Associate Professor Jeff Powell

Jeff PowellA/Professor Jeff Powell obtained his PhD from the University of Guelph, Canada in 2008, where he studied the biological impacts of genetically-modified crops on soils, including mycorrhizas, rhizobia, and soil fauna.

His postdoctoral research at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, examined the role of fungal traits in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis and factors controlling the predictability of microbial community assembly, both of which have relevance for the management of microbial communities and their ecosystem services.

He joined the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in 2011.

Areas of Research / Teaching Expertise

A/Professor Powell is interested in the processes underlying the assembly of microbial communities and how these processes can be manipulated to achieve beneficial outcomes. A goal of his research is to understand the contributions of microbial biodiversity to the productivity of managed and natural systems and to how these systems respond to environmental change.

Outcomes of this work will be a greater understanding of i) how mycorrhizal fungi, rhizobia, and other microbial associates of plants control aspects of carbon and nutrient cycling and ii) how these can be managed to confer greater benefits to plants (linked to enhanced nutrient uptake and reduced impacts of pathogens).

Fields of Research

Community Ecology; Microbial Ecology; Soil Biology; Ecological Impacts of Climate Change; Invasive Species Ecology

Socio-Economic Objectives

Flora, Fauna, and Biodiversity; Soils; Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change; Control of Pests, Diseases, and Exotic Species

Awards and Recognition

  • Science and Innovation Award Winner (GRDC category), Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2012
  • Awarded first runner up, ProSPER.Net-Scopus 2011 Asia Pacific Young Scientist of the Year in the category of Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management. He was presented with this at the ProSPER.Net-Scopus symposium held at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, on 13 July 2011
  • Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship, European Commission, 2009
  • NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, 2008
  • Humboldt Research Fellowship, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, 2007
  • Editor-in-Chief, Pedobiologia: Journal of Soil Ecology; Section Editor, Plant and Soil; Editorial Board Member, FEMS Microbiology Ecology
  • Regular reviewer for numerous international journals including Ecology Letters, New Phytologist, and Mycorrhiza

Grants / Current Projects

Getting to the root of the matter: predicting plant benefits from arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses
Co-Researchers: Professor Matthias Rillig
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council, Discovery Grant
Period: 2014-2016

Switching partners: a driving force for tree productivity in a changing environment?
Co-Researchers: Professor Ian Anderson, Professor Matthias Rillig
Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council, Discovery Grant
Period: 2013-2015

A trait-based approach for understanding the processes limiting effective nodulation of pulse crops
Partners/Funding Body: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (non ACRG)
Period: 2012-2014

Ecological and evolutionary origins of multifunctionality in ectomycorrhizal Pisolithus isolates
Co-researchers: Jeff Powell, John Cairney and Ian Anderson
Partner/Funding Body: University of Western Sydney
Period: 2012-2013

Climate change effects on decomposition of coarse woody debris, as mediated by wood traits and fungal communities
Co-researchers: Dr Brendan Choat and Prof Peter Reich
Partner/Funding Body: University of Western Sydney
Period: 2011-2013 

Trophic diversity, resource compartmentation, and the stability of ecosystems
Co-Researchers: Professor Matthias Rillig
Partner/Funding Body: European Commission, Marie Curie Actions
Period: 2009-2011Young sprout on a black background

Selected Publications

Book Chapters

Powell JR (2007) 'Linking soil organisms within food webs to ecosystem functioning and environmental change', Advances in Agronomy, vol.96, pp 307-350, doi: 10.1016/S0065-2113(07)96007-1

Powell JR, Dunfield KE, (2007) 'Non-target impacts of genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant crops on soil microbial and faunal communities', pages 127-137, in The First Decade of Herbicide-Resistant Crops in Canada, Topics in Canadian Weed Science, vol. 4 (R.H. Gulden and C.J. Swanton, Eds), Canadian Weed Science Society – Société canadienne de malherbologie: Sainte Anne de Bellevue, QC

