Curriculum Vitae

TEL: +27 7111 09778 ● E-MAIL: SKELROB@GMAIL.COM


2019 – Present: FLAIR Research Fellow hosted by the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). Cape Town, South Africa.

2016 – 2019: Postdoctoral Research Associate with Drs. David Ackerly, Todd Dawson and Sally Thompson. Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, United States of America.

2015 – 2016: Postdoctoral Researcher with Dr. Timothy Brodribb. School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


2011 – 2014: Ph.D. in Plant Ecophysiology. Academic advisor: Dr. Adam West. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

2008 – 2010: M.Sc. in Botany. Advisor: Dr. Jeremy Midgley. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town

2004 – 2007: B.Sc. (Honours) in Botany and Zoology. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town.


2019: FLAIR Fellowship (Future Leaders of African Independent Research); Partnership between the African Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society funded by UK Government as part of the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF).

2018: France-Berkeley Fund ($11,200)

2015 – 2016: South African National Research Foundation Post-Doctoral Abroad Scholarship ($25,000 p.a.)

2015: Award for Best PhD at a South African University in the Biological Sciences in 2014 (South African Association of Botanists)

2014: Award for Best Ph.D. Presentation in the Biological Sciences (University of Cape Town)

2011 – 2013: South African Environmental Observation Network Doctoral Scholarship

2012: Award for Best Paper by a Young Scientist (Australian Journal of Botany).


Expertise in the theory and practice of plant ecology and plant physiology, specializing in understanding fundamental principles of plant hydraulic function and plant response to water deficit.

Proven publication track-record, including several well-cited, first-authored scientific papers in top peer-reviewed, scientific journals (e.g. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the New Phytologist, and Plant Physiology).

Proficient with instruments relevant to the field of plant physiological ecology, including: Li-Cor infra-red gas analyzers; scholander-type pressure chambers; plant stem and leaf psychrometers; data-loggers and environmental monitoring equipment; sapflow technology; plant hydraulic flow meters; and optical techniques for quantifying xylem vulnerability to embolism.

Further expertise in complex data analysis using various statistical techniques and packages in R.

Excellent scientific communication skills, having published several first-authored papers in top peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as many popular-science articles for magazines and my blogsite, Wondrous Biographies. I have presented guest lectures at international universities, including: University of Bordeaux; Harvard University; San Francisco State University; the University of Cape Town; the University of Tasmania; Universidad Austral de Chile, and the University of California Berkeley. I have presented my work at numerous international scientific conferences and have taught undergraduate classes at the University of California Berkeley, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Tasmania.


2018 – present: Associate Features Editor, Plant Physiology.

2018: Session Discussion Leader; Gordon Research Symposium; Multiscale Plant Vascular Biology; Mount Snow, VT.

2012 – present: Manuscript peer-reviewer for scientific journals, including: the New Phytologist; Plant Physiology; Journal of Experimental Botany; Plant, Cell & Environment; Scientific Advances; Journal of Ecology; Functional Ecology; Annals of Botany; Austral Ecology; Global Ecology & Biogeography; Australian Journal of Botany; and Trees.

2013: Organising committee member for BiodiversitySA Conference. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town.


2018 – present: Academic supervisor to Ms. Kayla Atkins (MSc student, University of Cape Town); Manager and academic mentor to Ms. Jessica Diaz (Laboratory technician, Ackerly lab, University of California, Berkeley)

2018: Guest lecturer for 3rd year Ecophysiology course, University of California Berkeley.

2016 – 2019: Academic mentor to four undergraduate research assistants at the University of California Berkeley.

2015, 2016: Class lecturer for 3rd year Biology and Society course, University of Tasmania.

2014: Guest lecturer for 3rd year Principles of Plant Physiology course, University of Cape Town.

2011 – 2014: Teaching assistant on undergraduate field ecology courses, University of Cape Town.


2013: Facilitating networking and knowledge sharing in the Fynbos Community (Workshop). Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens; Cape Town; South Africa.


1. Skelton, RP; Dawson, TE; Thompson, S; Weitz, A; Shen, Y; and Ackerly, DD (2018) Low vulnerability to embolism in leaves and stems of North American oaks. Plant Physiology, 177: 1066-1077.

2. Skelton, RP; West, AG and Dawson, TE (2015) Predicting plant vulnerability to drought in biodiverse regions using functional traits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112: 5744–5749.

3. Skelton, RP; Brodribb, TJ; McAdam, SAM and Mitchell, PJ (2017) Gas exchange recovery following natural drought is rapid unless limited by loss of leaf hydraulic conductance: evidence from an evergreen woodland. New Phytologist, 215: 1399-1412.

4. Skelton, RP; Brodribb, TJ and Choat, B (2017) Casting light on xylem vulnerability in an herbaceous species reveals a lack of segmentation. New Phytologist, 214: 561-569.

5. Brodribb, TJ; Skelton, RP; McAdam, SAM; Bienaime, D; Lucani, CJ and Marmottant, P (2016) Visual quantification of embolism reveals leaf vulnerability to hydraulic failure. New Phytologist, 209: 1403-1409.

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