Michelle graduated with a BAgrSc in Horticulture from University College Dublin in 2011. After a year as a research assistant she returned to UCD and a PhD programme in Prof. Jennifer McElwain’s Plant Palaeoecology and Palaeobiology Group in the School of Biology and Environmental Science. Her research focused on the stomatal responses of woody angiosperm taxa in different biomes to an increase in atmospheric CO2 of 50 ppm to 400 ppm between 1990 and 2015. Access to the CLAMP (Climate Leaf Analysis Multivariate Programme) collection of woody taxa herbarium specimens from 173 sites across all biomes provided the starting point for the re-collection of modern leaf specimens and stomatal conductance (gs) data from some of the same species in 22 of the sites across North America, Puerto Rico and Fiji covering seven biomes. This enabled the comparison of the historic and modern specimens to test changes in gmax (theoretical maximum stomatal conductance) over recent decades in response to elevated atmospheric CO2 and the relationship between gs and gmax.
Following the successful completion of her PhD in 2017, Michelle was offered an SFI-funded post-doctoral research position at Trinity College Dublin. She continues the work started in her PhD to create a contemporary database of stomatal responses of woody taxa in natural forest ecosystems across multiple biomes to climate change. This will enable the testing of ecological and climate model predictions using the impact of stomatal responses to rising CO2 in woody taxa on the hydrologic cycle and flood risk.