Powell JR, Klironomos JN, (2007) 'The ecology of plant-microbial mutualisms', Chapter 10 in Soil Microbiology, Ecology, and Biochemistry, 3rd ed. (Paul EA, Ed.), Academic Press

Journal Articles

Bissett A, Fitzgerald A, Meintjes T, Mele PM, Reith F, Dennis PG, Breed MF, Brown B, Brown MV, Brugger J, Byrne M, Caddy-Retalic S, Carmody B, Coates DJ, Correa C, Ferrari BC, Gupta VVSR, Hamonts K, Haslem A, Hugenholtz P, Karan M, Koval J, Lowe AJ, Macdonald S, McGrath L, Martin D, Morgan M, North KI, Paungfoo-Lonhienne C, Pendall E, Phillips L, Pirzl R, Powell JR, Ragan MA, Schmidt S, Seymour N, Snape I, Stephen JR, Stevens M, Tinning M, Williams K, Yeoh YK, Zammit CM, Young A, (2016) 'Introducing BASE: the Biomes of Australian Soil Environments soil microbial diversity database', Gigascience, vol.5, Article no.21

Colombo F, Macdonald CA, Jeffries TC, Powell JR, Singh BK, (2016) 'Impact of forest management practices on soil bacterial diversity and consequences for soil processes', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.94, pp 200-210

Pinto H, Powell JR, Sharwood RE, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O, (2016) 'Variations in nitrogen use efficiency reflect the biochemical subtype while variations in water use efficiency reflect the evolutionary lineage of C4 grasses at inter-glacial CO2', Plant, Cell and Environment, vol.39, no.3, pp 514-526

Powell JR, Bennett AE, (2016) 'Unpredictable assembly of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities', Pedobiologia, vol.59, no.1-2, pp 11-15

Rigg JL, Offord CA, Singh BK, Anderson IC, Clarke S, Powell JR, (2016) 'Variation in soil microbial communities associated with critically endangered Wollemi pine affects fungal, but not bacterial, assembly within seedling roots', Pedobiologia, vol.59, no.1-2, pp 61-71

Rillig MC, Lehmann A, Aguilar-Trigueros CA, Antonovics J, Caruso T, Hempel S, Lehmann J, Valyi K, Verbruggen E, Veresoglou SD, Powell JR, (2016) 'Soil microbes and community coalescence', Pedobiologia, vol.59, no.1-2, pp 37-40

Aguilar-Trigueros CA, Hempel S, Powell JR, Anderson IC, Antonovics J, Bergmann J, Cavagnaro TR, Chen B, Hart MM, Klironomos J, Petermann JS, Verbruggen E, Veresoglou SD, Rillig MC, (2015) 'Branching out: Towards a trait-based understanding of fungal ecology', Fungal Biology Reviews, vol.29, no.1, pp 34-41

Beck S, Powell JR, Drigo B, Cairney JWG, Anderson IC, (2015) 'The role of stochasticity differs in the assembly of soil- and root-associated fungal communities', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.80, pp 18-25

Eisenhauer N, Bowker MA, Grace JB, Powell JR, (2015) 'From patterns to causal understanding: Structural equation modeling (SEM) in soil ecology', Pedobiologia, vol.58, no.s 2-3, pp 65-72

Lieurance D, Chakraborty S, Whitehead SR, Powell JR, Bonello P, Bowers MD, Cipollini D, (2015) 'Comparative Herbivory Rates and Secondary Metabolite Profiles in the Leaves of Native and Non-Native Lonicera Species', Journal of Chemical Ecology, vol.41, no.12, pp 1069-1079

Nielsen UN, Prior S, Delroy B, Walker JKM, Ellsworth DS, Powell JR, (2015) 'Response of belowground communities to short-term phosphorus addition in a phosphorus-limited woodland', Plant and Soil, vol.391, no.1-2, pp 321-331 

Powell JR, Eisenhauer N, (2015) 'Pedobiologia in 2015: The International Year of Soils', Pedobiologia, vol.58, no.s 2-3, pp 57-58

