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Morris, Jim (1949–2006)

Jim Morris, n.d.

Jim Morris, n.d.

After a period of illness Jim [Morris] died peacefully at home with his family present on the 25th April 2006.

He was an outstanding forest scientist with thirty years of research experience in genetics, physiology, and ecology of trees in both native forests and plantations. His areas of specialization included salt tolerance, water use and the interactions of stress and the environment. To his research Jim brought and developed skills and expertise in a range of disciplines, among them; computer programming, mathematical modelling, electronic instrumentation, hydrogeology, and soil physics.

His career included lecturing, the supervision and examination of honours and postgraduate students, and peer review and editing of scientific papers. A prolific writer, Jim was the author of more than 100 published and internal reports and conference papers. He provided great leadership of complex research projects and made significant contributions to the development of government policies and guidelines.

Beginning his professional career with the Forests Commission Victoria in 1970, after completing a Diploma of Forestry from the Victorian School of Forestry at Creswick, Jim conducted research into the evaluation of herbicides. In 1974 Jim completed a Bachelor of Science (Forestry) Hons. at The University of Melbourne and, in 1978 obtained a PhD from the Australian National University for his thesis The effects of temperature on the growth and physiology of eucalypts.

In 1979, upon completing his studies, Jim resumed his role with the Commission as a Research Scientist investigating the physiology of forest trees. From 1985, he led the salinity and irrigation forestry research team before becoming Principal Scientist ecophysiology and environmental monitoring in 1996. He remained focused on science and research through a myriad of Victorian state department re-organizations and name changes until his transfer to the School of Forest and Ecosystem Science at The University of Melbourne in 2004 as a Senior Research Fellow. Always the champion of public-good forest research, Jim embraced this last change as an opportunity to engage and mentor more closely with students and young scientists.

In the mid 1980s Jim commenced studies into the water use of trees, a field in which he has made an enormous contribution, especially in the improvement of instrumentation, process control, data collection, analysis and interpretation. His computer programming skills and firm grasp of the fundamentals of trees and their interaction with the environment enabled Jim to develop major software systems for plantation growth modelling.

Other selected achievements include: developing methodology and protocols for screening tree seedlings for salt tolerance; the preparation and presentation of evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry on the potential role of trees in the prevention and control of salinisation; the design and implementation of a large ventilated chamber system for monitoring evaporation from trees crops and pasture; and, advancing tissue culture techniques for reliable mass propagation of red gums from mature trees as a source of salt tolerant planting stock.

Jim used his broad and in-depth expertise in tree physiology to help build much-needed local research capacity in a number of developing countries. This not only exposed his Institute (CFTT) to its first international project on co-operative R&D, but more importantly his accomplishments will have long lasting benefits in countries including China, Pakistan and Thailand. His ability to manage these complex international projects and to impart knowledge in a creative and friendly environment were hallmarks of a dedicated scientist and gifted communicator.

We will sorely miss Jim’s friendship, enthusiasm for knowledge, his intellectual rigor, quiet yet determined nature and his strong sense of fairness and right.

Our thoughts are with Jim’s wife Maureen, and his children Kirsten, Liesl, Joshua and Hannah and their families.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 49, no 2, June 2006, p 23

Citation details

'Morris, Jim (1949–2006)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/morris-jim-18389/text30036, accessed 23 November 2017.

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