Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

You are here People

Dr. Richard Nair
Research Assistant Professor, Botany


I am a plant ecologist interested in how plants and ecosystems work, above and below-ground and when they are living and when they are dead. I like both getting my hands dirty in real physical experiments in real ecosystems, and employing cutting edge tools such as robotics and neural network analyses I don't have to do this all the time. I'm particularly interested in how method innovations can open up new understanding of cryptic but critical processses in ecosystems.

I completed my PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2015 and between 2015 and 2022 worked at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany. I was involved in a large ecosystem experiment investigating the effects of nitrogen deposition induced nutrient imbalance on ecosystem function in a semi-arid Spanish 'dehesa' ecosystem. I held a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship, building instruments to automatically measure root dynamics without human intervention.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Caldararu, S. and Rolo, V. and Stocker, B. D. and Gimeno, T. E. and Nair, R., Ideas and perspectives: Beyond model evaluation -- combining experiments and models to advance terrestrial ecosystem science, Biogeosciences, 20, 2023, p3637"364 Journal Article, 2023 DOI

Pavel Baykalov, Bart Bussmann, Richard Nair, Abraham George Smith, Gernot Bodner, Ofer Hadar, Naftali Lazarovitch & Boris Rewald, Semantic segmentation of plant roots from RGB (mini-) rhizotron images"generalisation potential and false positives of established methods and advanced deep-learning models., Plant Methods, 19, (22), 2023 Journal Article, 2023 DOI

Gomarasca Ulisse, Migliavacca Mirco, Kattge Jens, Nelson Jacob A., Niinemets à lo, Wirth Christian, Cescatti Alessandro, Bahn Michael, Nair Richard, Acosta Alicia, Leaf-level coordination principles propagate to the ecosystem scale , Nature Communications, 14, 2023 Journal Article, 2023 DOI

Richard Nair, Rooting Vegetation Models in Realism, Global Change Biology, (29), 2023, p2868 - 2870 Journal Article, 2023 DOI

Ferraretto Daniele, Nair Richard, Shah Nadeem W., Reay Dave, Mencuccini Maurizio, Spencer Michael, Heal Kate V., Forest canopy nitrogen uptake can supply entire foliar demand , Functional Ecology , 36 , (4 ), 2022, p933 - 949 Journal Article, 2022 URL DOI

Caldararu Silvia, Thum Tea, Yu Lin, Kern Melanie, Nair Richard, Zaehle Sönke, Long-term ecosystem nitrogen limitation from foliar D15N data and a land surface model , Global Change Biology , 28 , (2 ), 2022, p493 - 508 Journal Article, 2022 DOI URL

Nair Richard, Strube Martin, Hertel Martin, Kolle Olaf, Rolo Victor, Migliavacca Mirco, High frequency root dynamics: sampling and interpretation using replicated robotic minirhizotrons , Journal of Experimental Botany , 2022, perac427 - Journal Article, 2022 DOI URL

Luo Yunpeng, Pacheco-Labrador Javier, Richardson Andrew D., Seyednasrollah Bijan, Perez-Priego Oscar, Gonzalez-Cascon Rosario, Martín M. Pilar, Moreno Gerardo, Nair Richard, Wutzler Thomas, Bucher Solveig Franziska, Carrara Arnaud, Cremonese Edoardo, El-Madany Tarek S., Filippa Gianluca, Galvagno Marta, Hammer Tiana, Ma Xuanlong, Martini David, Zhang Qian, Reichstein Markus, Menzel Annette, Römermann Christine, Migliavacca Mirco, Evergreen broadleaf greenness and its relationship with leaf flushing, aging, and water fluxes , Agricultural and Forest Meteorology , 323 , 2022, p109060 - Journal Article, 2022 URL DOI

Besnard Simon, Santoro Maurizio, Cartus Oliver, Fan Naixin, Linscheid Nora, Nair Richard, Weber Ulrich, Koirala Sujan, Carvalhais Nuno, Global sensitivities of forest carbon changes to environmental conditions , Global Change Biology , 2021, pgcb.15877 - Journal Article, 2021 URL DOI

Durso Andrew M, Morris Kendalynn A, Nair Richard K F, Direct observation of subterranean refugium use by Epidalea calamita (Natterjack Toad) in a dehesa ecosystem in Extremadura, Spain , Herpetology Notes , 14 , 2021, p1203 - 1205 Journal Article, 2021

Luo Yunpeng, El-Madany Tarek, Ma Xuanlong, Nair Richard, Jung Martin, Weber Ulrich, Filippa Gianluca, Bucher Solveig F., Moreno Gerardo, Cremonese Edoardo, Carrara Arnaud, Gonzalez-Cascon Rosario, Escudero Yonatan Cáceres, Galvagno Marta, Pacheco-Labrador Javier, Martín M. Pilar, Perez-Priego Oscar, Reichstein Markus, Richardson Andrew D., Menzel Annette, Römermann Christine, Migliavacca Mirco, Nutrients and water availability constrain the seasonality of vegetation activity in a Mediterranean ecosystem , Global Change Biology , 26 , (8 ), 2020, p4379 - 4400 Journal Article, 2020 DOI URL

