Marina Scalon

About me


    I'm interested in understanding ecophysiological plant functional traits relationships and variation between different environments, functional groups, resource availability and geographic regions. 

I'm particularly interested in ecology and physiology of mistletoes and how contrasting are the “strategies” of their particular lifestyle, compared to autotrophic plants. The focus of my PhD research was to understand, in a cost-benefit perspective, the leaf economic variation that mistletoes fit in. 

Currently,  I'm a post-doc in Augusto Franco's lab at the Universidade de Brasília. I'm working on savanna-forest dynamics, investigating functional and adaptive traits related to bark structure that shape this processes.

Academic Biography

     I became interested in Plant Physiology during my undergrad, when I started in Prof. Augusto Franco’s lab in 2005. At first, I helped in a research project comparing the environmental responses from different phenological groups in the Brazilian Savanna (cerrados), by characterizing leaf traits related to leaf water balance, water use efficiency and resource availability in these contrasting groups of plants. We also investigated how these traits changed in response to rainfall seasonality.

     During my Honours, I evaluated the influence of environmental factors (different kinds of physiognomies, fire influence, and nutrient availability) in the specific leaf area and leaf nutrients concentration, also comparing different phenological groups of plants (deciduous, evergreen and brevideciduous species) in the Brazilian Savanna.

    In my Master’s, under Prof. Augusto Franco's supervision, I investigated the ecophysiological responses of parasitic flowering plants (mistletoes) growing in Al-accumulating and non-accumulating hosts in the cerrados. We found that, although passive nutrient uptake occurred in the two mistletoes species studied, they exhibited contrasting Al compartmentalization. We also found that host’s phenology affect mistletoes water relations, among other interesting observations. 

     In my PhD, with Dr. Ian Wright as supervisor, I tested a suite of novel hypotheses concerning fundamental features of the ecological “strategies” of parasitic mistletoes and their hosts. I evaluated the influence of different environmental conditions on the functional traits of mistletoe-host pairs in dry and wet sites, and tested for old hypotheses proposed in the literature. I also investigated nutrient resorption in mistletoes located in low-P soil sites across Brazil and Australia and compared mistletoe and host investments in physical and chemical defences.

Now, my post-doc is part of the research project  "Deciphering Environmental Controls over the Hysteresis of Biome Switches at Savanna-Forest Boundaries", coordinated by Prof. William A. Hoffmann, where we aim to eliminate key uncertainties in our understanding of savanna-forest dynamics and to develop predictive capabilities for the spatial extent of these biomes under changing climate and fire regimes.