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Position
Research Scientist (Seed Science)
Address
Kings Park and Botanic Garden
Fraser Avenue
West Perth Western Australia 6005
Email
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Phone
(+61 8) 9480 3639
Fax
(+61 8) 9480 3641

Research Interests

  • Seed storage physiology and longevity.
  • Ecophysiology of seed germination and dormancy.
  • Seed dispersal, soil seed banks, and seed persistence.
  • Restoration ecology.

Academic Background

My research interest in seeds began with my honours project at The University of Western Australia focussed on the development of cryopreservation techniques for the long-term storage of seeds. I subsequently completed a PhD at UWA in 2002, where I continued my work on seed conservation, researching seed storage physiology and the biochemistry of seed ageing. I have since been employed as a Research Scientist at BGPA (2001 – 2004) and as a Research Fellow in the School of Plant Biology at UWA (2004 – 2006). During this time my research interests expanded to encompass the ecophysiology of seed dormancy and germination. I am particularly interested in the integration of seed science into restoration science and practice, and in the development of scientific approaches for the management of seed banks conserving wild species.

In my current position at Kings Park, I manage the seed science team that undertakes research on fundamental and applied aspects of seed biology and technology to improve how seeds are used for conservation and restoration. I hold an Adjunct Senior Lecturer position at UWA, and co-ordinate a fourth year undergraduate course in Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology at UWA. I am a steering committee member for the Australian Seed Bank Partnership that works to conserve Australia’s species through a national network of seed banks.

Current projects

  • Restoration Seedbank Initiative (2013 – 2017). Industry Partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.
  • Pilbara Restoration Initiative (2013 – 2016). Industry Partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.
  • Genetic survey, provenance evaluation and seed conservation of three key tree species at Weeli Wolli Creek (2010 – 2013). Industry Partner: Rio Tinto Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd.
  • Seed resource management for restoration in the Pilbara (2008 – 2013). Industry Partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.

Research associates, post-docs and students

Current

  • Majda Suleiman (PhD UWA 2012 - ) 'Restoration ecology of Acacia pachyceras in the state of Kuwait.'
  • Adam Cross (PhD UWA 2011 - ) 'Seed biology, recruitment and dispersion: informing conservation and restoration in wetlands of the Kimberley region, Western Australia.'
  • Emma Dalziell (PhD UWA 2011 - ) 'Seed biology, dispersal and functional ecology of Western Australian Nymphaceae.'
  • Todd Erickson (PhD UWA 2009 - ) 'Seed dormancy patterns and germination requirements of dominant species in the Pilbara arid zone.'
  • Lydia Guja (PhD Curtin University 2009 - ) 'How do seed traits influence dispersal and distribution of Western Australian coastal plant species?'
  • Arielle Fontaine (Hons UWA 2012) 'Germination ecophysiology of seeds with small embryos.'

Past

  • Renee Tuckett (PhD 2006-2010) ‘Vernal pools in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region: biogeography, seed dormancy, germination and storage.’
  • Lucy Commander (PhD 2005-2009) ‘Seed biology and rehabilitation in the arid zone: a study in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Western Australia.’
  • Katherine Baker (PhD 2002-2006) ‘Seed germination and dormancy in south-western Australian fire ephemerals.’
  • Siti Nurfadilah (Masters UWA 2008 - 2011) ‘A study of the symbiotic and saprophytic competency of the mycorrhizal fungus of Drakaea elastica and optimisation of propagation techniques for conservation.’
  • Sarah Fairbrass (Hons UWA 2011) ‘Interaction between dormancy status and karrikinolide seeds of the fire ephemeral Anthocercis littorea.’
  • Adam Cross (Honours 2010) ‘Disjunction and constraints to dispersal in the rare aquatic carnivorous plant Aldrovanda vesiculosa.’
  • Matt Hyde (Honours 2009) ‘Seed storage longevity of Pterostylis (Orchidaceae) under standard and cryogenic conditions with investigations into the impacts of intra-specific variation on longevity.’
  • Lydia Guja (Honours 2007) ‘Seed buoyancy and salt tolerance as contributing factors to plant species distribution along the Western Australia coast.’
  • Jessica Allen (Honours 2006) ‘Seed germination and dormancy of the wetland species Juncus holoschoenus and Xyris lanata.’
  • Donna Bradbury (Honours 2005) ‘Genetic provenance delineation and seed biology of Scaevola crassifolia.’
  • Renee Tuckett (Honours 2005) ‘Pre-treating broadcast seeds increases seedling emergence and survival for Banksia woodland restoration.’
  • Helen Bowers (Honours 2005) ‘Dormancy alleviation and germination of Hibbertia species for land restoration.’
  • Jessica Daniels (Honours 2004) ‘Optimising seed storage at sub-zero temperatures for the conservation of selected Western Australian species.’
  • Rhys Thomas (Honours 2004) ‘Dormancy alleviation and classification in five Jarrah Forest species.’
  • Ellie Ridley (Honours 2004) ‘Understanding and overcoming seed dormancy in coastal species Acanthocarpus preissii and Scaevola crassifolia.’

