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Caroline Elliott-Kingston (

Elliott-Kingston photoFunding body: ERC


Caroline studied horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens Dublin, where in 2001 she was awarded a Diploma in Horticulture (Distinction) and won the RDS Irish Horticultural Student of the Year award.  Later, she read botany at University College Dublin, obtaining a B.Sc. Botany degree (1st Class Hons) in 2007 and a PhD in 2011 for her research into the evolution of stomata in vascular embryophytes.

Caroline’s interest in plants is limitless.  She has taught horticulture part-time for many years, including such subjects as plant anatomy, morphology, physiology and taxonomy, soil science, plant propagation, pomology, history of garden design, and garden design drawing skills. She also spent some time working privately in garden design. However, her principle interest is in plant science: how plants grow, survive and reproduce under varying environmental and atmospheric conditions.

Her PhD research, funded by IRCSET, investigated how stomatal function evolved over geological time. This was achieved by growing an evolutionary grade of plants representing all major vascular plant groups and examining the differences in stomatal function between and within the groups under ambient conditions.  In addition, the effect of atmospheric gas composition on stomatal function was investigated under three treatments: low [O2]; high [CO2]; and low [O2] / high [CO2] atmospheres.

Project brief

OXYEVOL is a European Research Council (ERC) project that aims to investigate how variation in atmospheric O2 to CO2 ratio over the past 450 million years has contributed to the timing of major originations, extinctions and diversification events in the plant fossil record.

The primary role of Caroline’s post-doctoral research will be to conduct a series of plant reproduction experiments in UCD Programme for Experimental Atmospheres and Climate (PÉAC) facility to evaluate how different atmospheric ratios of O2:CO2 impact the reproductive fitness of a wide range of plant groups from ferns to gymnosperms and angiosperms. Her research will attempt to clarify whether a shift in the ratio of the two gases was a key driver in the three major ‘evolutionary tipping points’ in plant reproductive biology and subsequent ecological turnover in world vegetation. Reproductive success of different evolutionary groups will be investigated in response to a suite of three palaeo-atmospheric simulations, representing the Devonian, Carboniferous and Cretaceous periods.


UCD Plant Palaeoecology and Palaeobiology Group Updated: July 2013
Professor J.C. McElwain