From tiny bacteria to mighty eucalypts, Western Australian biodiversity has been under the microscope this summer thanks to six summer scholarships supported by the Friends of Kings Park.

Kings Park Science summer scholarship students are supported by the Friends of Kings Park. Photo: S. Krauss.

Now in its 15th year, the summer scholarship program has given 99 university students the chance to expand their research in native plant biology and restoration ecology. The program owes much of its success to the ‘financial and spiritual support’ provided by the Friends of Kings Park according to Kings Park Science Program Leader Dr Jason Stevens.

Led by Kings Park Science, the program is also supported by local universities and Biodiversity and Conservation Science in the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Darren Harrop from the Friends of Kings Park said supporting the scholarships was a ‘no brainer’ and the Friends are delighted they had been able to expand their support of the program in recent years.

‘We hope you continue on your research journey for your own benefit, for the benefit of Kings Park, for Western Australia and ultimately for the protection of our flora’, Mr Harrop told the scholarship students at a presentation of the students results in Kings Park.

Research projects led by the students included exploring the role of bacteria and fungi below ground in post-mining restoration in WA’s South West. While there are nearly 800 native plant species in the region, there are estimated to be 17,000 species of bacteria and around 3,000 species of fungi. The ability of life below ground to bounce back over time was found to be an early indicator of rehabilitation success.

Other projects looked at different methods of enhancing seed survival for restoration and seed banking, one analysed the mating habits of eucalyptus species found north of Perth and another explored the role of bird pollination for the iconic Banksia menziesii. With an estimated 40 per cent of the South West’s threatened species reliant on pollination by vertebrates (particularly birds and honey possums), understanding the role these animals play may be critical to these plants’ long-term survival.

Applications for the next round of Kings Park Science Summer Scholarships will open in October 2020.

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