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Dr Julia Cooke

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Senior Lecturer in Ecology
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences
  • julia.cooke

Professional biography

I am a plant ecologist, particularly interested in using traits to explore plant ecological strategies.

A main interest is the functional ecology of plant silicon, that is, how plants use silicon.  I examined the role of silicon in the leaf dry mass economics spectrum, patterns in responses of stressed plants to silicon fertiliser, trade-offs between carbon and silicon herbivore defences in a natural system and the effect of silicon on leaf biomechanics.  In 2016 I co-edited two journal special issues - in Functional Ecology and Frontiers in Plant Sciences, which review the state of play and exciting new research in plant silicon. Podcasts about my siliceous research are here and here.

My earlier research on invasive species encompasses the introduction and spread and population dynamics of an Australian semi-arid weed, as well as carbon capturegrowth and reproductive strategies of diverse weeds across the globe.  I have also worked on pitcher plantsChristmas trees and algal balls.

I taught at Macquarie Univeristy, Sydney, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  I was a post-doc with Prof. Angela Moles in her Big Ecology Lab at the University of New South Wales.   Using a huge dataset, I tested hypotheses about the distribution of simple vs compound leaves, and how plant trait variation relates to habitat variation.  As a post-doc with Prof. David Ellsworth at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at the University of Western Sydney, I examined the effects of elevated CO2 on photosynthesis in trees and understorey plants at the EucFACE facility, phosphorus recycling in photorespiration and determinants of stomatal conductance in forest systems.  With Dr Ian Wright, I examined changes in relationships between leaf traits, biomass allocation and growth rates with ontogeny in savannah ecosystems.  

I am now a Lecturer in Ecology at The Open University where I contribute to modules across levels, postgraduate training and my reserach continues on plant silicon and ecological strategies spanning pollination, growth rates, responses to climate change, invasive species and plant-animal interactions.

Research interests

I am a plant functional ecologist, interested in the different roles species play in ecosystems. I use plant trait analysis as a powerful tool to compare the functions of different species and describe ecological strategies. 

In brief, my interests are:
  • Silicon functional ecology
  • Invasive plant biology
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Plant trait analysis
  • Comparative ecology
  • Growth-trait relationships
  • Plant physiology and climate change

Teaching interests

S112 Science: concepts and practice

  • A module team member, and was involved in writing and developing this module
  • Developed Space-Time scales (Space-Time Explorer, an interactive featuring 13 mini-documentaries with assosiated activities), Environmental Cycles (FluxCity interactive), and Ecological Interactions.

S206/SXF206 Environmental Science

  • Contribute to field schools
  • Developed fieldcasts which teach the process of an ecological investigation and increase access to field work. Learn more about the fieldcasts here and here.

SDT306 Environment: Response to Change

  • A module team member, and was involved in writing and developing this module
  • Co-designed and wrote the Biodiversity and Conservation block with Phil Wheeler
  • Developed the Dinner Plate Diversity interactive - an interactive that plots of the species you eat on a circular phylogentic tree of edible species.

Impact and engagement

I regularly contribute to outreach activities including:

I am a committee member of the British Ecolgocial Society Teaching and Learning Special Interest Group, and an associate editor for Functional Ecology

I am an academic adivsor for OU-BBC co-productions and recently contributed to Earth from Space, incuding to the OU poster and articles that accompany the serires.

Research Activity

Externally funded projects

CENTA 2017 intake

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01/Oct/201730/Sep/2021NERC NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
CENTA is a geographically and scientifically coherent consortium offering a wide range of excellent NERC science embedded in a vibrant multidisciplinary environment. The Universities (Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Open and Warwick) and Institutes (British Geological Survey and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) have a strong track record of producing PhD graduates fit for further research or other relevant employment. The Open University STEM Faculty has match-funded 3 studentships in the 2017 intake.


