Damian Cirelli


Damián is originally from Argentina, the land of gauchos, tango and good wine. His professional interests have always revolved around biology, but something about trees has long captivated him particularly. Although few native trees inhabit his native pampas, he began working on planted Eucalyptus forests during his undergraduate degree at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata.

He left his home to accompany his true love and wife “Ale”, a biologist who had recently received her Ph.D., to pursue her scientific career in the U.S.A. at the University of Maine. With time on his hands, he enrolled at UMaine where he completed his Master’s degree in forestry. He was later accepted in a Ph.D. programme to work in space biology at Miami University, but his dream of a green space colony was cut short when funding came to a stand-still due to a political decision from the Bush administration. He took this as an opportunity to go back to forestry and, with most of his course work completed, he came to the U of A where he started a project to work on tree water relations under the supervision of professors Mel Tyree and Vic Lieffers.

Here, he has developed a high-resolution whole-plant transpiration monitoring system which he is currently using as a tool to study various aspects of nutrition and water relations in poplar. “It has been quite a journey so far, and the best is yet to come... I’m excited to see where this goes”, he tells us while pondering questions of plant transpiration. His system is revealing interactions of nocturnal transpiration and nutrient acquisition which, up until now, have been ‘in the dark’ in plant science.

When asked about his interests outside of school, he replied “Ha! I have way too many! I hardly know any free time though, as most grad students will know right? Nevertheless, I used to be a musician in a distant past and that is still a huge part of me and I’m always looking for people to play music with. I collaborate on music projects over the Internet with a long time friend back home. My other great passion is fly fishing. I’m pretty lucky to be in Alberta in this regard, you can’t beat mountain stream fishing”. One thing Alberta cannot cure is his ocean blues. A surfer in his hometown, he longs for the swell which he pays tribute to by longboarding the Edmonton flats.

This article appeared in the Fall 2010 edition of the Landmark Newsletter.

Added 18 October 2010