I am a trained wood scientist with a focus on molecular aspects of plant cell walls. My research includes fundamental and applied projects.
At the fundamental end I am working on a better understanding of the supramolecular architecture of plant cell walls in particular the structure of cellulose fibrils and how this structure determines macroscopic wood properties. This research involves specialised IR and NMR spectroscopy as well as various forms of diffraction.
Most of my current external research funding is for applied research on wood quality attracting funding from several sources. Particularly exciting is my involvement as science team leader of the NZDFI, which envisages New Zealand as a world-leader in breeding ground-durable eucalypts, and to be home to a valuable sustainable hardwood industry based on eucalypt forests, by 2050.
As a biomaterial, wood is highly variable. This variability poses significant problems to the wood processing industry. My work is trying to reduce the variability of wood and by that gaining efficiency in the wood processing industry. The major factor restricting the incorporation of wood properties into tree breeding programmes is the lack of fast but robust analytical techniques. Therefore development of such assessments is a key part of the research, many of which are only available in this field at our world-leading NZ School of Forestry.