Science

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

Recent highlights include:

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.

20 April 2015

Alison Ritchie had her PhD thesis entitled 'Ecological and genetic indicators of restoration success' passed by the Board of the graduate research school at UWA. Congratulations Dr Alison Ritchie! Read more via UWA's website.

16 April 2015

Dr Ryan Phillips, Dr Siegy Krauss, Dr Janet Anthony, and Prof Kingsley Dixon co-authored a paper titled 'Mismatch in the distribution of floral ecotypes and pollinators: insights into the evolution of sexually deceptive orchids' in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28:601-612. Read more via an external online library.

9 March 2015

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

2014

12 November 2014

Dr Eric Bunn published new research with Prof Kingsley Dixon and Dr Betty Bustam. Bustam B, Dixon KW, Bunn E. 2014. In vitro propagation of temperate Australian terrestrial orchids: revisiting asymbiotic compared to symbiotic germination. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 176:556-566. This study clearly indicates the value of revisiting germination protocols with Australian terrestrial orchid species as significant increases in germination and speed of protocorm development into plantlets was experienced with a range of orchid taxa using the new asymbiotic protocol. Read more via an external online library.

29 October 2014

Dr Siegy Krauss published new research with Alison Ritchie and Karen Frick. Frick KM, Ritchie AL, Krauss SL (2014) Field of dreams: restitution of pollinator services in restored bird-pollinated plant populations. Restoration Ecology 22:832-840. Read more via an external online library.

In the baseball movie 'Field of Dreams', Kevin Costner's character is told 'If you build it (a baseball field), they (baseball players) will come'. In restoration ecology, it is largely assumed that if you put the plants back, the pollinators will come. In this study, Karen Frick et al. tested this field of dreams hypothesis for nectar-feeding birds in restored banksia woodland. They found that although bird species composition differed between restored and remnant banksia woodland, pollinator services were delivered for seed production and wide outcrossing.

24 October 2014

Twelve post-graduate students completed their year-long honours research at Kings Park and submitted their theses:

  • Bronwyn Ayre - Consequences, and management, of genetic erosion in the recovery of the Corrigin Grevillea. Supervisors: Siegy Krauss, Janet Anthony.
  • Bryony Wilkinson - Acidifying soil amendments increase plant-availability of manganese for Eucalyptus marginata Sm. seedlings in a high-pH urban parkland soil. Supervisors Hans Lambers and Jason Stevens.
  • Melanie Britton - Impacts of dewatering on mating systems of riparian eucalypts in the Pilbara. Supervisors: Paul Nevill, Siegy Krauss, Carole Elliot, Janet Anthon.
  • Sasha Ayton - Native bee ecology. Supervisors: Sean Tomlinson, Ryan Phillips and Kingsley Dixon.
  • Russell Miller - The response of serotinous, non-sprouting plant species to long fire intervals in Perth's Mediterranean-climate woodlands. Supervisors: Ben Miller and David Merritt.
  • Sarah Boys - Seed enablement for restoration. Supervisors: Shane Turner, Peter Golos and David Merritt.
  • Sophie Cross - Assessing the return of biodiversity in a coastal restoration chronosequence. Supervisors: David Merritt and Kingsley Dixo.
  • Nicole Bezemer - Ecological and evolutionary consequences of pollination by nectar-feeding birds in a small isolated plant population. Supervisors: Siegy Krauss, Dave Roberts and Steve Hoppe.
  • Jamie Chan - Inbreeding and outbreeding depression in Stylidium: consequences for seed sourcing for ecological restoration. Supervisor: Siegy Kraus.
  • Mallory Barnes - Ecophysiology of Triodia seedling establishment for minesite restoration. Supervisors: Kingsley Dixon and David Merritt.
  • Sharon Fletcher - Effects of crypreservation on genetic fidelity of selected native plant species. Supervisors: Eric Bunn and Shane Turne.
  • Dmitri Ivanov - Vegetation restoration on Alcoa's bauxite residue ponds at Kwinana: Limitations to seedling recruitment. Supervisor: Peter Golos.

8 October 2014

Dr Siegy Krauss published new research with colleagues: McMahon K, van Dijk K, Ruiz-Montoya L, Kendrick GA, Krauss SL, Waycott M, Verduin J, Lowe R, Statton J, Brown E and Duarte C (2014) The movement ecology of seagrasses. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281: 20140878. This paper reviews the mechanisms and consequences of dispersal in seagrasses within a movement ecology framework. Read more via an external publication website.

1 October 2014

Dr Siegy Krauss published new research with colleagues: Byrne M, Hopper S, Thiele K, Coates D, Krauss SL, Sniderman K and Forest F (2014) A diverse flora: species and genetic relationships. In: Lambers H (ed) Plant Life on the Sandplains in Southwest Australia, A Global Biodiversity Hotspot. UWA Press. This book chapter reviews the phylogenetics and population genetics of the kwongan flora. Read more via an external publication website.

