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Department of Geography


Annemarie Hildegard Eckes-Shephard

PhD Candidate

This research is focusing on developing a radial growth model on secondary tree growth. This mechanistic model will be used to test sink-limited growth in response to external and internal factors. The aim is to better model the mechanisms of environmental influences on balanced source/sink-limited growth. The outcome will be a better projection on the amount of future carbon captured by the terrestrial biosphere.




Created a mathematical model on the interactions between the grass tall fescue and the exclusive endophyte fungus Neotyphodium coenophialum, to perform sensitivity analysis on where the fungus delivers costs and benefits to the grass (Supervisor: Jonathan Newman, Ursula Kummer)


Developed a molecular method to understand translational responses in diatoms to dynamic changes in the environment (Supervisor: Thomas Mock).

Previous work:

As a crop database curator, I worked on metadata standardisation and ontologies for crops, experimental and environmental factors. With feedback from Experimentalists, I designed the Submission- mechanisms and minimal requirements for the submission of Brassica trait data to the Brassica Information Portal.

Create a workflow for the analysis of Associative Transcriptomics for Brassica Crops, integrating it directly with data from external repositories for sequence data (Sequence Read Archive) and phenotype data (Brassica Information Portal).


  • BSci Biological Sciences (2011-2014)
  • MSci Climate Change (2014-2015)


  • JISC Data Champion award ($3,500)


Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) are used to study feedbacks between terrestrial organic carbon pools (vegetation and soils) and the atmosphere. This is useful for future climate projections.

However, they are strongly divergent in their results, which is caused by the neglect or incorrect representation of key processes. For example, most of today’s models have a source (photosynthesis)-driven regulation on plant growth.

However, increasing evidence suggests that plant growth is often limited by sink (tissue growth) rather than source (photosynthesis) activity. This is because tissue growth (sink) is mostly under direct control of environmental variables rather than of photosynthesis.

Only few models have yet included sink-driven mechanisms at all, and of those who have the focus has been on individual environmental factors (temperature and soil moisture). Only one group has tested sink-limited growth at a global level.

Excluding sink-driven growth mechanisms may lead to overestimation of the growth response to increasing atmospheric CO2, and hence underestimate the amount of carbon present the atmosphere in the future. This can further lead to a too conservative estimate of climate change.

I will help in developing a radial growth model on secondary tree growth. This mechanistic model will be sensitive to environmental influences ( e.g. temperature, water availability, light) as well as internal influences ( e.g. hormones). With a better understanding of global vegetation responses to environmental changes from the cellular level upward, we will be able to improve our understanding of the global carbon cycle to quantify the future terrestrial carbon budget and better project vegetation behaviour under environmental change in the future. Mechanistically modelling environmental influences on tree ring dynamics will also help interpreting and explaining current and past tree ring variability (width and density profiles) and which environmental influences were dominant during their formation.


  • Friend, A.D., Eckes-Shephard, A. H., Fonti, P., Rademacher, T.T., Rathgeber, C., Richardson, A.D. and Turton, R.H., 2019. On the need to consider wood formation processes in global vegetation models and a suggested approach. Annals of Forest Science, doi:10.1007/s13595-019-0819-x.
  • Rademacher, T.T., Basler, D., Eckes-Shephard, A.H., Fonti, P., Friend, A.D., Le Moine, J. and Richardson, A.D., 2019. Using Direct Phloem Transport Manipulation to Advance Understanding of Carbon Dynamics in Forest Trees. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, v. 2, doi:10.3389/ffgc.2019.00011.
  • Babst, F., Bodesheim, P., Charney, N., Friend, A.D., Girardin, M.P., Klesse, S., Moore, D.J.P., Seftigen, K., Björklund, J., Bouriaud, O., Dawson, A., DeRose, J., Dietze, M.C., Eckes, A.H., Enquist, B, Frank, D.C., Mahecha, M.D., Poulter, B., Record, S., Trouet, V., Turton, R.H., Zhang, Z., Evans, M.E.K., (2018). “When Tree Rings Go Global: Challenges and Opportunities for Retro- and Prospective Insight.” Quaternary Science Reviews 197 : 1–20.
  • Eckes, A.H., Gubała T, Nowakowski P et al. (2017). Introducing the Brassica Information Portal: Towards integrating genotypic and phenotypic Brassica crop data [version 2; referees: 3 approved]. F1000Research 2017, 6:465, doi: 10.12688/f1000research.11301.1
  • Eckes, A.H. (2016, 04 13). In the climate model jungle. Retrieved from
  • Eckes, A. H. (2016, 08 04). Why negative feedback is good for the climate. Retrieved from
  • Stiller-Reeve, M. A., Heuzé, C., Ball, W. T., White, R. H., Messori, G., Van Der Wiel, K., Medhaug, I., Eckes, A.H., O’Callaghan, A.H., Newland, M.J., Williams, S.R., Kasoar, M., Wittmeier, H.E., Kumer, V. (2016). Improving together: Better science writing through peer learning. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 20(7).


Teaching and outreach:

  • Supervisor for a maths student for a 2-month CMP-summer project ( Summer 2018)
  • Build vegetation models (= terrariums) within the Departmental outreach programme in collaboration with TeachFirst.
  • Supervisor for Biogeography II
  • Tutoring undergraduates in Chemistry (2008-2010)
  • Writing articles to communicate principles in climate modelling to the public (see publications above)

External activities

  • Cambridge and departmental Data Champion
  • Member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
  • Member of the British Ecological Society
  • Member of Trinity Hall Music Society and Alto in Trinity Hall Chapel Choir