Stem diameter growth rates in a fire-prone savanna correlate with photosynthetic rate and branch-scale biomass allocation, but not specific leaf area (2019-04)
Wright, Ian J.; Cooke, Julia; Cernusak, Lucas A.; Hutley, Lindsay B.; Scalon, Marina C.; Tozer, Wade C. and Lehmann, Caroline E. R.
Austral Ecology, 44(2) (pp. 339-350)
Shoot growth of woody trees and shrubs is predicted by maximum plant height and associated traits (2018-02-07)
Gleason, Sean M.; Stephens, Andrea E. A.; Tozer, Wade C.; Blackman, Chris J.; Butler, Don W.; Chang, Yvonne; Cook, Alicia M.; Cooke, Julia; Laws, Claire A.; Rosell, Julieta A.; Stuart, Stephanie A. and Westoby, Mark
Functional Ecology, 32(2) (pp. 247-259)
Water availability affects seasonal CO2-induced photosynthetic enhancement in herbaceous species in a periodically dry woodland (2017-11-13)
Pathare, Varsha S.; Crous, Kristine Y.; Cooke, Julia; Creek, Danielle; Ghannoum, Oula and Ellsworth, David S.
Global Change Biology, 23(12) (pp. 5164-5178)
Elevated CO2 does not increase eucalypt forest productivity on a low-phosphorus soil (2017-04)
Ellsworth, David S.; Anderson, Ian C.; Crous, Kristine Y.; Cooke, Julia; Drake, John E.; Gherlenda, Andrew N.; Gimeno, Teresa E.; Macdonald, Catriona A.; Medlyn, Belinda E.; Powell, Jeff R.; Tjoelker, Mark G. and Reich, Peter B.
Nature Climate Change, 7(4) (pp. 279-282)
The functional ecology of plant silicon: geoscience to genes (2016-08)
Cooke, Julia; DeGabriel, Jane L. and Hartley, Susan E.
Functional Ecology, 30(8) (pp. 1270-1276)
Consistent alleviation of abiotic stress with silicon addition: a meta-analysis (2016-08)
Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R.
Functional Ecology, 30(8) (pp. 1340-1357)
Editorial: Plant Silicon Interactions between Organisms and the Implications for Ecosystems (2016-07-15)
Cooke, Julia and DeGabriel, Jane L.
Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, Article 1001
Conserved stomatal behaviour under elevated CO2 and varying water availability in a mature woodland (2016-05)
Gimeno, Teresa E.; Crous, Kristine Y.; Cooke, Julia; O'Grady, Anthony P.; Ósvaldsson, Anna; Medlyn, Belinda E. and Ellsworth, David S.
Functional Ecology, 30(5) (pp. 700-709)
The Christmas tree project: comparing the effects of five treatments on the health of cut Christmas trees (Pinus radiata, Pinaceae) (2016-02-05)
Akres, Olyvea; Cavallaro, Isabella; Cheng, Cynthia; Dixon, Madison; Goddard, Darcy; Hofbauer, Tamara; Mahr, Sidney; Mason, Taylor; Miskin, Lulu; Morgan, Chloe; Nettleton, Eleanor; Purseglove, Amelia; Rosenberg, Bella; Salgado, Lucia; Sardi, Jasmin; Scarlis, Emily; Snyman, Sophie; Spagnardi, Isabella; Swinson-Dulhunty, Oona; Szentmariay, Lilla; Zimmerman, Nikki; T. Moles, Angela and Cooke, Julia
Australian Journal of Botany, 64(1) (pp. 15-19)
The unusual occurrence of green algal balls of Chaetomorpha linum on a beach in Sydney, Australia. (2015-10)
Cooke, Julia; Lanfear, Robert; Downing, Alison; Gillings, Michael R.; Poore, Alistair G. B.; Goodwin, Ian D.; Waldron, Liette S.; Phillips, Aaron; Metti, Yola and Bulbert, Matthew W.
Botanica Marina, 58(5) (pp. 401-407)
Phosphorus recycling in photorespiration maintains high photosynthetic capacity in woody species (2015-05-04)
Ellsworth, David S.; Crous, Kristine Y.; Lambers, Hans and Cooke, Julia
Plant, Cell & Environment, 38(6) (pp. 1142-1156)
Evidence for shifts to faster growth strategies in the new ranges of invasive alien plants (2014-11)
Leishman, Michelle R.; Cooke, Julia and Richardson, David M.
Journal of Ecology, 102(6) (pp. 1451-1461)
Population dynamics of the invasive, annual species, Carrichtera annua, in Australia (2012-12-03)