September 2014

Dr Jessica Stingemore graduated at UWA with her PhD degree for her research on 'Plant density effects on genetic variation and dispersal for two co-occurring Persoonia species'. Dr Stingmore was supervised at BGPA by Dr Siegy Krauss and Dr Paul Nevill. Read more via UWA's website.

Dr Siegy Krauss, Dr Paul Nevill and Ms Anna Williams published a review paper entitled 'Next generation restoration genetics: applications and opportunities' in Trends in Plant Science 19:529-537. In this review paper, the application of molecular markers for ecological restoration is briefly reviewed, and opportunities presented by next generation sequencing technologies addressed. Read more via an external online publication website.

August 2014

Three post-graduate students completed their honours thesis research at Kings Park and achieved 1st class results:

  • Anthea Challis (UWA) assessed mortality patterns and physiological responses of two framework tree species (Banksia menziesii and Allocasuarina fraseriana) to water stress in a natural woodland.
  • Alyssa Weinstein (UWA) addressed cryptic speciation in Drakaea livida and its implications for conservation
  • Laura Skates (UWA) studied niche specialisation in the rare carnivorous hydrophyte Aldrovanda vesiculosa L. (Droseraceae) causes increased susceptibility to threatening processes.

Two major new grants were awarded from the Australian Research Council:

  • Managing ecosystem change requires the integration of above and below ground hydrological processes at relevant scale. ARC Linkage Project LP140100736 (2014-2017: ARC funds $300,000). Administering organisation: The University of Western Australia. Collaborative Partners: Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, SpecTerra Services Pty Ltd.
  • Advancing cryobanking for propagation-recalcitrant and critically endangered plant species. ARC Linkage Project LP140100993 (2014-2017: total ARC funds $450,000). Administering organisation: Curtin University of Technology. Collaborative Partner: Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority.

Todd Erickson submitted his Doctor of Philosophy thesis entitled 'Seed dormancy and germination traits of 89 arid zone species required for mine-site restoration in the Pilbara region of Western Australia'.

Alison Ritchie submitted her PhD thesis entitled 'Ecological and genetic indicators of restoration success'.

July 2014

Three Honours students have completed their theses:

  • Anthea Challis (UWA) concluded her Honours project researching mortality patterns and physiological responses of two framework tree species (Banksia menziesii and Allocasuarina fraseriana) to water stress in a natural woodland.
  • Alyssa Weinstein (UWA) completed her Honours project researching cryptic speciation in Drakaea livida and its implications for conservation.
  • Laura Skates (UWA) concluded her Honours project researching niche specialisation in the rare carnivorous hydrophyte Aldrovanda vesiculosa L. (Droseraceae) causes increased susceptibility to threatening processes.

Lydia Guja (Curtin University) passed her PhD thesis, studying the influence of morphological and physiological seed traits on oceanic dispersal and germination in saline coastal environments, supervised by Dr David Merritt, Prof Kingsley Dixon, and Prof Grant Wardell-Johnson.

Prof Kingsley Dixon presented two invited papers, one on 'Challenges facing shrubland rehabilitation on the arid Arabian peninsula: Insight gained through precision-seeding and greenstock trials', and the other was a keynote plenary entitled 'Restoring the Island Continent' at the Conference on Ecosystem and Ecological Restoration (CEER) held 28 July to 1 August 2014.

Publications
  • Murcia C, Aronson J, Kattan GH, Moreno-Mateos D, Dixon K, Simberloff D (2014) A critique of the 'novel ecosystem' concept. Trends in Ecology and Evolution DOI: 10.10.16/j.tree.2014.07.006
  • Shahab Nikabadi, Eric Bunn, Jason Stevens, Belinda Newman, Shane R. Turner, Kingsley W. Dixon (2014) Germination responses of four native terrestrial orchids from south-west Western Australia to temperature and light treatments. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC). DOI: 10.1007/s11240-014-0507-3.
  • Merritt DJ and Dixon KW (2014) Seed availability for restoration. In: Bozzano M. et al. (eds). Genetic considerations in ecosystem restoration using native tree species. State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources - Thematic Study. Rome, FAO and Biodiversity International.
  • Guja LK, Merritt DJ, Dixon KW, Wardell-Johnson G (2014) Dispersal potential of Scaevola crassifolia (Goodeniaceae) is influenced by intraspecific variation in fruit morphology along a latitudinal environmental gradient. Australian Journal of Botany 62: 56-64.
Visiting scholars

Visiting scientists Gerhard and Andreas Gerbauer from The University of Beyreuth, Germany, undertook experiments to determine the role of mycorrhiza in nutrient acquisition in 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.