Nair Richard K. F., Morris Kendalynn A., Migliavacca Mirco, Moreno Gerado, Schrumpf Marion, Plant-available N:P alters root litter N recycling in a Mediterranean treeâ€"grass ecosystem , Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science , 18 , (3 ), 2020, p517 - 529 Journal Article, 2020 DOI URL

Nair Richard K. F., Morris Kendalynn A., Hertel Martin, Luo Yunpeng, Moreno Gerardo, Reichstein Markus, Schrumpf Marion, Migliavacca Mirco, N:P stoichiometry and habitat effects on Mediterranean savanna seasonal root dynamics , Biogeosciences , 16 , (9 ), 2019, p1883 - 1901 Journal Article, 2019 URL DOI

Morris Kendalynn A., Nair Richard K. F., Moreno Gerardo, Schrumpf Marion, Migliavacca Mirco, Fate of N additions in a multiple resource-limited Mediterranean oak savanna , Ecosphere , 10 , (11 ), 2019, pe02921 - Journal Article, 2019 DOI URL

Nair Richard K. F., Perks Michael P., Mencuccini Maurizio, Decomposition nitrogen is better retained than simulated deposition from mineral amendments in a temperate forest , Global Change Biology , 23 , (4 ), 2017, p1711 - 1724 Journal Article, 2017 URL DOI

Nair Richard K. F., Perks Micheal P., Weatherall Andrew, Baggs Elizabeth M., Mencuccini Maurizio, Does canopy nitrogen uptake enhance carbon sequestration by trees? , Global Change Biology , 22 , (2 ), 2016, p875 - 888 Journal Article, 2016 URL DOI

Nair Richard, Weatherall Andrew, Perks Mike, Mencuccini Maurizio, Stem injection of 15Nâ€"NH4NO3 into mature Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) , Tree Physiology , 34 , (10 ), 2014, p1130 - 1140 Journal Article, 2014 DOI URL

Research Expertise


  • Title
    • RODEO: Root Dynamics for Ecosystem Observation
  • Summary
    • Phenology is the way living things change through the seasons. For plants, phenology affects how much CO2 they take up in photosynthesis or release as they die, so phenology affects climate change. But climate change is altering phenology, such as more growth in warm winters or less in dry summers. Hence understanding phenology is critical for climate change predictions. We can study plant phenology using cameras or satellites collecting sequences of images. However, around 1/3 of CO2 taken up is transported belowground to root systems. Roots are difficult to study as soil is opaque. Other scientists have found that roots don"t grow at the same time as leaves, but we don"t understand why in a general way that can be used in predictions. In this project, I will work in natural ecosystems and collect sequences of images of roots using buried robotic cameras to tackle this problem. Using artificial intelligence (AI) for image analysis, I will produce datasets of daily root growth. AI is necessary because counting roots is time consuming for humans but not an AI. I will use the new data to understand how roots respond to the seasons and climate. The robotic instruments will stay at long term field sites, generating datasets useful for other research. I will use the data to understand how to predict root growth patterns. I will study links between carbon uptake and release, and leaf and root phenology under field conditions. This willhelp us forecast, adapt to, and manage climate change.
  • Funding Agency
    • Science Foundation Ireland
  • Date From
    • 2023-11-01
  • Date To
    • 2032-10-31
  • Title
    • RootCheck: Image-Based Root Health Assessment Tools for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Summary
    • Healthy plants are essential for sustainable and productive agriculture. A substantial part of all plants is below ground and health and physiology of roots may precede or not be reflected in the health status of leaves. In spite of this, methods to assess the health and physiological status of roots in field are still rudimentary. This limits the ability to manage agricultural systems in an era of increasing uncertainty. Quantitative tools to allow practitioners to measure root health properties would help deliver future agricultural production and security. In RootCheck we will develop a novel robust handheld sensor attachment to a smartphone to allow rapid assessment of root health status using multispectral imaging techniques. Over the seed and concept phases, the RootCheck team will build a database of hyperspectral images of roots of different crop species and statuses and refine this to a limited number of targeted wavelengths for a concept low-cost technical solution, supported by an smartphone app supported by a growing database of hyperspectral root imagery. RootCheck will put the ability to assess root health and physiology directly into the hands of farmers, allow rapid quantitative root health diagnosis from field-fresh samples and facilitate management of Future Food Systems.
  • Funding Agency
    • Science Foundation Ireland
  • Date From
    • 2023-09-01
  • Date To
    • 2025-02-28