Dr Andrew Merchant

ARC Future Fellow, Department of Environmental Sciences

C02F - Centre for Carbon, Water and Food
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 8881
Fax +61 2 8627 1099

Biographical details

Andrew Merchant completed his PhD thesis at the University of Melbourne in 2005 investigating the chemical and physiological adaptation of Eucalyptus species to environmental change. From 2006 to 2008 Andrew worked as a postdoctoral scientist at the University of New South Wales developing phloem derived diagnostic tools for plant health. In 2007 he was awarded a Federal Innovation Award for his work on cyclic sugar alcohols and their role in mitigating stressful conditions in trees and crops. He was appointed as a Lecturer in Agro-ecosystems at the University of Sydney in September 2008 and completed an Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009-2013) developing metabolite and isotopic profiling techniques for the assessment of plant health and productivity. Dr Merchant was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship in 2013 to improve our understanding of plant energetics and resource balance using a range of chemical and molecular tools.

Research interests

An enormous array of tools exists for the study in the plant sciences. I enjoy employing advanced, multidisciplinary approaches to advancing our understanding of plant function in a changing environment. Plants are extremely complex and only through an understanding of this complexity can we fully utilise their capacity to adapt to changing conditions. The challenges of climate change, agricultural production and conservation require an in depth understanding of how plants work.

At the metabolic level I am interested in the processes of resource flux and energy balance. I use a range of techniques to measure the flux and regulation of energy through plant systems and the partitioning of resources such as carbon, water and nutrients. This work produces tools for use at a range of scales from molecular markers for plant improvement to more broad tools for field based monitoring of leaf to landscape scale processes. My research is relevant to both conservation efforts as well as many industry applications in the production of nutritious food, sustainable biofuels and maintenance of ecosystem services.

I am fascinated with how metabolic processes at the cellular scale determine plant and ecosystem health and productivity. Using new technologies in analytical sciences that span molecular, chemical and physiological disciplines, my work seeks to develop an understanding of the dynamics of plant responses to resource availability. Strong, ongoing national and international collaborative links are a valuable component of my research including partners in Austria, Germany, France, Colombia, the USA, Canada and China. To date, this work has characterised distinct geographical and evolutionary patterns in metabolism of Australian native plants and unique chemical and molecular traits for stress mitigation in crop plants, both of which have broad implications for ecological, chemical, physiological and evolutionary studies.

My research group is currently optimising mass spectrometry (GC-TSQ, LCqTOF, LC-MS) and imaging techniques (MRI, FTIR) for the quantification of flux through primary metabolism, the function of phytohormones, the nutritional quality of food and the function of antioxidant systems in plant stress responses. Combined with quantitative assessments of gene expression (RNAseq, qPCR) we are also able to assess the dynamics of metabolic reactions and their regulation at the molecular level. With a focus on the processes of how plant systems work, our research provides powerful tools for sustainable food production and conservation land management.

Teaching and supervision

I am the degree coordinator of the Environmental Systems degree: http://sydney.edu.au/agriculture/future_undergraduates/bachelor_environmental_systems/index.shtml.

If you are interested in studying the degree please email me at: environmental.systems@sydney.edu.auand I will reply to your enquiry as soon as possible.

At the undergraduate level I co-ordinate AFNR2005 Plant Systems Biology a second year subject devoted to understanding the plant system as a dynamic network at a range of scales. I also coordinate ENSY3003 Forest Ecosystem Science, a third year subject devoted to the management of Australian forests for multiple benefits to society. I teach additional material into ENSY1002 Sustaining Australia's Landscapes.

At the postgraduate level I coordinate AFNR 5023 Australian Forest Management, a Masters level subject that covers aspects of the forest science profession leading to the Master in Forest Technologies.

I currently supervise 3 PhD students at the university of Sydney, Ms Millicent Smith (plant energetics), Ms Kathryn Dumschott (molecular platforms) and Mr Alberto Canarini (soil processes). Each year I supervise honours students on a range of topics. If you are interested in an honours, masters or PhD position on any of the topics mentioned here please contact me on the contact details above

Associations

I am an Associate Editor of the journal Annals of Forest Scienceand member of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists.

Awards and honours

In 2007 I was awarded a Federal Innovation Award from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for work on cyclic sugar alcohols and their role in mitigating stressful conditions in trees and crops.

In 2009-2013 I was awarded an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship to develop metabolite and isotopic profiling techniques for the assessment of plant health and productivity.

In 2013 I was awarded a five year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to investigate plant energetics and resource balance using a range of chemical and molecular tools.

