Robert O. Teskey

Distinguished Research Professor 2001

Robert Teskey, Professor of Forest Resources, is internationally recognized for his significant findings in both basic and applied aspects of tree physiology that have led to a better understanding of how the environment affects the physiological processes of trees. Dr. Teskey has developed a number of research methods that have become standard practice in modern plant eco-physiology research. His initial research focused on how environmental stresses such as drought influence a tree’s functions. He expanded his focus to include the impact on tree processes of human-modified factors, such as the effects of ozone in the troposphere and elevated levels of carbon dioxide and air temperature. These efforts have produced important findings about the effects of anthropogenic pollution on forests. For example, using “branch chambers” a technique he developed to apply experimental treatments to large trees, Dr. Teskey has shown that the ambient levels of ozone in the Southeastern United States are reducing forest productivity by as much as 30 percent. This finding has spawned a search by tree breeders for individual trees that are resistant to the detrimental effects of ozone. This pursuit also could be a key to a greatly improved productivity in planted forests. He developed the scientific foundation for studying isolated tree branches by pioneering the concept of branch autonomy. His tree branch chamber can be used to isolate parts of a tree for study, overcoming the difficulty of working with large trees growing in a forest and of eliminating erroneous predictions in research based on seedlings.