Contact image
Position
Research Scientist (Seed Science)
Address
Kings Park and Botanic Garden
Fraser Avenue
Kings Park Western Australia 6005
Email
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Phone
(+61 8) 9480 3682
Fax
(+61 8) 9480 3641

Research themes

  • Seed ecology
  • Seed germination and dormancy
  • Seed persistence in restoration
  • Seed traits
  • Smoke-stimulated seed germination
  • Karrikinolide
  • Physiological dormancy
  • Restoration ecology
  • Mine rehabilitation
  • Arid-zone ecology
  • Topsoil management

Academic background

Lucy completed her undergraduate degree in Horticulture at the University of Western Australia and it was during her 4th year project in 2003 that she developed an interest in seed ecology and mine rehabilitation. After graduating with first class honours, Lucy worked as a research assistant with the Seed Science team in the Science Directorate at BGPA for 12 months then commenced her PhD project with the Restoration Ecology and Seed Biology groups. The project combined her fascination with Australian seed germination and dormancy with her interest in applied research and desire to produce practical findings for improving restoration techniques. After completing her PhD in 2008, she continued her research into seed germination and dormancy for mine restoration through projects with Telfer Gold Mine and Rio Tinto Iron Ore in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Lucy is passionate about improving restoration through efficient seed use, including optimising seed quality and storage, and understanding germination cues, dormancy mechanisms and recruitment filters.

Current areas of research include:

  • investigating the interaction between loss of physiological dormancy and karrikinolide (an active component of smoke);
  • understanding how environmental filters (including soil properties and rainfall) interact with seed traits to determine seedling recruitment in restoration,
  • determining whether seed persistence in topsoil stockpiles can be predicted from seed traits,
  • determining whether restoration sites are seed or microsite limited,
  • investigating community assembly in restoration.

Major projects

Current

  • Research with Dr Peter Golos to inform the restoration of iron-ore mines in the mid-west (Koolanooka Hills and Blue Hills). The project is investigating restoration targets, growth media, topsoil handling, seed quality and germination, and greenstock.
  • Restoration of Banded-Ironstone communities in the Midwest (2012 - present). Key staff: Dr Lucy Commander and Dr Luis Merino Martin. Collaborators: Dr Jason Stevens, Dr Ben Miller, Dr Ellery Mayence, Dr Kingsley Dixon. Industry partner: Sinosteel Midwest Corporation Limited (Koolanooka Mine Site).
  • Restoration of arid grasslands and woodlands in the Great Sandy Desert (2012 - present). Key staff: Peter Golos. Collaborators: Dr Lucy Commander, Dr Ellery Mayence, Dr Kingsley Dixon. Industry partner: Birla Nifty Copper Operation.
  • ALCOA Residue Rehabilitation Research Program. Key staff: Dr Peter Golos, Dr Lucy Commander. Industry partner: ALCOA.
  • Rehabilitation of native plant communities in hard setting magnetitic residues. Key staff: Dr Adam Cross. Collaborators: Dr Lucy Commander. Industry Partner: Karara Mining.

Past

  • Genetic survey, provenance evaluation and seed conservation of three key tree species at Weeli Wolli Creek. Key staff: Dr Paul Nevill and Dr Lucy Commander. Collaborators: Dr Siegy Krauss, Dr David Merritt, Dr Kingsley Dixon, Donna Bradbury. Industry partner: Rio Tinto Iron Ore.
  • Delivering effective seed resource management for rehabilitation in the Pilbara (2010 - 2011). Key staff: Dr Lucy Commander. Collaborators: Dr David Merritt, Dr Kingsley Dixon. Industry partner: Rio Tinto Iron Ore.
  • Seed germination, dormancy and storage of key species at Telfer Mine in the eastern Pilbara for use in rehabilitation (2008 - 2011). Key staff: Dr Lucy Commander. Collaborators: Dr David Merritt, Dr Deanna Rokich, Dr Kingsley Dixon, Peter Golos. Industry partner: Newcrest Mining Limited (Telfer Gold Mine).
  • A program to research and develop integrated restoration of borrow pits for Shark Bay Salt (PhD project; 2005 - 2008). Supervisors: Dr Kingsley Dixon, Dr Deanna Rokich and Dr David Merritt. Industry partner: Shark Bay Salt Pty Ltd

Research associates and students

Current

  • Majda Suleiman (PhD; 2012 - present) Restoration ecology of Acacia pachyceras in the state of Kuwait.