Themes

Plant and crop physiology

Selected grants

2012

  • Carbon flux and its regulation in metabolic networks: from the transcript to the plant scale; Merchant A; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Future Fellowships (FT).
  • Securing soil and water using carbon; Ingram L, Crawford J, Merchant A; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Projects (LP).

2009

  • Metabolite pools and their implications for plant responses to global change; Merchant A; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).

2008

  • Chemical markers for stress tolerance - carbon partitioning among metabolite pools; Merchant A; Worldwide Universities Network/Research Support.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Bayly, M., Rigault, P., Spokevicius, A., Ladiges, P., Ades, P., Anderson, C., Bossinger, G., Merchant, A., Udovicic, F., Woodrow, I., et al (2013). Chloroplast genome analysis of Australian eucalypts - Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Allosyncarpia and Stockwellia (Myrtaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 69(3), 704-716. [More Information]
  • Merchant, A. (2012). Developing phloem d13C and sugar composition as indicators of water deficit in Lupinus angustifolius. HortScience, 47(6), 691-696.
  • Dempsey, R., Merchant, A., Tausz, M. (2012). Differences in ascorbate and glutathione levels as indicators of resistance and susceptibility in Eucalyptus trees infected with Phytophthora cinnamomi. Tree Physiology, 32(9), 1148-1160.
  • Wright, T., Tausz, M., Kasel, S., Volkova, L., Merchant, A., Bennett, L. (2012). Edge type affects leaf-level water relations and estimated transpiration of Eucalyptus arenacea. Tree Physiology, 32(3), 280-293.
  • Merchant, A., Buckley, T., Pfautsch, S., Turnbull, T., Samsa, G., Adams, M. (2012). Site-specific responses to short-term environmental variation are reflected in leaf and phloem-sap carbon isotopic abundance of field grown Eucalyptus globulus. Physiologia Plantarum, 146(4), 448-459. [More Information]
  • Merchant, A., Wild, B., Richter, A., Bellot, S., Adams, M., Dreyer, E. (2011). Compound-specific differences in 13C of soluble carbohydrates in leaves and phloem of 6-month-old Eucalyptus globulus (Labill). Plant, Cell and Environment, 34(9), 1599-1608. [More Information]
  • Dempsey, R., Merchant, A., Tausz, M. (2011). Increasing leaf glutathione through stem feeding does not acclimate Eucalyptus camaldulensis seedlings towards high-light stress. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum, 33(1), 221-225. [More Information]
  • Rascher, U., Blossfeld, S., Fiorani, F., Jahnke, S., Jansen, M., Kuhn, A., Matsubara, S., Martin, L., Merchant, A., Metzner, R., et al (2011). Non-invasive approaches for phenotyping of enhanced performance traits in bean. Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 38(12), 968-983.
  • Merchant, A., Richter, A. (2011). Polyols as biomarkers and bioindicators for 21st century plant breeding. Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 38(12), 934-940. [More Information]
  • Cavalieri, A., Merchant, A., van Volkenburgh, E. (2011). Why not beans? Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 38(12), iii-vi. [More Information]
  • Merchant, A., Peuke, A., Keitel, C., Macfarlane, C., Warren, C., Adams, M. (2010). Phloem sap and leaf delta13C, carbohydrates, and amino acid concentrations in Eucalyptus globulus change systematically according to flooding and water deficit treatment. Journal of Experimental Botany, 61(6), 1785-1793.
  • Merchant, A., Tausz, M., Keitel, C., Adams, M. (2010). Relations of sugar composition and delta13C in phloem sap to growth and physiological performance of Eucalyptus globulus (Labill). Plant, Cell and Environment, 33(8), 1361-1368.
  • Merchant, A., Arndt, S., Rowell, D., Posch, S., Callister, A., Tausz, M., Adams, M. (2010). Seasonal changes in carbohydrates, cyclitols, and water relations of 3 field grown Eucalyptus species from contrasting taxonomy on a common site. Annals of Forest Science, 67(1), 104p1-104p7. [More Information]
  • Volkova, L., Bennett, L., Merchant, A., Tausz, M. (2010). Shade does not ameliorate drought effects on the tree fern species Dicksonia antarctica and Cyathea australis. Trees: structure and function, 24(2), 351-362. [More Information]
  • Merchant, A., Arndt, S., Callister, A., Adams, M. (2009). Quercitol plays a key role in stress tolerance of Eucalyptus leptophylla (F. Muell) in naturally occurring saline conditions. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 65(2-3), 296-303. [More Information]
  • Kahmen, A., Simonin, K., Tu, K., Merchant, A., Callister, A., Siegwolf, R., Dawson, T., Arndt, S. (2008). Effects of environmental parameters, leaf physiological properties and leaf water relations on leaf water δ18O enrichment in different Eucalyptus species. Plant, Cell and Environment, 31(6), 738-751.
  • Tausz, M., Merchant, A., Kruse, J., Samsa, G., Adams, M. (2008). Estimation of drought related limitations to mid-rotation aged plantation grown Eucalyptus globulus by phloem sap analysis. Forest Ecology and Management, 256(4), 844-848. [More Information]
  • Callister, A., Arndt, S., Ades, P., Merchant, A., Rowell, D., Adams, M. (2008). Leaf osmotic potential of Eucalyptus hybrids responds differently to freezing and drought, with little clonal variation. Tree Physiology, 28, 1297-1304.
  • Arndt, S., Livesley, S., Merchant, A., Bleby, T., Grierson, P. (2008). Quercitol and osmotic adaptation of field-grown Eucalyptus under seasonal drought stress. Plant, Cell and Environment, 31(7), 915-924.
  • Merchant, A., Callister, A., Arndt, S., Tausz, M., Adams, M. (2007). Contrasting Physiological Responses of Six Eucalyptus Species to Water Deficit. Annals of Botany, 100(7), 1507-1515.
  • Merchant, A., Ladiges, P., Adams, M. (2007). Quercitol links the physiology, taxonomy and evolution of 279 eucalypt species. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 16(6), 810-819.
  • Merchant, A., Tausz, M., Arndt, S., Adams, M. (2006). Cyclitols and carbohydrates in leaves and roots of 13 Eucalyptus species suggest contrasting physiological responses to water deficit. Plant, Cell and Environment, 29(11), 2017-2029.
  • Merchant, A., Richter, A., Popp, M., Adams, M. (2006). Targeted metabolite profiling provides a functional link among eucalypt taxonomy, physiology and evolution. Phytochemistry, 67(4), 402-408.
  • Merchant, A., Adams, M. (2005). Stable osmotica in Eucalyptus spathulata - responses to salt and water deficit stress. Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 32(9), 797-805.