Powell JR, Karunaratne S, Campbell CD, Yao HY, Robinson L, Singh BK, (2015) 'Deterministic processes vary during community assembly for ecologically dissimilar taxa', Nature Communications, vol.6, Article no.8444

Powell JR, Welsh A, Hallin S, (2015) 'Microbial functional diversity enhances predictive models linking environmental parameters to ecosystem properties', Ecology, vol.96, no.7, pp 1985-1993  

Rillig MC, Antonovics J, Caruso T, Lehmann A, Powell JR, Veresoglou SD, Verbruggen E, (2015) 'Interchange of entire communities: microbial community coalescence', Trends in Ecology & Evolution, vol.30, no.8, pp 470-476

Wurst S, Kaiser N, Nitzsche S, Haase J, Auge H, Rillig MC, Powell JR, (2015) 'Tree diversity modifies distance-dependent effects on seedling emergence but not plant-soil feedbacks of temperate trees', Ecology, vol.96, no.6, pp 1529-1539 

Aguilar-Trigueros CA, Powell JR, Anderson IC, Antonovics J, Rillig MC, (2014) 'Ecological understanding of root-infecting fungi using trait-based approaches', Trends in Plant Science, vol.19, no.7, pp 432-437

Powell JR, Craven D, Eisenhauer N, (2014) 'Recent trends and future strategies in soil ecological research-Integrative approaches at Pedobiologia', Pedobiologia, vol.57, no.1, pp 1-3

Powell JR, Sikes BA, (2014) 'Method or madness: does OTU delineation bias our perceptions of fungal ecology?', New Phytologist, vol.202, no.4, pp 1095-1097

Veresoglou SD, Powell JR, Davison J, Lekberg Y, Rillig MC, (2014) 'The Leinster and Cobbold indices improve inferences about microbial diversity ', Fungal Ecology, vol.11, pp 1-7 

Wehner J, Powell JR, Muller LAH, Caruso T, Veresoglou SD, Hempel S, Rillig MC, (2014) 'Determinants of root-associated fungal communities within Asteraceae in a semi-arid grassland', Journal of Ecology, vol.102, no.2, pp 425-436

Powell JR, Anderson IC, Rillig MC, (2013) 'A new tool of the trade: plant-trait based approaches in microbial ecology', Plant and Soil, vol.365, no.s 1-2, pp 35-40

Abhilash PC, Powell JR, Singh HB, Singh BK, (2012), 'Plant-microbe interactions: Novel applications for exploitation in multipurpose remediation technologies', Trends in Biotechnology, vol.30, no.8, pp 416-420

Caruso T, Hempel S, Powell JR, Barto EK, Rillig MC, (2012) 'Compositional divergence and convergence in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities', Ecology, vol.93, no.5, pp 1115-1124 

Caruso T, Powell JR, Rillig MC, (2012) 'Compositional Divergence and Convergence in Local Communities and Spatially Structured Landscapes', PLOS ONE, vol.7, no.4, Article No.e35942  

Lehmann A, Barto EK, Powell JR, Rillig MC, (2012) 'Mycorrhizal responsiveness trends in annual crop plants and their wild relatives-a meta-analysis on studies from 1981 to 2010', Plant and Soil, vol.355, no. 1-2, pp 231-250

Powell JR, (2012) 'Accounting for uncertainty in species delineation during the analysis of environmental DNA sequence data', Methods in Ecology and Evolution, vol.3, no.1, pp 1-11

Yang ZL, Powell JR, Zhang CH, Du GZ, (2012) 'The effect of environmental and phylogenetic drivers on community assembly in an alpine meadow community', Ecology, vol.93, no.11, pp 2321-2328  

Powell JR (2011) 'Accounting for uncertainty in species delineation during the analysis of environmental DNA sequence data', Methods in Ecology and Evolution, accepted 22 April 2011.

