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Senior Research Scientist (Seed Science)
Kings Park and Botanic Garden
Fraser Avenue
Kings Park Western Australia 6005
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(+61 8) 9480 3639
(+61 8) 9480 3641

Research themes

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

Academic background

  • PhD (2002) The University of Western Australia. Thesis title: Ex situ seed storage of Western Australian species: influence of the storage environment on seed viability and ageing. Supervisors: Dr Darren Touchell (BGPA), Dr Tissa Senaratna (UWA/ BGPA), Prof. Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA), Professor K. Sivasithamparam (UWA).
  • BSc (Hons) (1997) The University of Western Australia. Thesis title: Cryobiology of seeds of Western Australian species. Supervisor: Dr Darren Touchell (BGPA).

Major projects


  • Restoration Seedbank Initiative (2013 - 2017). Collaborators: Mr Todd Erickson (BGPA/UWA), Dr Miriam Muñoz-Rojas (BGPA/UWA), Dr Shane Turner (BGPA/UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.
  • Pilbara Restoration Initiative (2013 - 2016). Collaborators: Dr Anne Mathews (BGPA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.
  • The Pilbara Seed Atlas: seed resource management for restoration in the Pilbara (2008 - 2014). Collaborators: Mr Todd Erickson (BGPA/UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.


  • Investigating seed biology and optimising seed management to improve rehabilitation outcomes in the Pilbara (2010 - 2012). Collaborators: Dr Lucy Commander (BGPA/UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: Rio Tinto.
  • Millennium Seedbank Project (2001 - 2011). Western Australian Seeds Program. Collaborators: Dr Fiona Hay (MSBP), Prof Jeff Walck (BGPA/UWA), Dr Robin Probert (MSBP), Dr Amelia Martyn (RBG Sydney).
  • A novel method of broad-acre weed seedbank management using a naturally occurring germination stimulant (2007 - 2009). ARC Linkage Grant. Collaborators: Dr Rowena Long (BGPA/UWA), Prof Steve Powles (UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: BGPA.
  • Discovery of the physiological and molecular modes of action of butenolides in promoting seed germination and vigour in plants (2006 - 2009). ARC Discovery Grant. Collaborators: Dr Gavin Flematti (UWA), Prof Emil Ghisalberti (UWA), Prof Steven Smith (UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA).
  • Seedbanking for Australian Terrestrial and Epiphytic Orchids (2004 - 2009). Australian Orchid Foundation. Collaborators: Dr Fiona Hay (MSBP), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA), Ms Jessica Soanes (BGPA/UWA).
  • Optimising collection, storage and germination of Australian native plant species (2005 - 2008). Collaborators: Prof Steve Adkins (University of Queensland). Industry partners: ACMER, BHP-Billiton Cannington Mine, BHP-Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, Rio Tinto Coal, Zinifex Century Mine, Worsley Alumina, Xstrata Ernest Henry Mine.
  • A physiological and biochemical basis for seed storage for biodiversity conservation and restoration (2005 - 2008). ARC Linkage Grant. Collaborators: Dr Siti Hidayati (UWA), A/Prof David Turner (UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partners: ALCOA, BGPA, Greening Australia WA, Iluka Resources, MERIWA, Rocla Quarry Products.
  • Optimising synthesis, developing delivery systems and resolving the ecological significance of the chemical in smoke that promotes seed germination (2005 - 2008). ARC Discovery Grant. Collaborators: Dr Gavin Flematti (UWA), Prof Emil Ghisalberti (UWA), A/Prof Robert Trengove (Murdoch University), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA).
  • A program to research and develop integrated restoration of borrow pits for (2004 - 2008). Collaborators: Dr Lucy Commander (BGPA/UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: Shark Bay Resources Pty Ltd.

Research associates, post-docs and students


Research associates and post-docs
  • Dr Miriam Muñoz-Rojas (2013 - present) Restoration Seedbank Initiative.
  • Dr Shane Turner (2013 - present) Restoration Seedbank Initiative.
  • Mr Todd Erickson (2013 - present) Restoration Seedbank Initiative.


  • Majda Suleiman (PhD; 2012 - present) Restoration ecology of Acacia pachyceras in the state of Kuwait.
  • Emma Dalziell (PhD; 2011 - present) Seed biology, dispersal and functional ecology of Western Australian Nymphaeaceae.
  • Todd Erickson (PhD; 2009 - present) Seed dormancy and germination traits of 89 arid zone species required for mine-site restoration in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
  • Sophie Cross (Hons; 2014) Restoration of urban coastal bushland: responses of bird and ant diversity to vegetation condition.
  • Russell Miller (Hons; 2014) The impact of long fire-free intervals on the persistence of serotinous non-sprouting plant species on the northern sandplain of south-western Australia.


