Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources - this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems. Thus, for the conservation of biological diversity, genetic variation within species is of equal importance to variation among species and ecosystems. An understanding of not only the amount and geographic patterning of genetic variation within species, but also the processes that effect genetic variation and the consequences of an erosion of genetic variation, are critical for the management, conservation and restoration of biodiversity.
At Kings Park and Botanic Garden, modern molecular tools, such as DNA fingerprinting, microsatellites and DNA sequencing, are being used to make a powerful genetic contribution to an integrated approach to native plant conservation and ecological restoration. Genetic research is integrated with all other research disciplines in Science at Kings Park and through strategic linkages with other research organizations, as well as with industry, conservation and restoration practitioners, and the community.
Conservation Genetics at Kings Park and Botanic Garden is focused principally on applying molecular markers for practical outcomes in the conservation and recovery of rare and threatened native plant species, and for the ecological restoration of degraded native landscapes under the care and management of BGPA, and across the state. In addition, research is focused more broadly in molecular ecology, and particularly on the key processes influencing genetic variation and evolution within and among native plant populations. Research extends to identifying significant units for management and conservation, and the evolutionary relationships among these taxa.
The state-of-the-art laboratory is equipped with three automated 8 capillary DNA sequencers (1 Applied Biosystems 3500 and 2 Beckman 8800) and supporting hardware and facilities in the purpose built Biodiversity Conservation Centre, enabling the rapid application of fluorescent-based DNA fingerprinting and DNA sequencing techniques.
The Conservation Genetics team is headed by Senior Research Scientist Dr Siegy Krauss. In 2013, the genetics team comprises 6 externally funded research scientists, 1 externally funded lab manager, 6 PhD students, and 2 honours students. Significant research outcomes have been achieved with research funding from the Australian Research Council and industry partners, through extensive and productive collaborations, and through an integrated team approach to practical outcomes in conservation biology achieved at BGPA.
As with the other programs within Science at BGPA, the conservation genetics team is also involved in undergraduate teaching for the training of the next generation of conservation geneticists. This is achieved through student research supervision as part of the UWA 4th year course in Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology. In addition, Conservation Genetics staff regularly contribute invited lectures at UWA, principally in conservation and population genetics.