Ecologist Specialized in Plant-Fungal Symbioses

I am fascinated by the fine-scale ecological interactions beneath the soil and how these interactions impact the functioning of our biosphere. In particular, I research the way plant roots and their mycorrhizal fungal partners get soil resources. I am curious to know if their strategies to acquire soil resources are similar in different environments, from tropical forests to boreal peatlands. What if these resource acquisition strategies change in a warmer world?







At age 7, I promised myself to be a paleontologist. I am now digging soil, not looking for dinosaurs’ bones, admittedly, but looking for somethings equally fascinating: plant roots and their fungal partners, called mycorrhizal fungi. In British Columbia, Canada, roots of Douglas-fir trees have no more secrets for me because I spent four years during my Ph.D. studying them at Dr. Suzanne Simard's sides. I found Douglas-fir trees rely as much on their roots and fungi as they do on their needles to adapt to the climate. Since then, I crossed the border and invaded peatlands of Minnesota, USA, a type of wetlands which are the world's largest natural terrestrial carbon store. Supported by Dr. Colleen Iversen, I am now a postdoctoral research associate spying on roots and their fungal friends in one of the world’s largest peatland warming experiments.

Dr. Camille Defrenne | Climate Change Science Institute and Environmental Sciences Division 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Phone (+1) (865) 341-0245 

Tropical Leaves


 Colleen M. Iversen, John Latimer, Deanne J. Brice, Joanne Childs, Holly M. Vander Stel, Jake Graham, Natalie Griffiths, Avni Malhotra, Richard J. Norby, Keith Olehieser, Jana Phillips, Verity G. Salmon, Camille E. Defrenne, Stephen D. Sebestyen, Xiaojuan Yang, Paul J. Hanson. Whole-ecosystem warming increases plant-available nitrogen and phosphorus in an ombrotrophic bog.  In prep.

Daniela Yaffar, Camille E.  Defrenne, Kristine G. Cabugao, Joanne Child, Niko Carvajal, Richard J. Norby. Trade-offs in phosphorus acquisition strategies of five common tree species in a tropical forest of Puerto Rico. Submitted to Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, section Forest Soils.

Alyssa Robinson, Camille Defrenne, Jean Roach, Brian Pickles, Suzanne Simard. Modelling the Mother Tree Project: Carbon projections 50 years into the future. In prep.

Camille Defrenne, Katherine Duchesneau, Avni Malhotra, Caitlin Petro, Joanne Childs, Colleen Iversen, Joel Kostka. Peatland warming shifts root-fungal foraging strategy. In prep.

Camille E. Defrenne, Elsa Abs, Amanda Longhi Cordeiro, Lee Dietterich, Moira Hough, Jennifer M. Jones, Stephanie N. Kivlin,  Weile Chen, Daniela Cusack, André L.C. Franco,  Albina Khasanova, Daniel Stover, Adriana L. Romero-Olivares. The Ecology Underground Coalition: Building an integrative future of belowground ecology and belowground ecologists. New Phytologist. 2021. 229: 3058–3064.

Camille E. Defrenne, Joanne Childs, Christopher W. Fernandez, Michael Taggart, W. Robert Nettles, Michael F. Allen, Paul J. Hanson and Colleen M. Iversen. High-Resolution Minirhizotrons Advance our Understanding of Root-fungal Dynamics in an Experimentally-Warmed Peatland. Special Issue "Mycorrhizas for a changing world: Sustainability, conservation, and society". Plants, People, Planet. 2020.

Jinsong Wang, Camille E. Defrenne, M. Luke McCormack, Lu Yang, Dashuan Tian, Yiqi Luo, Enqing Hou, Tao Yan, Zhaolei Li, Wensheng Bu, Ye Chen, Shuli Niu. 2021. Fine-root functional traits responses to experimental warming: a global meta-analysis. New Phytologist

Childs, J., Defrenne, C.E., Brice, D.J., Woodward, J., Holbrook, K., Nettles, W.R., Taggart, M., Iversen, C.M. 2020. SPRUCE High-Resolution Minirhizotrons in an Experimentally-Warmed Peatland Provide an Unprecedented Glimpse at Fine Roots and their Fungal Partners: Supporting Data. Oak Ridge Natl. Lab. TES SFA US Dep. Energy Oak Ridge Tenn. USA.