Cipollini D, Wang Q, Whitehill JGA, Powell JR, Bonello P, Herms DA, (2011) 'Distinguishing Defensive Characteristics in the Phloem of Ash Species Resistant and Susceptible to Emerald Ash Borer', Journal of Chemical Ecology, vol.37, no.5, pp 450-459

Powell JR, Monaghan MT, Öpik M, Rillig MC, (2011) 'Evolutionary criteria outperform operational approaches in producing ecologically-relevant fungal species inventories', Molecular Ecology, vol.20, no.3, pp 655-666, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04964.x

Wehner J, Antunes PM, Powell JR, Caruso T, Rillig M, (2011) 'Indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal assemblages protect grassland host plants from pathogens', PLoS ONE, vol.6, no.11, Article number e27381

Barto EK, Powell JR, Cipollini D, (2010) 'How novel are the chemical weapons of garlic mustard in North American forest understories?', Biological Invasions, vol.12, no.10, pp 3465-3471, doi: 10.1007/s10530-010-9744-5

Sikes BA**, Powell JR**, Rillig MC, (2010) 'Deciphering the relative contributions of multiple functions within plant-microbe symbioses', Ecology, vol.91, no.6, pp 1591-1597, doi: 10.1890/09-1858 **equal contribution

Wehner J, Antunes PM, Powell JR, Mazukatow J, Rillig MC, (2010) 'Plant pathogen protection by arbuscular mycorrhizas: a role for fungal diversity?', Pedobiologia, vol.53, no.3, pp 197-201, doi:10.1016/j.pedobi.2009.10.002

Hart MM, Powell JR, Gulden RH, Dunfield KE, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Klironomos JN, Antunes PM, Koch AM, Trevors JT, (2009) 'Separating the effect of crop from herbicide on soil microbial communities in glyphosate-resistant corn', Pedobiologia, vol. 52, pp 253-262

Hart MM, Powell JR, Gulden RH, Levy-Booth DJ, Dunfield KE, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Klironomos JN, Trevors JT, (2009) 'Detection of transgenic cp4 epsps genes in the soil food web', Agronomy for Sustainable Development, vol. 29, pp 497-501

Levy-Booth DJ, Gulden RH, Campbell RG, Powell JR, Klironomos JN, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Trevors JT, Dunfield KE, (2009) 'Roundup Ready soybean gene concentrations in field soil aggregate size classes', FEMS Microbiology Letters, vol. 291, pp 175-179

Powell JR, Parrent JL, Hart MM, Klironomos JN, Rillig MC, Maherali H, (2009) 'Phylogenetic trait conservatism and the evolution of functional tradeoffs in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol.276, no.1676, pp 4237-4245, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1015

Powell JR, Levy-Booth DJ, Gulden RH, Asbil WL, Campbell RG, Dunfield KE, Hamill AS, Hart MM, Lerat S, Nurse RE, Pauls KP, Sikkema PH, Swanton CJ, Trevors JT, Klironomos JN, (2009) 'Effects of genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant crops and their management on soil food web properties and crop litter decomposition', Journal of Applied Ecology, vol.46, no.2, pp 388-396, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01617.x

Powell JR, Campbell RG, Dunfield KE, Gulden RH, Hart MM, Levy-Booth DJ, Klironomos JN, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Trevors JT, Antunes PM, (2009) 'Effect of glyphosate on the tripartite symbiosis formed by Glomus intraradices, Bradyrhizobium japonicum, and genetically-modified soybean', Applied Soil Ecology, vol.41, no.1, pp 128-136, doi: 10.1016/j.apsoil.2008.10.002

Gulden RH, Lerat SL, Blackshaw RE, Powell JR, Levy-Booth DJ, Dunfield KE, Trevors JT, Pauls KP, Klironomos JN, Swanton CJ, (2008), 'Factors affecting the presence and persistence of plant DNA in the soil environment in corn and soybean rotations', Weed Science, vol.56, pp 767-774