Publications

Books

Sweedman, L. and Merritt, D.J. (eds) (2006). Australian Seeds: A Guide to their Collection, Identification and Biology. CSIRO Publishing, ACT.

Book chapters

  1. Martyn, A.J., Merritt, D.J. and Turner, S.R. (2009). Seed banking. In: Offord, C.A. and Meagher, P.F. (eds) Plant germplasm conservation in Australia: strategies and guidelines for developing, managing and utilising ex situ collections. Fully Revised Edition. Australian Network for Plant Conservation Inc., Canberra.
  2. Turner, S.R. and Merritt, D.J. (2009). Seed germination and dormancy. In: Offord, C.A. and Meagher, P.F. (eds) Plant germplasm conservation in Australia: strategies and guidelines for developing, managing and utilising ex situ collections. Fully Revised Edition. Australian Network for Plant Conservation Inc., Canberra.
  3. Merritt, D.J. and Rokich, D.P. (2006). Seed biology and ecology of Australian species. In: Sweedman, L. and Merritt, D.J. (eds) Australian Seeds: A Guide to their Collection, Identification and Biology. CSIRO Publishing, ACT.
  4. Merritt, D.J. (2006). Seed storage and testing. In: Sweedman, L. and Merritt, D.J. (eds) Australian Seeds: A Guide to their Collection, Identification and Biology. CSIRO Publishing, ACT.
  5. Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2003). Seed storage characteristics and dormancy of Australian indigenous plant species: from the seed store to the field. In: R.D. Smith, J.B. Dickie, S.H. Linington, H.W. Pritchard and R.J. Probert (eds) Seed Conservation: Turning Science into Practice. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew pp 807-823.
  6. Merritt, D.J. (2003). Germplasm Collection and Storage. In: C.L. Brown, F. Hall and J. Mill (Eds) Plant Conservation: approaches and techniques from an Australian Perspective. Australian Network for Plant Conservation, ACT.

