Dr Geoff Downes, Research Scientist.

Dr Geoff Downes, Research Scientist.

Dr Geoff Downes: measuring and modelling wood variability

Dr Geoff Downes has a background in tree biology and wood quality. He leads a range of projects to better understand and measure wood variation.

  • 28 January 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011

Current activities

Dr Downes currently leads projects in three main areas:

  • Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Forestry program 2.4 – developing and improving sampling protocols to assess wood quality in standing trees within the context of their commercial end-use. This covers both pulp and solid wood processing sectors. Near-infrared spectroscopy techniques are being developed utilising both laboratory based and field-portable instruments.

  • Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) – predicting wood quality to improve sawlog value in radiata pine. Utilising many years of experimental data, process-based models are being developed that simulate cambial activity in radiata pine and predict wood property variation as a function of climate and management variation at a high temporal and spatial scale. This information can then be interrogated within a commercial end-use context to explore the expected effects of climate and management variation on end product quality over a crop rotation.

  • Utilising wood variation within long-lived, slow-grown conifers like Huon pine, Dr Downes and colleagues (Dr David Drew) are exploring ways to obtain a more informed climate signal from these tree-ring series. By better understanding when these trees grow, and how growth rates are affected by seasonal variation, a more informed interrogation of past climate variation can be gained from this unique resource.


Dr Downes joined CSIRO in March 1992, and now works as a Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences. 

Dr Downes joined CSIRO in March 1992, and now works as a Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.

Prior to joining CSIRO Dr Downes was a:

  • Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, 1987–88
  • Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Creswick, Victoria, 1988–1992. 

Academic qualifications

Dr Downes has been awarded the following

  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) from Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Forestry from the University of Melbourne, 1987.


Dr Downes has been awarded a:

  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postdoctoral Fellowship to study aging in ectomycorrhizas in spruce, 1987
  • CSIRO Chairman's medal as a member of the SilviScan development team under the leadership of Dr Rob Evans, 2001
  • Josef Umdasch Prize from the Agricultural University of Vienna, together with Dr Evans and Dr Rupert Wimmer (Boku, Vienna), 2004
  • Hans Merensky Fellowship, South Africa, 2007.

Scientific and professional appointments

Dr Downes has been on the:

  • Editorial Board, New Zealand Journal of Forest Science, 2005–present
  • Editorial Board, Southern Hemisphere Forestry Journal, 2008–present
  • Deputy Co-ordinator IUFRO 5.01.00 – Wood quality
  • International Association of Wood Anatomists (member of Executive Committee, 1994–96, 2004–present.

Dr Downes has published 65 journal articles, over 60 conference papers, one book, five book chapters and over 40 technical reports.

Learn more about CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.