Science

The Science team undertakes research in native plant biology, underpinning conservation and ecological restoration of Western Australia's unique biodiversity.

Recent highlights include:

12 May 2016

Dr Alison Ritchie was successful with her application into the Fresh Science program. Fresh Science is a national competition helping early-career researchers find and then share their stories of discovery. The program takes up-and-coming researchers with no media experience and turns them into spokespeople for science, giving them a taste of life in the limelight, with a day of media training and a public event in their home state.

6 May 2016

BGPA was successful in obtaining three Australian Research Council Linkage scheme grants in the 2016 round. These are in the areas of restoration ecology, seed physiology, and fire ecology.

  1. 'Eco-engineering soil from mine tailings for native plant rehabilitation'. This project is a collaboration between Dr Jason Stevens (BGPA), Dr Adam Cross (UWA/BGPA) and Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin University/BGPA) with the University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, and Karara Mining Limited. Read more about Restoration Ecology.
  2. 'The energetic basis to seed longevity during storage'. This project is a collaboration between Dr David Merritt (BGPA), Dr Sean Tomlinson (BGPA/UWA), Prof Philip Withers (UWA) and Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin University/BGPA) and aims to quantify patterns of metabolic rate in native seeds with new respirometry technology. This project will examine the relationship between seed metabolic activity and seed longevity, dormancy and germination, with the goal of developing methods for predicting seed storage life and for rapid and automated assessment of seed treatments that enhance germination performance. Read more about Seed Conservation.
  3. 'The effects of interacting fire frequency, fire season and climate on native plant populations and weed cover in Banksia woodlands'. This project is a collaboration between BGPA (Dr Ben Miller), DPAW Swan Region, and Murdoch University (Prof Neal Enright, Dr Joe Fontaine). This project aims to quantify how changes in fire frequency, fire season, invasive weeds and climate interact to affect native species’ persistence. Fire risk management is a conundrum for agencies responsible both for protection of life and property and biodiversity conservation. Global change factors (rainfall decline, warming, invasive species, ecosystem fragmentation) interact with changes in fire regime (interval and season) associated with prescribed burning to affect native species’ regeneration capacity. Anticipated outcomes are fuel reduction burning policy and management changes that balance and minimise risk of fire to economy, society and biodiversity. Read more about Ecosystem Ecology.

3 May 2016

Dr Alison Ritchie was awarded the Perth Zoo Prize for Conservation Research. This is awarded to the student who, among those completing a research higher degree, is judged by the Selection Committee to have completed the most outstanding piece of research in the field of Conservation Biology. This makes it a three-peat for Kings Park, with ex-Kings Park students Adam Cross and Myles Menz awarded the prize in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

18 March 2016

Linking with UNESCO: Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), through the Ecological Restoration Alliance (ERA), aims to have a strategic partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that will see the strengths of Botanic Gardens align with the requirements for restoration of global Biosphere Reserves. In order to build and promote this collaboration a workshop was held entitled 'Mobilizing global expertise for ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems' as part of the broader '4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves' conference in Lima, Peru. Dr Jason Stevens from BGPA was invited to present a case-study in this workshop that highlighted the leading international role of Kings Park in research underpinning ecological restoration.

17 March 2016

Eleven staff and students from Kings Park presented on their research at the 2016 National Seed Science Forum held at the Australian PlantBank in The Australian Botanic Garden, Mt Annan, Sydney. The forum was organised by the Australian Seed Bank Partnership, of which BGPA is a partner. Representation from Kings Park was the largest from a single institution, highlighting our leading role nationally in Seed Science research.

14 March 2016

Anna Williams was awarded her PhD by the board of the graduate research school at UWA for her thesis titled 'Conservation and evolution of mid-west Western Australian Acacia species using whole chloroplast genome DNA sequencing'. Anna was supervised by Dr Paul Nevill (Curtin University, Prof Ian Small (UWA), Dr Laura Boykin (UWA) and Prof Siegy Krauss (BGPA). Read more via an external online library.

20 February 2016

Anthea Challis and co-authors published their research on plant and environmental factors associated with drought-induced mortality in two facultative phreatophytic trees. This paper examines competition and landscape factors underpinning Banksia tree decline in Kings Park. Read more via an external online library.