Cooke, Julia; Ash, J. E. and Groves, R. H.
Rangeland Journal, 34(4) (pp. 375-387)
Tradeoffs between foliar silicon and carbon-based defences: evidence from vegetation communities of contrasting soil types (2012-12)
Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R.
Oikos, 121(12) (pp. 2052-2060)
Silicon concentration and leaf longevity: is silicon a player in the leaf dry mass spectrum? (2011-11-09)
Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R.
Functional Ecology, 25(6) (pp. 1181-1188)
The distribution of Carrichtera annua in Australia: introduction, spread and probable limits (2011-03-23)
Cooke, Julia; Groves, R. H. and Ash, Julian
Rangeland Journal, 33(1) (pp. 23-35)
Is plant ecology more siliceous than we realise? (2011)
Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R.
Trends in Plant Science, 16(2) (pp. 61-68)
Native and exotic invasive plants have fundamentally similar carbon capture strategies (2010-01)
Leishman, Michelle R.; Thomson, Vivien P. and Cooke, Julia
Journal of Ecology, 98(1) (pp. 28-42)
Reproductive output of invasive versus native plants (2008-08-12)
Mason, Robert A. B.; Cooke, Julia; Moles, Angela T. and Leishman, Michelle R.
Global Ecology and Biogeography, 17(5) (pp. 633-640)
Growth and survival of riparian plantings in relation to Weeping Willow canopy in the Upper Hunter River (2008-07-14)
Kyle, Garreth; Schmidt, Tatjana; Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R.
Ecological Management & Restoration, 9(2) (pp. 154-156)
The behaviour of scribbly gum moth larvae Ogmograptis sp. Meyrick (Lepidoptera: Bucculatricidae) in the Australian Capital Territory (2007-10-04)
Cooke, Julia and Edwards, Ted
Australian Journal of Entomology, 46(4) (pp. 269-275)
Plant silicon content vs phytolith abundance: uses, differences and their power combined (2019)
Cooke, Julia
In : European Geophysical Union General Assembly 2019 (8-12 Apr 2019, Vienna, Austria)
Building on a publication provides a fast, authentic research experience: a green and fuzzy case study for distance students (2018)
Cooke, Julia
In : Advancing the synergies between teaching and research in ecology: Symposium of the Teaching and Learning Special Interest Group of the British Ecological Society (27 Apr 2018, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
Evaluating remote access to fieldwork with interactive fieldcasts for distance learning students (2017)
Robson, Julie; Cooke, Julia; Wheeler, Philip; Maseyk, Kadmiel and Collins, Trevor
In : The 6th eSTEeM Annual Conference (25-26 Apr 2017, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes)
Plants and Silicon: A Modern Ecological Perspective (Invited Presentation) (2017)
Cooke, Julia
In : Geological Society of America Conference (22-25 Oct 2017, Seattle)
Alleviation of abiotic stress by silicon: what can a meta-analysis of agricultural studies tell us about ecology? (2016-12-12)
Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R.
In : British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016 (11-14 Dec 2016, Liverpool, UK)
Widening access to fieldwork with interactive livecasts (2016-09)
Cooke, Julia; Wheeler, Philip; Maseyk, Kadmiel and Collins, Trevor
In : Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase 2016 (12-13 Sep 2016, Reading, UK)
Plant traits and stomatal sensitivity to water deficit contribute to optimising carbon-water economics in plants (2015-12)
Cooke, Julia; Bourne, Aimee; Medlyn, Belinda and Ellsworth, David
In : British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2015 (13-16 Dec, Edinburgh, UK)

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