Refereed publications

  1. Nurfadilah, S., Swarts, N.D, Dixon, K.W., Lambers, H. and Merritt, D.J. (2013). Variation in nutrient-acquisition patterns by mycorrhizal fungi of rare and common orchids explains diversification in a global biodiversity hotspot. Annals of Botany doi:10.1093/aob/mct064.
  2. Flematti, G.R., Waters, M.T., Scaffidi, A., Merritt, D.J., Ghisalberti, E.L., Dixon, K.W. and Smith, S.M. (2013). Karrikin and cyanohydrin smoke signals provide clues to new endogenous plant signalling molecules. Molecular Plant 6: 29-37.
  3. Commander, L.E., Rokich, D.P., Renton, M., Dixon, K.W. and Merritt, D.J. (2013). Optimising seed broadcasting and greenstock planting for restoration in the Australian arid zone. Journal of Arid Environments 88: 226-235.
  4. Hidayati, S.N., Walck, J.L., Merritt, D.J., Turner, S.R., Turner, D.W. and Dixon, K.W. (2012). Sympatric species of Hibbertia (Dilleniaceae) vary in dormancy break and germination requirements: implications for classifying morphophysiological dormancy in Mediterranean biomes. Annals of Botany doi:10.1093/aob/mcs034.
  5. Long, R.L., Stevens, J.C., Griffiths, E.M., Adamek, M., Powles, S.B and Merritt, D.J. (2011). Detecting karrikinolide responses in seeds of the Poaceae. Australian Journal of Botany 59: 609-619.
  6. Long, R.L., Stevens, J.C., Griffiths, E.M., Adamek, M.J., Gorecki, M., Powles, S.B and Merritt, D.J. (2011). Seeds of Brassicaceae weeds have an inherent or inducible response to the germination stimulant karrikinolide. Annals of Botany 108: 933-944.
  7. Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2011). An unorthodox approach to forest restoration – response. Science 333: 36-37.
  8. Flematti, G.R., Merritt, D.J., Piggott, M.J., Trengove, R.D., Smith, S.M., Dixon, K.W. and Ghisalberti, E.L. (2011). Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination. Nature Communications 2: 360 DOI:10.1038/ncomms1356.
  9. Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2011). Restoration seed banks – a matter of scale. Science 332: 424-425.
  10. Guja, L.K., Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2010). Buoyancy, salt tolerance, and germination of coastal seeds: implications for oceanic hydrochorous dispersal. Functional Plant Biology 37: 1175-1186.
  11. Hay, F.R., Merritt, D.J., Soanes, J.A. and Dixon, K.W. (2010). Comparative longevity of Australian orchid (Orchidaceae) seeds under experimental and low temperature storage conditions. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 164: 26-41.
  12. Tuckett, R.E., Merritt, D.J., Hay, F.R., Hopper, S.D., and Dixon, K.W. (2010). Comparative longevity and low-temperature storage of seeds of Hydatellaceae and temporary pool species of southwest Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 58: 327-334.
  13. Tuckett, R.E., Merritt, D.J., Hay, F.R., Hopper, S.D. and Dixon, K.W. (2010). Dormancy, germination and seed-bank storage: a study in support of ex situ conservation of macrophytes of Southwest Australian temporary pools. Freshwater Biology 55: 1118-1129.
  14. Tuckett, R.E., Merritt, D.J.,Rudall, P.J., Hay, F., Hopper, S.D., Baskin, C.C., Baskin, J.M., Tratt, J. and Dixon, K.W. (2010). A new type of specialized morphophysiological dormancy and seed storage behaviour in Hydatellaceae, an early-divergent angiosperm family. Annals of Botany 105: 1053-1061.
  15. Long, R.L., Williams, K., Griffiths, E.M., Flematti, G.R., Merritt, D.J., Stevens, J.C., Turner, S.R. Powles, S.B and Dixon, K.W. (2010). Prior hydration of Brassica tournefortii seeds reduces the stimulatory effect of karrikinolide on germination and increases seed sensitivity to abscisic acid. Annals of Botany 105: 1063-1070.
  16. Commander, L.E., Merritt, D.J., Rokich, D.P. and Dixon, K.W. (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.
  17. Jae-hyeun, K., Walck, J.L., Hidayati, S.N., Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2009). Germinability of seeds stored in capsules on plants of two myrtaceous shrubs: differences among age cohorts and between species. Australian Journal of Botany 57: 495-501.
  18. Turner, S.R., Merritt, D.J., Renton, M.S. and Dixon, K.W. (2009). Seed moisture content affects afterripening and smoke responsiveness in three sympatric Australian native species from fire prone environments. Austral Ecology 34: 866-877.
  19. Chiwocha, S.D.S., Dixon, K.W., Flematti, G.R., Ghisalberti, E., Merritt, D.J., Nelson, D.C., Riseborough, J.M., Smith, S.M. and Stevens, J. (2009). Karrikins: a new family of plant growth regulators in smoke. Plant Science 177: 252-256
  20. Commander, L.E., Merritt, D.J., Rokich, D.P. and Dixon, K.W. (2009) Seed biology of Australian arid zone species: Germination of 18 species used for rehabilitation. Journal of Arid Environments 73: 617-625.
  21. Dixon, K.W., Merritt, D.J., Flematti, G.R. and Ghisalberti, E.L. (2009). Karrikinolide – a phytoreactive compound derived from smoke with applications in horticulture, ecological restoration and agriculture. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS) 813: 155-170
  22. Commander, L.E., Merritt, D.J., Rokich, D.P., Flematti, G.R. and Dixon, K.W. (2008). Seed germination of Solanum spp. (Solanaceae) for use in rehabilitation and commercial industries. Australian Journal of Botany 56: 333-341.
  23. Stevens, J.C., Merritt, D.J., Flematti, G.R., Ghisalberti, E.L. and Dixon, K.W. (2007). Seed germination of agricultural weeds is promoted by the butenolide 3-methyl-2H-furo[2,3-c]pyran-2-one under laboratory and field conditions. Plant and Soil 298: 113-124.
  24. Merritt, D.J., Turner, S.R., Clarke, S. and Dixon, K.W. (2007). Seed dormancy and germination stimulation syndromes for Australian temperate species. Australian Journal of Botany 55: 336-344.
  25. Flematti, G.R., Goddard-Borger, E.D., Merritt, D. J., Ghisalberti, E.L., Dixon, K.W., Trengove, R.D. (2007). Preparation of 2H-furo[2,3-c]pyran-2-one derivatives and evaluation of their germination-promoting activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 2189-2194.
  26. Turner, S.R., Merritt, D.J., Ridley, E.C., Commander, L.E., Baskin, J.M., Baskin, C.C. and Dixon, K.W. (2006). Ecophysiology of seed dormancy in the Australian endemic species Acanthocarpus preissii (Dasypogonaceae). Annals of Botany 98: 1137-1144.
  27. Turner, S.R., Merritt, D.J., Baskin, J.M., Baskin, C.C. and Dixon, K.W. (2006). Combinational dormancy in seeds of the Western Australian endemic species Diplopeltis huegelii (Sapindaceae). Australian Journal of Botany 54: 565-750.
  28. Turner, S.R., Pearce, B., Rokich,D.P., Dunn, R.R., Merritt, D.J., Majer, J.R. and Dixon, K.W. (2006). Influence of polymer seed coatings, soil raking, and time of sowing on seedling performance in post-mining restoration. Restoration Ecology 14: 267-277.
  29. Merritt, D.J., Kristiansen, M., Flematti, G.R., Turner, S.R., Ghisalberti, E.L., Trengove, R.D. and Dixon, K.W. (2006). Effects of a butenolide present in smoke on light-mediated germination of Australian Asteraceae. Seed Science Research 16: 29-35.
  30. Baker, K.S., Steadman, K.J., Plummer, J.A., Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2006). The changing window of conditions that promotes germination of two fire ephemerals, Actinotus leucocephalus (Apiaceae) and Tersonia cyathiflora (Gyrostemonaceae). Annals of Botany96: 1225-1236.
  31. Baker, K.S., Steadman, K.J., Plummer, J. A., Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2005). Dormancy release in Australian fire ephemeral seeds during burial increases germination response to smoke water or heat. Seed Science Research 15: 339-348.
  32. Merritt, D.J., Touchell, D.H., Senaratna, T., Dixon, K.W. and Walters, C.W. (2005). Survival of four accessions of Anigozanthos manglesii (Haemodoraceae) seeds following exposure to liquid nitrogen. Cryoletters 26: 121-130.
  33. Turner, S.R., Merritt, D.J., Baskin, C.C., Dixon, K.W. and Baskin, J.M. (2005). Physical dormancy in seeds of six genera of Australian Rhamnaceae. Seed Science Research 15: 51-58.
  34. Merritt, D.J., Senaratna, T., Touchell, D.H., Dixon, K.W. and Sivasithamparam, K. (2003). Seed ageing of four Western Australian species in relation to storage environment and seed antioxidant activity. Seed Science Research 13: 155-165.
  35. Merritt, D.J., Touchell, D.H., Senaratna, T., Dixon, K.W. and Sivasithamparam, K. (2003). Water sorption characteristics of seeds of four Western Australian species. Australian Journal of Botany51: 85-92.
  36. Senaratna, T. Merritt, D.J., Dixon, K.W., Bunn, E. Touchell, D.H. and Sivasithamparam, K. (2003). Benzoic acid may act as the functional group in salicylic acid and derivatives in the induction of multiple stress tolerance in plants. Plant Growth Regulation 39: 77-81.
  37. Merritt, D.J., Touchell, D.H, Dixon, K.W., Plummer, J.A. and Turner, D.W. (2000). Moisture content influences survival of cryostored seed of Banksia ashbyi (Proteaceae). Australian Journal of Botany 48: 581-587.