Conferences

  • Merchant, A., Peuke, A., Tausz, M., Adams, M. (2008). Phloem derived diagnostic tools for assessing plant health. Salt & Water Stress in Plants, Montana, United States: Gordon Research Conferences.

2013

  • Bayly, M., Rigault, P., Spokevicius, A., Ladiges, P., Ades, P., Anderson, C., Bossinger, G., Merchant, A., Udovicic, F., Woodrow, I., et al (2013). Chloroplast genome analysis of Australian eucalypts - Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Allosyncarpia and Stockwellia (Myrtaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 69(3), 704-716. [More Information]

2012

  • Merchant, A. (2012). Developing phloem d13C and sugar composition as indicators of water deficit in Lupinus angustifolius. HortScience, 47(6), 691-696.
  • Dempsey, R., Merchant, A., Tausz, M. (2012). Differences in ascorbate and glutathione levels as indicators of resistance and susceptibility in Eucalyptus trees infected with Phytophthora cinnamomi. Tree Physiology, 32(9), 1148-1160.
  • Wright, T., Tausz, M., Kasel, S., Volkova, L., Merchant, A., Bennett, L. (2012). Edge type affects leaf-level water relations and estimated transpiration of Eucalyptus arenacea. Tree Physiology, 32(3), 280-293.
  • Merchant, A., Buckley, T., Pfautsch, S., Turnbull, T., Samsa, G., Adams, M. (2012). Site-specific responses to short-term environmental variation are reflected in leaf and phloem-sap carbon isotopic abundance of field grown Eucalyptus globulus. Physiologia Plantarum, 146(4), 448-459. [More Information]

2011

  • Merchant, A., Wild, B., Richter, A., Bellot, S., Adams, M., Dreyer, E. (2011). Compound-specific differences in 13C of soluble carbohydrates in leaves and phloem of 6-month-old Eucalyptus globulus (Labill). Plant, Cell and Environment, 34(9), 1599-1608. [More Information]
  • Dempsey, R., Merchant, A., Tausz, M. (2011). Increasing leaf glutathione through stem feeding does not acclimate Eucalyptus camaldulensis seedlings towards high-light stress. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum, 33(1), 221-225. [More Information]
  • Rascher, U., Blossfeld, S., Fiorani, F., Jahnke, S., Jansen, M., Kuhn, A., Matsubara, S., Martin, L., Merchant, A., Metzner, R., et al (2011). Non-invasive approaches for phenotyping of enhanced performance traits in bean. Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 38(12), 968-983.
  • Merchant, A., Richter, A. (2011). Polyols as biomarkers and bioindicators for 21st century plant breeding. Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 38(12), 934-940. [More Information]
  • Cavalieri, A., Merchant, A., van Volkenburgh, E. (2011). Why not beans? Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 38(12), iii-vi. [More Information]

