Julie MessierI am a plant ecologist and doctoral candidate in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department of the University of Arizona.

Why do plants grow where they do? In how many different ways can a plant successfully be a plant?

By exploring these questions, my research aims to improve our mechanistic understanding of plant strategies, performance, distribution and biodiversity.  In order to answer these questions, I first examine how the basic plant functions (such as for example photosynthesis or sap transport) are coordinated across the different plant organs (leaves, roots, stems) to form different plant strategies. Then, I examine which of these plant strategies perform best in which environments. The differential success of different plant strategies in different environments ultimately determines the species composition of plant communities.

My work is based on empirical data collected from from 25 tree species found in Mont Saint-Hilaire, a UNESCO biosphere reserve located in Québec, Canada. By deepening our understanding of plant-environment associations, my work strengthens our ability to predict current and future plant abundance and distribution across environments. In turn, this will help us foresee and manage the changes in forest composition resulting from expected environmental changes. For more information on the details of my current and past research, see my Research page.

My research is partly funded by fellowships from NSERC, the OAS the University of Arizona College of Science Galileo Circle, and McGill University’s Delta Upsilon Memorial.


I am French-Canadian and I grew up in Québec province in Canada. In 2006 I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology in a problem-based learning program at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM). During those years, I was introduced to Ecology by working in the lab of Prof. Daniel Kneeshaw, where I had the chance to conduct a study on gap dynamics. In 2009 I completed my Masters in Biology at McGill University in Montreal with Drs Brian McGill (yes…) and Martin Lechowicz working on leaf functional trait variation across different ecological scales in the tropical rainforests of Panama. I am now doing my doctoral work in Tucson at the University of Arizona.


Plant community ecology; Functional ecology; Functional traits; Phenotypic integration; Ecological strategies; Community assembly; Ecological Filtering; Trait variance; Plant physiology