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We are the guests of green plants

With the help of Dr Who and a banana, JCU's Joe Holtum will explain how plants changed the future of planet Earth at a special lecture this week.

First published 14 May 2012

With the help of Dr Who and a banana, James Cook University's Joe Holtum will explain how plants changed the future of planet Earth at a special lecture this week.

Professor Holtum's talk on Thursday, May 17, is part of JCU’s new Public Lecture Series, which is hosted by the University's Faculty of Science and Engineering.

The series showcases JCU’s research to the community and is designed to inform, educate and entertain residents about current science and engineering issues.

Professor Holtum, from JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology, said he would explore how plants created the global ecosphere as we know it, forming the atmosphere, regulating temperature, and modifying planetary water cycles.

Cryptically, he said he would be “drawing on assistance from Dr Who and a banana”.

“The lecture will focus upon three events between the Big Bang and the present when plants changed the future of planet Earth, loading the dice of natural selection and essentially directing animal and human evolution,” he said.

“For example, why did plants require 40 million years to develop leaves? How can flowering plants be sufficiently productive to feed seven billion human beings?

“And why does Australia’s reputation as an economically developed nation depend upon ancient photosynthesis?”


Date: Thursday 17th May 2012

Time: 5.30pm for a complimentary drink and nibbles, lecture starts at 6.00pm.

Place: Central Lecture Theatre, James Cook University, Townsville.

This is a free event


Professor Joe Holtum, Tropical Biology, School of Marine and Tropical Biology

Joe studied botany, marine biology and zoology at JCU, where he won the Palmerston-Rundle prize for his honours thesis in plant physiology. Following a PhD at ANU, he was for 8 years a post-doctoral researcher in the USA and Germany where he studied the biochemistry and physiology of photosynthesis. Returning to Australia in 1987 as a research fellow at Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute, he became an international expert on herbicide resistance in weeds of crops. Since moving to JCU in 1993, Joe’s research focus has been on the ecophysiology of succulent plants, particularly desert species and tropical forest epiphytes, and on the effects of high CO2 on tropical vegetation. His latest large project is an investigation of Agave as potential ethanol feedstock for seasonally-dry regions of tropical Australia. Joe has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is currently Chairman of the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship panel.

The Public Lecture series will run monthly from March to November.

For more information, contact: Kiara Cantamessa, JCU marketing and events assistant, (07) 4781 5179

or 0419 547 797 or kiara.cantamessa1@jcu.edu.au

For interviews, contact: Professor Joe Holtum 07 4781 4391 or joseph.holtum@jcu.edu.au

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175