Past

  • Clare Courtauld (Hons; 2013) Seed Ecology of Semi-Arid Western Australian Species for Restoration of a Threatened Ecological Community.
  • Sarah Fairbrass (4th year; 2011) Seed biology of the fire ephemeral, Anthocercis littorea.
  • Clare Whyte (Hons; 2010) The effects of water stress, salinity, and temperature on germination, seedling emergence, and seedling biomass: implications for restoration in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.

Potential Student Projects

  • Seed persistence and drivers of seedling recruitment in a Threatened Ecological Community, and their implications for topsoil management in mine restoration. Are we providing the niche? Recruitment niches, biotic and abiotic filters of seed germination in natural and restored landscapes. Do seed traits determine plant distribution in arid shrublands, and success in restoration?
  • What are the causes for secondary recruitment failure in restoration, and how can they be alleviated?
  • Propagation of Bush Foods from seed.
  • Genetic barcoding of topsoil seedbanks for restoration. (Co-supervisor Dr Paul Nevill)

Selected publications

Long RL, Gorecki MJ, Renton M, Scott JK, Colville L, Goggin DE, Commander LE, Westcott DA, Cherry H and Finch-Savage WE (2014) The ecophysiology of seed persistence: a mechanistic view of the journey to germination or demise. Biological Reviews, doi: 10.1111/brv.12095.

Merritt DJ, Martyn AJ, Ainsley P, Young RE, Seed LU, Thorpe M, Hay FR, Commander LE, Shackelford N and Offord CA (2014) A continental-scale study of seed lifespan in experimental storage examining seed, plant, and environmental traits associated with longevity. Biodiversity and conservation 23, 1081-1104.

Commander LE, Rokich DP, Renton M, Dixon KW and Merritt DJ (2013) Optimising seed broadcasting and greenstock planting for restoration in the Australian arid zone. Journal of Arid Environments 88, 226-235.

Flematti GR, Scaffidi A, Goddard-Borger ED, Heath CH, Nelson DC, Commander LE, Stick RV, Dixon KW, Smith SM and Ghisalberti EL (2010) Structure - activity relationship of karrikin germination stimulants. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 58, 8612-8617.

Commander LE, Merritt DJ, Rokich DP and Dixon KW (2009) The role of after ripening in promoting germination of arid zone seeds: a study on six Australian species. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161, 411-421.

Commander LE, Merritt DJ, Rokich DP and Dixon KW (2009) Seed biology of Australian arid zone species: Germination of 18 species used for rehabilitation. Journal of Arid Environments 73, 617-625.

Commander LE, Merritt DJ, Rokich DP, Flematti GR and Dixon KW (2008) Seed germination of Solanum spp. (Solanaceae) for use in rehabilitation and commercial industries. Australian Journal of Botany 56, 333-341.

Turner SR, Commander LE, Baskin JM, Baskin CC and Dixon KW (2009) Germination behaviour of Astroloma xerophyllum (Ericaceae), a species with woody indehiscent endocarps. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 160, 299-311.

Turner SR, Merritt DJ, Ridley E, Commander LE, Baskin JM, Baskin CC, Dixon KW (2006) Ecophysiology of seed dormancy in the Australian endemic species Acanthocarpus preissii (Dasypogonaceae). Annals of Botany 98, 1137-1144.

Commander LE (2014) Starting from scratch - challenges in restoring vegetation when starting from bare earth. In Biodiversity and vegetation: patterns, processes, conservation. (Eds L Mucina, J Price and J Kalwij) p. 27. (Kwongan Foundation: Perth, AU).