysis reveals about water management strategies in plants at an extended time scale.


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