All Good Things Come In Trees — Cate Macinnis-Ng joins Real Scientists!

We are excited to Welcome Cate Macinnis-Ng (@LoraxCate) as this week’s Real Scientists curator! Cate is a Senior Lecturer and Rutherford Discovery Fellow at the University of Auckland.IMG_1088Learn more about Cate’s work and life here:

I am interested in plant responses to climatic conditions and right now, I’m particularly enthused about drought in New Zealand’s native forests. I completed my undergraduate and PhD degrees in Sydney and then worked as a research fellow on several projects until mid 2010 when I moved to Auckland with my family. I had various roles in the School of Environment before joining the School of Biological Sciences as Lecturer in Ecology in February 2015. At the end of 2015, I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship by the Royal Society of New Zealand. My research interests are centred around understanding plant functional responses to environmental conditions. I have used measurement and modelling approaches to investigate the hourly, daily, seasonal and annual patterns in tree water use at leaf and stand scales.

We have a group blog ( where we get our postgrad students to write about their work.

Both my parents were science teachers so that strongly influenced my path. But I’ve also always enjoyed the process of science.

I’ve always loved biology and the outdoors so being a field biologist was an obvious choice! I love the variety of my work. Being an academic allows me to get involved in so many different things and I also get to do the research I love.

I’m a plant ecophysiologist so I look at how different environmental conditions influence plant processes like water use and carbon uptake. I’m most interested in how a changing climate influences carbon and water cycles of forests. I use field measurements and modelling techniques to explore this. Currently I am setting up a field experimental drought to assess the threat of drought to NZ’s largest and longest-lived tree species, kauri.

My research is publically funded so I think it is my duty to make my findings available to the public. I also think we need to be conserving trees and forests for future generations. We don’t always look after these ecosystems but they are so valuable to a variety of earth processes. If people can see how important forests are for preventing floods and removing carbon from the atmosphere, hopefully they will learn to care more. Kids seem really interested in these things – how can we keep adults engaged?

My family keep me busy!IMG_2621 My kids are 9 (Brianna) and 7 (Alastair) so there’s always lots going on the their lives. My husband is a marathon runner so that takes us interesting places. In recent years I’ve been doing ocean swim events but this year I’ve switched to running because you can do it anywhere. I did the 9km Sydney Harbour Bridge run in September with my brother and raised $2K for the Sydney Children’s Hospital in memory of my oldest son, Callum who died of a rare blood disorder 10 years ago.


“What does your ideal day off look like?”

Time with the family – on a beach somewhere or in the bush.


Please welcome Cate to Real Scientists!

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