2010

  • Merchant, A., Peuke, A., Keitel, C., Macfarlane, C., Warren, C., Adams, M. (2010). Phloem sap and leaf delta13C, carbohydrates, and amino acid concentrations in Eucalyptus globulus change systematically according to flooding and water deficit treatment. Journal of Experimental Botany, 61(6), 1785-1793.
  • Merchant, A., Tausz, M., Keitel, C., Adams, M. (2010). Relations of sugar composition and delta13C in phloem sap to growth and physiological performance of Eucalyptus globulus (Labill). Plant, Cell and Environment, 33(8), 1361-1368.
  • Merchant, A., Arndt, S., Rowell, D., Posch, S., Callister, A., Tausz, M., Adams, M. (2010). Seasonal changes in carbohydrates, cyclitols, and water relations of 3 field grown Eucalyptus species from contrasting taxonomy on a common site. Annals of Forest Science, 67(1), 104p1-104p7. [More Information]
  • Volkova, L., Bennett, L., Merchant, A., Tausz, M. (2010). Shade does not ameliorate drought effects on the tree fern species Dicksonia antarctica and Cyathea australis. Trees: structure and function, 24(2), 351-362. [More Information]

2009

  • Merchant, A., Arndt, S., Callister, A., Adams, M. (2009). Quercitol plays a key role in stress tolerance of Eucalyptus leptophylla (F. Muell) in naturally occurring saline conditions. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 65(2-3), 296-303. [More Information]

2008

  • Kahmen, A., Simonin, K., Tu, K., Merchant, A., Callister, A., Siegwolf, R., Dawson, T., Arndt, S. (2008). Effects of environmental parameters, leaf physiological properties and leaf water relations on leaf water δ18O enrichment in different Eucalyptus species. Plant, Cell and Environment, 31(6), 738-751.
  • Tausz, M., Merchant, A., Kruse, J., Samsa, G., Adams, M. (2008). Estimation of drought related limitations to mid-rotation aged plantation grown Eucalyptus globulus by phloem sap analysis. Forest Ecology and Management, 256(4), 844-848. [More Information]
  • Callister, A., Arndt, S., Ades, P., Merchant, A., Rowell, D., Adams, M. (2008). Leaf osmotic potential of Eucalyptus hybrids responds differently to freezing and drought, with little clonal variation. Tree Physiology, 28, 1297-1304.
  • Merchant, A., Peuke, A., Tausz, M., Adams, M. (2008). Phloem derived diagnostic tools for assessing plant health. Salt & Water Stress in Plants, Montana, United States: Gordon Research Conferences.
  • Arndt, S., Livesley, S., Merchant, A., Bleby, T., Grierson, P. (2008). Quercitol and osmotic adaptation of field-grown Eucalyptus under seasonal drought stress. Plant, Cell and Environment, 31(7), 915-924.

2007

  • Merchant, A., Callister, A., Arndt, S., Tausz, M., Adams, M. (2007). Contrasting Physiological Responses of Six Eucalyptus Species to Water Deficit. Annals of Botany, 100(7), 1507-1515.
  • Merchant, A., Ladiges, P., Adams, M. (2007). Quercitol links the physiology, taxonomy and evolution of 279 eucalypt species. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 16(6), 810-819.

2006

  • Merchant, A., Tausz, M., Arndt, S., Adams, M. (2006). Cyclitols and carbohydrates in leaves and roots of 13 Eucalyptus species suggest contrasting physiological responses to water deficit. Plant, Cell and Environment, 29(11), 2017-2029.
  • Merchant, A., Richter, A., Popp, M., Adams, M. (2006). Targeted metabolite profiling provides a functional link among eucalypt taxonomy, physiology and evolution. Phytochemistry, 67(4), 402-408.

2005

  • Merchant, A., Adams, M. (2005). Stable osmotica in Eucalyptus spathulata - responses to salt and water deficit stress. Functional Plant Biology: an international journal of plant function, 32(9), 797-805.

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