Research associates
  • Dr Lucy Commander (2010 - 2012) Investigating seed biology and optimising seed management to improve rehabilitation outcomes in the Pilbara.
  • Dr Rowena Long (2008 - 2011) A novel method of broad-acre weed seedbank management using a naturally occurring germination stimulant.
  • Dr Siti Hidayati (2007 - 2009) A physiological and biochemical basis for seed storage for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Prof. Jeff Walck (2007 - 2009) Millennium Seedbank Project Western Australian Seeds Program.
  • Lydia Guja (PhD; 2009 - 2014) The influence of morphological and physiological seed traits on oceanic dispersal and germination in saline coastal environments.
  • Adam Cross (PhD; 2011 - 2014) Between a rock and a hard place: community structure, seasonally ecology, and local adaptation in ephemeral arid-tropical freshwater rock pools.
  • Renee Tuckett (PhD; 2006 - 2010) Vernal pools in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region: biogeography, seed dormancy, germination and storage.
  • Lucy Commander (PhD; 2005 - 2008) 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 (MSc; 2008 - 2011) A study of the symbiotic and saprophytic competency of the mycorrhizal fungus of Drakaea elastica and optimisation of propagation techniques for conservation.
  • Arielle Fontaine (Hons; 2012) Germination ecophysiology of seeds with small embryos.
  • Sarah Fairbrass (Hons; 2011) Interaction between dormancy status and karrikinolide seeds of the fire ephemeral Anthocercis littorea.
  • Adam Cross (Hons; 2010) Disjunction and constraints to dispersal in the rare aquatic carnivorous plant Aldrovanda vesiculosa.
  • Matt Hyde (Hons; 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 (Hons; 2007) Seed buoyancy and salt tolerance as contributing factors to plant species distribution along the Western Australia coast.
  • Jessica Allen (Hons; 2006) Seed germination and dormancy of the wetland species Juncus holoschoenus and Xyris lanata.
  • Donna Bradbury (Hons; 2005) Genetic provenance delineation and seed biology of Scaevola crassifolia.
  • Renee Tuckett (Hons; 2005) Pre-treating broadcast seeds increases seedling emergence and survival for Banksia woodland restoration.
  • Helen Bowers (Hons; 2005) Dormancy alleviation and germination of Hibbertia species for land restoration.
  • Jessica Daniels (Hons; 2004) Optimising seed storage at sub-zero temperatures for the conservation of selected Western Australian species.
  • Rhys Thomas (Hons; 2004) Dormancy alleviation and classification in five Jarrah Forest species.
  • Ellie Ridley (Hons; 2004) Understanding and overcoming seed dormancy in coastal species Acanthocarpus preissii and Scaevola crassifolia.

Selected publications

  • Merritt DJ, Martyn AJ, Ainsley P, Young RE, Seed LU, Thorpe M, Hay FR, Commander LE, Shackelford N, Offord CA, Dixon KW and Probert RJ (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.
  • Merritt DJ, Hay FR, Swarts ND, Sommerville KD and Dixon KW (2014) Ex situ conservation and cryopreservation of orchid germplasm. International Journal of Plant Sciences 175: 46-58.
  • Flematti GR, Waters MT, Scaffidi A, Merritt DJ, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW and Smith SM (2013) Karrikin and cyanohydrin smoke signals provide clues to new endogenous plant signalling molecules. Molecular Plant 6: 29-37.
  • Guja L, Wuhrer R, Moran KW, Dixon KW, Wardell-Johnson G and Merritt DJ (2013) Full spectrum X-ray mapping reveals differential localization of salt in germinating seeds of differing salt tolerance. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 173: 129-142.
  • Merritt DJ and Dixon KW (2011) Restoration seed banks – a matter of scale. Science 332: 424-425.
  • Flematti GR, Merritt DJ, Piggott MJ, Trengove RD, Smith SM, Dixon KW and Ghisalberti EL (2011) Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination. Nature Communications 2:360 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1356.
  • Long RL, Stevens JC, Griffiths EM, Adamek MJ, Gorecki M, Powles SB and Merritt DJ (2011) Seeds of Brassicaceae weeds have an inherent or inducible response to the germination stimulant karrikinolide. Annals of Botany 108: 933-944.
  • Tuckett RE, Merritt DJ, Rudall PJ, Hay F, Hopper SD, Baskin CC, Baskin JM, Tratt J and Dixon KW (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.
  • Chiwocha SDS, Dixon KW, Flematti GR, Ghisalberti E, Merritt DJ, Nelson DC, Riseborough JM, Smith SM and Stevens J (2009) Karrikins: a new family of plant growth regulators in smoke. Plant Science 177: 252-256.
  • Merritt DJ, Turner SR, Clarke S and Dixon KW (2007) Seed dormancy and germination stimulation syndromes for Australian temperate species. Australian Journal of Botany 55: 336-344.
  • Merritt DJ, Kristiansen M, Flematti GR, Turner SR, Ghisalberti EL, Trengove RD and Dixon KW (2006) Effects of a butenolide present in smoke on light-mediated germination of Australian Asteraceae. Seed Science Research 16: 29-35.

See David's full list of publications on Google Scholar...