16 February 2016

Tanya Hevroy was awarded her PhD by the board of the graduate research school at UWA for her thesis 'Molecular phylogeny and population genetics of the Grevillea Thelemanniana group (Proeaceae)'. Tanya was supervised by Prof Siegy Krauss (BGPA), Dr Michael Moody (DPaW) and Dr Greg Keighery (DPaW).

10 February 2016

Emma Dalziell had her PhD thesis entitled 'Seed biology and ex situ storage behaviour of Australian Nymphaea (water lilies): implications for conservation' passed by the board of the graduate research school at the University of Western Australia.

8 February 2016

Dr Miriam Munoz-Rojas and colleagues published new research that assesses recovery in soil indicators after fire in the Pilbara, finding changes in microbial composition one year after fire, and partial recovery five years post-fire. This study forms part of the Restoration Seedbank Initiative. Read the story as it appeared on The Science Network WA or learn more about the research via an external online library.

6 February 2016

Dr Elizabeth Sinclair and colleagues published new research showing that seagrass meadows in Shark Bay demonstrate no seed set but reproduce by pseudovivipary - a situation whereby sexual flowers are replaced by a vegetative growth form. This research is part of a broader research project investigating connectivity within and among seagrass meadows. Read the story as it appeared on The Science Network WA or learn more about the research via an external online library.

11 January 2016

Dr Lucy Commander has co-authored a new paper titled 'Seed germination traits can contribute better to plant community ecology'. This paper describes the functional significance of seed germination traits for plant community ecology. Read more via an external online library.

22 December 2015

Mark Wallace had his PhD thesis entitled 'Polyploidy and genetic diversity in the Lepidosperma costale species complex (Cyperaceae)' passed by the board of the graduate research school at the University of Western Australia. Mark was supervised at Kings Park by Dr Matt Barrett, Prof Siegy Krauss and Prof Kingsley Dixon. Read more about Science Staff.

16 December 2015

Amber Bateman completed her Honours (Conservation Biology) - Ecophysiological responses of arid zone species to novel growth substrates and drought: Implications for restoration success. Supervised by Dr Jason Stevens, Dr Miriam Munoz Rojas, Mr Wolfgang Lewandrowski.

Nahlah Alsuwaiyan completed her Master of Biological Science - Seed priming to induce stress tolerance for restoration. Supervised by Dr Jason Stevens and Dr David Merritt. Read more about Restoration Seedbank Initiative.

7 December 2015

Seven Kings Park summer scholarship students commenced their 12-week placements. These competitive scholarships are advertised in September each year to provide a bridge between undergraduate and postgraduate study at Kings Park. Read more about the scholars of 2015.

3 December 2015

PhD student Ben Anderson won the Pauline Ladiges Prize for best oral presentation by a student at the Australasian Systematic Botany Society Annual Conference in Canberra, for his talk 'Using genotyping by sequencing to resolve evolutionary relationships in a species complex of Australian arid zone grasses (Triodia)'. Ben's research is part of an ARC funded research project on spinifex restoration genetics.

15 November 2015

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, visited the Biodiversity Conservation Centre as part of the Royal Tour of Australia and New Zealand. During the visit, Prince Charles met with PhD students to discuss their research projects and learn more about BGPA's innovative conservation efforts.

3 November 2015

Dr's Russell and Matthew Barrett describe 50 new Western Australian plant species celebrating the WA Botanic Garden's 50 year anniversary. The Journal of the WA Herbarium – Nuytsia: Western Australia's Journal of Systematic Botany has published these works online. WA boasts one of the highest rates of discovery of new plant species anywhere on Earth and the issue in which 50 new Western Australian species are named represents an outstanding contribution by Kings Park and Botanic Garden staff, particularly by the principal authors Russell and Matthew Barrett.

30 October 2015

Dr David Merritt (BGPA), with colleagues A/Prof Gavin Flematti (UWA), Dr Mark Waters (UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin U) and Prof Maria Perez Fernandez (Universidad Pablo de Olavide Sevilla) were successful in their application for an ARC Discovery grant on 'Smoke-derived karrikins reveal a new pathway for plant development'. Read more about Dr Merritt's research.

