Dr Joni Cook

Photo of Dr Joni Cook

Research Administrator, Transforming Energy Access (TEA) Initiative, Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN)

I joined the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network team in my role as Research Administrator in March 2017.


I am a plant ecologist who is interested in how plants respond physiologically to changes in the biotic and abiotic environment, particularly nutrient availability. Knowledge in this area is important as it offers insight into the mechanisms driving the evolution of plant functional traits, and how plant communities may respond to global environmental change. 


Current research explores why some plant species are invasive by investigating within-population variation in leaf morphometric traits of the purple pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea in its introduced range in Europe. Leaf traits are increasingly used as a comparative tool for understanding behaviours and spatial distributions between invasive species. However, whilst average leaf trait characteristics are well defined, we know very little about within-population leaf trait variation. Addressing this knowledge gap is particularly important as recent research indicates that within-population leaf trait variation is larger than previously assumed, and plays a key role in determining how species coexist and communities are assembled. The carnivorous pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea, which can be invasive in bogs within its non-native European range, is an excellent species to use to further understanding in this area as it is highly responsive to changes in resource availability. We know little about how within-population variability in leaf traits of Sarracenia purpurea compares between native and introduced populations. Data collected from the species' introduced range (this study) will be compared with existing data from the native range, therefore enabling more accurate predictions of how introduced distributions of invasive plants will change in response to climate change. 


Previous research explored the ecophysiological responses of carnivorous plants to resource availability, with a focus on nitrogen (N). My PhD research utilised the carnivorous plant Drosera rotundifolia (round-leaved sundew) to address several unanswered ecophysiological and evolutionary questions relating to patterns and processes of prey capture and the N nutrition of carnivorous plants. Furthermore, the potential for reducing uncertainty in the calculation of plant reliance on carnivory using a δ15N natural abundance multi-level linear mixing model was explored. A combined approach of in-situ and ex-situ studies was employed, using co-occurring non-carnivorous plants or carnivorous plant species with differing evolutionary lineages or prey capture mechanisms respectively to provide context.

Cook JL, Newton J, Millett J (2018) Environmental differences between sites control the diet and nutrition of the carnivorous plant Drosera rotundifolia. Plant Soil 423:41-58.