W. Jean Roach, Suzanne W. Simard, Camille E. Defrenne, Brian J. Pickles and Les M. Lavkulich. Tree diversity, site index, and carbon storage decrease with aridity in Douglas-fir forests in western Canada. In review for Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.

W. Jean Roach, Suzanne W. Simard, Camille E. Defrenne, Brian J. Pickles and Les M. Lavkulich. Harvest intensity effects on carbon stocks and biodiversity are dependent on regional climate in Douglas-fir forests of British Columbia. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2020. 

Shalom D. Addo-Danso, Camille E. Defrenne, M. Luke McCormack, Ivika Ostonen, Abigail Addo-Danso, Ernest G. Foli, Kira A. Borden, Marney E. Isaac and Cindy E. Prescott. Fine-root morphological trait variation in tropical forest ecosystems: an evidence synthesis. Plant Ecology, 2019. 

Camille E. Defrenne, M. Luke McCormack, W. Jean Roach, Shalom D. Addo-Danso, and Suzanne W. Simard (2019). Intraspecific fine-root trait-environment relationships across interior Douglas-fir forests of western Canada. Plants, 2019, 8(7), 199.

Defrenne, C.E., Philpott, T.J., Guichon, S.H.A., Roach, W.J., Pickles, B.J., Simard, S.W. Shifts in ectomycorrhizal fungal communities and exploration types relate to the environment and fine-root traits across interior Douglas-fir forests of western Canada. Front. Plant Sci. 2019, 10. 

Defrenne, C. E., Wilson, J. E., Simard, S. W., & Lavkulich, L. M. (2016). Disturbance Legacy on Soil Carbon Stocks and Stability within a Coastal Temperate Forest of Southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Open Journal of Forestry, 6(5), 305-323.



For the wild Podcast

Globally, our forests support almost two-thirds of Earth’s terrestrial species, they are cooperative and resilient systems where connections and relationships are inseparable. However, this interdependence also creates serious vulnerabilities when forests are subjected to land and habitat degradation, industrialized forestry practices, short-sighted restoration projects, and a changing climate.

In this episode, we talk about disturbances to forest ecosystems, the role of mycorrhizal networks, and the unbelievable importance of peatlands with guest Camille Defrenne. A student of Dr. Suzanne Simard and Dr. Colleen Iversen, Camille shares the role of mother trees in forest regeneration, how mycorrhizal networks are faring, and the ramifications of large scale reforestation and afforestation efforts when they are not implemented thoughtfully and locally. Camille’s current focus is looking at how peatlands are reacting to warming temperatures and an increase in carbon dioxide, which is vital to understand because peatlands hold around a third of the world’s carbon and if we want to lessen the impact of global climate change, protecting our peatlands is crucial.


Image Credit:  (c) GVS

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Big Picture Science Podcast

Small bodies will hit the big time next year; a sample return from asteroid Bennu and the launch of both the DART and Lucy missions could unravel puzzles about the formation of the solar system, as well teach us how to deflect any asteroids headed our way. Meanwhile, the Juno mission to Jupiter has shown us its hard-to-study poles, where swirling gas and magnetic fields rule. On Earth, warmer temperatures threaten peat bog biodiversity and the structure of the Arctic. And massive wildfires have sent soot circling the globe. Assistant Producer Sarah Derouin discusses the Arctic Report Card. They’re all highlights from the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting 


Up-Goer five Challenge : Can you explain a hard idea using only the ten hundred most used words?


San Fransisco, USA, 2019


Google's Annual Design and Technology Conference

Guest speaker 

Workshop 'Towards Resilient Systems' 

Google AI Strategy & Research

New York City, USA, 2019

New York Times - Trilobites


Invited commentary




Artwork: Rule of the Trees


Tania Willard - Secwepemc Nation

Public art project at Commercial Broadway sky train station, in Vancouver, Canada.



National Geographic

Talking Trees



What do trees talk about? In the Douglas fir forests of Canada, see how trees “talk” to each other by forming underground symbiotic relationships—called mycorrhizae—with fungi to relay stress signals and share resources with one another.
Read ‘Talking Trees’ in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine to learn more about the Douglas fir forests of Canada and the work of forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.

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