16 October 2015

The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) was officially opened by Premier Colin Barnett at The University of Western Australia. WABSI aims to coordinate and align a state-wide biodiversity knowledge system to remove roadblocks to the responsible advancement and development of Western Australia, while also protecting the State's significant biodiversity assets. WABSI is a co-operative project between founding members: Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Murdoch University, CSIRO, the West Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, the Western Australian Museum, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

20 August 2015

Todd Erickson had his PhD thesis entitled 'Seed dormancy and germination traits of 89 arid zone species targeted for mine-site restoration in the Pilbara region of Western Australia' passed by the Board of the graduate research school at the University of Western Australia. Read more about Dr Erickson's work.

29 July 2015

Bryn Funnekotter had his PhD thesis entitled 'The Role of Oxidative Stress in Successful Cryopreservation of South-west Western Australian Plant Species' passed by Curtin University. Read more about cryopreservation research in the Conservation Biotechnology section.

1 July 2015

Dr Ben Miller is appointed as the new Director of Science. Dr Miller replaces Prof Kingsley Dixon, who after 31 years as Director, has accepted a position as professor at Curtin University. More information on Dr Miller can be found on his staff page.

26 June 2015

Belinda Newman, with colleagues, publishes a new paper showing that the widespread orchid Pheladenia deformis utilizes a single, widespread fungus, enabling a widespread distribution despite high specificity. Read more via an external online library.

15 June 2015

Ms Nicole Bezemer commences her new PhD research project under the supervision of Dr Siegy Krauss (BGPA), Prof Steve Hopper (UWA) and Dr Dave Roberts (UWA). Bronwyn's research addresses the evolutionary and conservation consequences of pollination by nectar feeding birds for eucalypts and banksias. Nicole's research contributes to a broader research program addressing bird-pollination with funding from the Australian Research Council Discovery grant.

3 June 2015

Ryan Tangney (Curtin University) commences his PhD under the supervision of Ben Miller (BGPA), David Merritt (BGPA) and Kingsley Dixon (Curtin). Ryan's research will assess how variation of season and fire intensity leads to different seed fates in Banksia woodlands. More information on the Kings Park burn study can be found on the project page.

20 May 2015

The Australian Research Council announces outcomes for the Industrial Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) Scheme for 2015. BGPA researchers were instrumental in crafting an application for an ITTC for Minesite Restoration, which was awarded funding of $4.96M over 5 years. The ITTCMR brings together researchers at BGPA, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia with 7 mining industry partners, and will fund 4 postdoctoral fellowships, 13 PhD scholarships and a centre manager. Read more via Australian Research Council's website.

19 May 2015

Todd Erickson co-authored a paper titled: 'Comparing ecological restoration in South Africa and Western Australia: the benefits of a 'travelling workshop' in Ecological Management and Restoration'. Todd reports on a traveling workshop across several South African and Western Australian biomes to discuss and evaluate the various approaches currently being utilised in ecological restoration. Key findings highlighted the contrasting nature of ecological restoration undertaken in these two ecologically similar but socially and politically different regions. Read more via an external online library.

14 May 2015

Todd Erickson co-authored a paper titled: 'Advances in restoration ecology: rising to the challenges of the coming decades' that was accepted in the journal Ecosphere.

12 May 2015

Wolfgang Lewandrowski submitted his PhD thesis today through UWA. Wolf's research addressed the interaction between rainfall and seed germination processes in driving seedling establishment for better restoration outcomes in the Pilbara. Read more via UWA's website.

7 May 2015

Dr Ben Miller conducted an experimental burn in Kings Park as part of a research project: Assessing impacts of varying fire and weed management approaches on native species diversity, weed cover and fuel loads in an urban Banksia woodland.

The Science team undertakes integrated and innovative research in native plant biology, underpinning conservation and ecological restoration of Western Australia's unique biodiversity, and biodiversity generally. Successful conservation outcomes are achieved through world-class research and strategic alliances with industry, land managers, the community and other research organisations.

Research is focused in the key areas of restoration ecology, seed science, conservation genetics, conservation biotechnology, orchid conservation, and systematics, with a focus on extension to practitioners and land managers.

The Authority has a long history of successful post-graduate student supervision in collaboration with Western Australian universities and contributes to undergraduate teaching, predominantly in conservation biology and restoration ecology.

Science seminars are held in the Biodiversity Conservation Centre for staff, students and general public at various times throughout the year.