Contact image
Position
Principal Research Scientist (Seed Science)
Address
Biodiversity Conservation Centre
Kattidj Close
Kings Park Western Australia 6005
Phone
(+61 8) 9480 3628

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

Current

  • Innovative Seed Technologies, Western Australia (2018 - 2023). ARC LP170100075 Innovative seed technologies for restoration in a biodiversity hotspot. Collaborators: Prof Richard Hobbs (UWA), Dr Todd Erickson (UWA), Dr Jason Stevens (DBCA), Dr David Merritt (DBCA), Assoc Prof Matthew Madsen (BYU). Industry partners: Hanson Construction Materials, Bentonite Products WA, BGPA.
  • Eco-engineering solutions to improve mine-site rehabilitation outcomes (2017 - 2021). Global Innovation Linkages Project. Collaborators: Dr Todd Erickson (UWA/BGPA), Dr Andrew Guzzomi (UWA), Dr Miriam Munoz-Rojas (UWA/BGPA), Dr Jeremy James (University of California), Dr Matt Madsen (Brigham Young University), Dr Scott Abella (University of Nevada). Industry partners: BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Rio Tinto, Greening Australia.
  • The energetic basis to seed longevity and storage (2016 - 2019). ARC Linkage Grant. Collaborators: Dr Emma Dalziell (Curtin University/BGPA), Dr Sean Tomlinson (Curtin University), Prof Philip Withers (UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin University/BGPA). Industry partner: BGPA.
  • Industry Transformation Training Centre for Mining Restoration (2015 - 2020). ARC ITTC Grant. Collaborators: Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin/BGPA), A/Prof Grand Wardell-Johnson (Curtin), A/Prof Erik Veneklaas (UWA), A/Prof Shane Turner (UWA/BGPA), Dr Siegy Krauss (BGPA), Dr Jason Stevens (BGPA). Industry partners: BGPA, BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Cliffs Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Hanson Construction Materials, Karara Mining, Sinosteel Midwest Corporation, Polaris Metals, Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia.
  • Smoke-derived karrikins reveal a new pathway for plant development (2015 - 2018). ARC Discovery Grant. Collaborators: A/Prof Gavin Flematti (UWA), Dr Mark Waters (UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin/BGPA), Prof Maria Perez Fernandez (University Pablo de Olavide).
  • Restoration Seedbank Initiative (2013 - 2018). Collaborators: Dr Todd Erickson (BGPA/UWA), Dr Miriam Munoz-Rojas (BGPA/UWA), Dr Shane Turner (BGPA/UWA), Prof Kingsley Dixon (BGPA/UWA). Industry partner: BHP Billiton Iron Ore.

Visit the Seed Conservation section to learn more about the current projects.

Past

  • The Pilbara Seed Atlas: seed resource management for restoration in the Pilbara (2008 - 2014). Collaborators: Dr 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

Current

  • Elvan Ling (MSc; 2018 - present) Eco-engineering solutions to improve mine site rehabilitation.
  • Amber Bateman (PhD; 2017 - present) Soil amendments and their effects on seed recruitment in arid zone restoration.
  • Monte Masarei (PhD; 2017 - present) Mechanised sowing of native seeds for broad-acre restoration.
  • Dr Emma Dalziell (Research associate; 2016 - present) The energetic basis to seed longevity and storage.
  • Olga Kildisheva (PhD; 2015 - present) Improving the outcomes of seed-based restoration in cold and warm deserts: an investigation into seed dormancy, germination and seed enhancement.
  • Simone Pedrini (PhD; 2015 - present) Application of seed coating and pelleting technologies to seed-based restoration.
  • Russell Miller (PhD; 2015 - present) Determining tolerable fire intervals of native species.
  • Ryan Tangney (PhD; 2015 - present) Fire intensity, seasonal variation and seed traits may influence seed fates in Banksia woodlands.
  • Alaa Shallal Nayyef (PhD; 2015 - present) Conservation of arid plants through improved understanding of seed biology.
  • Dr Todd Erickson (Research associate; 2013 - present) Restoration Seedbank Initiative.
  • Dr Miriam Munoz-Rojas (Research associate; 2013 - present) Restoration Seedbank Initiative.
  • Dr Shane Turner (Research associate; 2013 - present) Restoration Seedbank Initiative.

Past

  • Sadichhya Adhikari (MSc; 2017) Stylidium hispidum as a model species to investigate seed sourcing for ecological restoration under climate change.
  • Emma Dalziell (PhD; 2011 - 2016) Seed biology and ex situ storage behaviour of Australian Nymphaea: implications for conservation.
  • Todd Erickson (PhD; 2009 - 2015) 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.
  • Dr Lucy Commander (Research associate; 2010 - 2012) Investigating seed biology and optimising seed management to improve rehabilitation outcomes in the Pilbara.
  • Dr Rowena Long (Research associate; 2008 - 2011) A novel method of broad-acre weed seedbank management using a naturally occurring germination stimulant.
  • Dr Siti Hidayati (Research associate; 2007 - 2009) A physiological and biochemical basis for seed storage for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
  • Prof. Jeff Walck (Research associate; 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

Muñoz-Rojas M, Chillton A, Liyanage GS, Erickson TE, Merritt DJ, Neilan BA and Ooi MKJ (2018) Effects of indigenous soil cyanobacteria on seed germination and viability of arid species used in restoration. Plant and Soil 429: 91-100.

Tomlinson S, Dalziell EL, Withers PC, Lewandrowski W, Dixon KW and Merritt DJ (2018) Measuring metabolic rates of small terrestrial organisms by fluorescence-based closed-system respirometry. Journal of Experimental Biology 221: DOI: 10.1242/jeb.172874.

Huss JC, Schoeppler V, Merritt DJ, Best C, Maire E, Adrien J, Spӓker O, Janssen N, Gladisch J, Gierlinger, N, Miller BP, Fratzl P and Eder M (2017) Climate-dependent heat-triggered opening mechanism of Banksia seed pods. Advanced Science 5: DOI:10.1002/advs.201700572.

Offord CA, Guja LK, Turner SR and Merritt DJ (2017) Seeds at the forefront: Synthesis of the inaugural National Seed Science Forum and future directions in Australian seed science. Australian Journal of Botany 65: 601-608.

Erickson TE, Muñoz-Rojas M, Kildisheva OA, Stokes BA, White SA, Heyes JL, Dalziell EL, Lewandrowski W, James JJ, Madsen MD, Turner SR and Merritt DJ (2017) Benefits of adopting seed-based technologies for rehabilitation in the mining sector: a Pilbara perspective. Australian Journal of Botany 65: 646–660.

Erickson TE, Barrett RL, Merritt DJ and Dixon KW (eds) (2016) Pilbara Seed Atlas and Field Guide: Plant Restoration in Australia’s Arid Northwest. CSIRO Publishing, VIC.

Guzzomi AG, Erickson TE, Ling KY, Dixon KW and Merritt DJ (2016). Flash flaming effectively removes appendages and improves the seed coating potential of grass florets. Restoration Ecology 24(S2): S98-S105.

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 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.

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

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