Technical Reports and Conference Proceedings

  1. Merritt D. J. and Dixon K.W. (2013). Seed availability for restoration. In: Bozzano M., Jalonen R., Thomas E., Boshier D., Gallo L., Cavers S., Bordacs S., Smith P., and Loo J. (eds). Genetic considerations in ecosystem restoration using native tree species. A thematic study for the State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy. (In Press).
  2. Merritt, D.J., Soanes, J.A. and Dixon, K.W. (2010). Seedbanking for Australian terrestrial and epiphytic orchids. Australian Orchid Foundation. Project 234.02 Final Report.
  3. Merritt, D.J., Hidayati, S., Turner, D.W. and Dixon, K.W. (2008). A physiological and biochemical basis for seed storage for biodiversity conservation and restoration. Minerals and Energy Research Institute of Western Australia. Project M372. Final Report.
  4. Merritt, D.J., Turner, S., Clarke, S. and Dixon, K.W. (2008). Optimising collection, storage, and germination of native plant species. Australian Centre for Minerals Extension and Research. Project R64. Final Report.
  5. Baker, K.S., Plummer, J.A., Steadman, K.J., Merritt, D.J. and Dixon, K.W. (2005). Changes in sensitivity to smoke water during burial of a fire ephemeral, Actinotus leucocephalus (Apiaceae). In: SW Adkins, PJ Ainsley, DJ Coates and LC Bell (Eds) Proceedings of the Fifth Australian Workshop on Native Seed Biology for Revegetation. pp. 133-139. ACMER, QLD.
  6. Merritt, D.J., Turner, S.R., Commander, L.E. and Dixon, K.W. (2005). Integrated seed science for delivering a better restoration outcome. In: SW Adkins, PJ Ainsley, DJ Coates and LC Bell (Eds) Proceedings of the Fifth Australian Workshop on Native Seed Biology for Revegetation. pp. 69-76. ACMER, QLD.
  7. Merritt, D.J., Touchell, D.H. and Dixon, K.W. (1999). Seed storage physiology and cryostorage of Banksia ashbyi. Implications for storage of seed of Western Australian species. In: CJ Archer and LC Bell (Eds) Proceedings of Third Australian Workshop on Native Seed Biology for Revegetation. pp. 91-95, ACMER, Brisbane.