Levy-Booth DJ, Campbell RG, Gulden RH, Hart MM, Powell JR, Klironomos JN, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Trevors JT, Dunfield KE, (2008), 'Real-time polymerase chain reaction monitoring of recombinant DNA entry into soil from decomposing Roundup Ready leaf biomass', Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 56, pp 6339-6347

Powell JR, Swanton CJ, (2008) 'A critique of studies evaluating glyphosate effects on diseases associated with Fusarium spp.', Weed Research, vol.48, no.4, pp 307-318, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3180.2008.00634.x

Gulden RH, Levy-Booth D, Campbell R, Powell JR, Hart MM, Trevors JT, Pauls KP, Klironomos JN, Swanton CJ, (2007) 'An empirical approach to absolute target DNA quantification in environmental samples using single polymerase chain reactions', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.39, pp 1956-1967

Lerat S, Gulden RH, Hart MM, Powell JR, England LS, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Klironomos JN, Trevors JT, (2007) 'Quantification and persistence of recombinant DNA of Roundup Ready corn and soybean in rotation', Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol.55, pp 10226-10231

Levy-Booth DJ, Campbell RG, Gulden RH, Hart MM, Powell JR, Klironomos JN, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Trevors JT, Dunfield KE, (2007) 'Cycling of extracellular DNA in the soil environment', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol.39, pp 2977-2991

Powell JR (2007) 'Linking soil organisms within food webs to ecosystem functioning and environmental change', Advances in Agronomy, vol.96, pp 307-350

Powell JR, Dunfield KE, (2007) 'Non-target impacts of genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant crops on soil microbial and faunal communities', pages 127-137, in The First Decade of Herbicide-Resistant Crops in Canada, Topics in Canadian Weed Science, vol. 4 (R.H. Gulden and C.J. Swanton, Eds), Canadian Weed Science Society – Société canadienne de malherbologie: Sainte Anne de Bellevue, QC

Powell JR, Gulden RH, Hart MM, Campbell RG, Levy-Booth DJ, Dunfield KE, Pauls KP, Swanton CJ, Trevors JT, Klironomos JN, (2007) 'Mycorrhizal and rhizobial colonization of genetically-modified and conventional soybeans', Applied and Environmental Microbiology, vol.73, no.13, pp 4365-4367, doi: 10.1128/AEM.00594-07

Powell JR, Klironomos JN, (2007) 'The ecology of plant-microbial mutualisms', Chapter 10 in Soil Microbiology, Ecology, and Biochemistry, 3rd ed. (Paul EA, Ed.), Academic Press

EucalyptusStinson KA, Campbell SA, Powell JR, Wolfe BE, Callaway RM, Thelen GC, Hallett SG, Prati D, Klironomos JN, (2006) 'Invasive plant suppresses the growth of native tree seedlings by disrupting belowground mutualisms', PLoS Biology, vol.4, pp 727-731, doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040140

Gulden RH, Lerat S, Hart MM, Powell JR, Trevors JT, Pauls KP, Klironomos JN, Swanton CJ, (2005) 'Quantitation of transgenic plant DNA in leachate water: real-time PCR analysis', Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol.53, pp 5858-5865

Klironomos JN, Allen MF, Rillig MC, Piotrowski J, Makvandi-Nejad S, Wolfe BE, Powell JR, (2005) 'Abrupt rise in atmospheric CO2 overestimates community response in a model plant-soil system', Nature, vol.433, 10 Feb 2005, pp 621-624, doi: 10.1038/nature03268

Powell JR, Webster JM, (2004) 'Interguild antagonism between biological controls: impact of entomopathogenic nematode application on an aphid predator, Aphidoletes aphidimyza (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae)', Biological Control, vol.30, no.1, pp 110-118, doi: 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2003.09.006

Powell JR, Webster JM, (2004) 'Target host finding by Steinernema feltiae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora in the presence of a non-target insect host', Journal of Nematology, vol.36, no.3, pp 285-289, PMCID: PMC2620770