Thomas Buckley

Thomas Buckley

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Plant Sciences


Buckley, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, specializes in environmental plant physiology. Buckley completed his Ph.D. in biology at Utah State University and was a faculty member at Sonoma State University from 2008 to 2013, as well as a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney, Australia, from 2013 to 2017. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2017.

Research interests:

Biophysics and ecology of plant responses and adaptations of plants to environmental stress and change, leaf and plant water relations, photosynthesis, respiration, field physiological phenotyping, gas exchange, sap flow, pressure probe, psychrometry, mathematical and computational modeling

Brief overview:

The responses of plants to environmental stress and change greatly limit crop productivity and govern much of the terrestrial carbon, water and energy cycles. Understanding the biology of those responses will help us improve crop traits and crop management and predict natural ecosystem processes in a changing climate.

My research addresses these biological questions and their applications with a variety of traditional experimental tools and with a strong emphasis on advancing formal mathematical theory.

Work in my lab spans several scales. We examine the biology of "guard cells" surrounding the leaf pores that regulate water vapor and carbon dioxide exchange between leaves and the atmosphere. We study the biophysics of water transport among tissues within leaves and the interactions among photosynthesis, respiration and stomatal biology. We look at the economics of how plants distribute resources such as water, nitrogen and carbon within the plant. We also study the mechanisms that govern variation in responses of whole plant carbon and water exchange to environmental stress, especially water and heat stress.

Current research methods in this field tend to be extremely costly and inaccessible to farmers, land managers and educators. We are developing new and improved low-cost and high-throughput methods for measuring plant responses in the field. Affordable methods of measuring plant water status, for example, could help growers schedule irrigation.

Current projects:

  • Improving carbon capture in wheat canopies by optimizing canopy distribution of photosynthetic capacity
  • Developing improved methods for measuring sap flow and water status, emphasis in woody plants
  • Testing hypotheses about mechanisms of water transport in leaves and their role in stomatal function
  • Studying the diversity, environmental responses and anatomical controls on leaf hydraulic conductance in conifers
  • Quantifying genetic constraints on integrated ecophysiological and structural determinants of tree growth in relation to water and temperature stress
  • Characterizing the phenomenology of triose phosphate utilization limitations to photosynthetic rate