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 ranked equally with 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 Botanic Garden 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 focussed 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 focussed more broadly in molecular ecology, and particularly on the key processes influencing genetic variation and evolution within and among native plant populations.
The state-of-the-art laboratory is equipped with two new automated 8 capillary DNA sequencers, a biomek robotic workstation, and supporting hardware and facilities in a new laboratory in the purpose built Biodiversity Conservation Centre (opened 2005), enabling the rapid application of fluorescent-based DNA fingerprinting and DNA sequencing techniques.
The Conservation Genetics program was formally established with the appointment of a Senior Research Scientist (Dr Siegy Krauss) as head in November 1998. Through success with research funding from ARC and industry, through extensive and productive collaborations, under the leadership of Kingsley Dixon (Director Science), and through an integrated team approach to practical outcomes in conservation biology practised at BGPA, the genetics team has grown to a current team of 6 externally funded post-doctoral scientists, 1 externally funded lab manager, 8 PhD students, and 2 honours students.
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 3rd year course in Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology. In 2010, 3 students were supervised in Conservation Genetics research programs. In addition, Conservation Genetics staff regularly contributes invited lectures at UWA, principally in conservation and population genetics.