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Research Scientist (Conservation Genetics)
Biodiversity Conservation Centre
Kattidj Close
Kings Park Western Australia 6005
(+61 8) 9480 3631

Research themes

  • Patterns of diversity and adaptation in desert spinifex (Triodia, Poaceae).
  • Phylogeny of wax flowers, featherflowers and bells (Myrtaceae subtribe Chamelauciinae).
  • Population structure, mating systems and dispersal in Banded Ironstone short range endemic species (Darwinia masonii and Lepidosperma gibsonii).
  • Diversification of the Kimberley flora, with emphasis on radiations associated with sandstone.
  • Origin and radiation of Australian Arum lilies (Araceae tribe Areae: Typhonium and Lazarum).
  • Systematics and taxonomy of Centrolepis (Centrolepidaceae).
  • Systematics and speciation in Australian sword sedges (Lepidosperma), with Dr. Russell Barrett.
  • Taxonomy and systematics of the Australian topical fungi.
  • Conservation of the Western Australian flora.

Academic background

I have studied the plants and fungi of the Kimberley region for over 20 years, having initially developed an interest while growing up on my parent's cattle station on the Gibb River Road. In conjunction with my brother Russell, I have made over 7000 collections of Kimberley plants, and over 1000 collections of Kimberley fungi. Many of these collections represent previously unknown species, or new records for Western Australia. In collaboration with other national and international expers, our studies have resulted in publications of many new species in many genera, including Grevillea, Goodenia, Typhonium, Micraira, Triodia, Backhousia, Calytrix, and fungi in the genera Inocybe, Agaricus, Moreaua, Tilletia, Eriocortex and Xerula. Further papers describing new Kimberley species in Acacia, Hypoxis, Lomandra, Borya, Centrolepis, Typhonium/Lazarum, Lechenaultia, Micraira, Triodia and Lepidostroma are in preparation. Many of the new species are rare and have restricted distributions, and highlight the importance of intensive surveys for assessing conservation priorities.

After graduating from Science and Engineering degrees at the University of Western Australia, I took up a PhD project investigating genetic diversity and hybridisation in waxflowers (Chamelaucium, Myrtaceae) based at Kings Park and Botanic Garden. This project resulted in the recognition of four distinct forms within the cultivated waxflower (Chamelaucium uncinatum), and provided methods to identify weed populations from native populations, and made several recommendations for protection of genetic diversity of native populations, and also for conservation of the now rare 'Geraldton' forms, which paradoxically occur as weed populations in some areas.

After graduating from my PhD in 2006, I undertook a post-doc position at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority investigating general biology and conservation (especially genetic diversity, mating systems and dispersal) in two restricted DRF taxa Darwinia masonii and Lepidosperma gibsonii, on Banded Ironstone formation in the Midwest region of Western Australia.

Currently I am employed at the University of Western Australia (based at Kings Park) on an ARC Linkage grant 'Defining biologically significant units in spinifex (Triodia spp.) for improved ecological restoration in arid Australia', with Pauline Grierson (UWA), Siegy Krauss, Kevin Thiele (DEC), Kingsley Dixon, and Chuck Price (UWA).
This project is investigating systematics of spinifexes in north-western Australia, population genetics and the implications for seed sourcing in the Pilbara regions of WA, and biogeographical history of north-western Australia.

Academic qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Science (Horticulture) at University of Western Australia, entitled 'Molecular Ecology of Chamelaucium uncinatum (Myrtaceae) and Related Species, and Applications to Plant Breeding and Conservation'. Graduated September 2006.
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Materials) at University of Western Australia. Completed 1997.
  • Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) at University of Western Australia. Completed 1995.

Major projects

  • (2012-2015): Post-doctoral researcher on ARC Linkage project:'Defining biologically significant units in spinifex (Triodia spp.) for improved ecological restoration in arid Australia'. This project is investigating systematics of spinifexes in north-western Australia, population genetics and the implications for seed sourcing in the Pilbara regions of WA, and biogeographical history of north-western Australia.
  • (2006 - 2010): An integrated research program into practical outcomes for the ex situ and in situ conservation, restoration and translocation of Lepidosperma sp. 'Mt Gibson'.
  • (2006 - ): Molecular systematics of the genus Lepidosperma (Cyperaceae) (in collaboration with Dr. Russell Barrett, Dr. Jeremy Bruhl, University of New England and Dr. Karen Wilson, Sydney Botanic Garden.
  • (2005 - ): Molecular systematics of Chamelaucium, Verticordia, Darwinia and related genera (Myrtaceae: Chamelaucieae) (in collaboration with Dr Peter Wilson, Sydney Botanic Garden).
  • (2004 - 2010): An integrated research program into practical outcomes for the ex situ and in situ conservation, restoration and translocation of Darwinia masonii.
  • (2002 - 2005): Interspecific hybridisation of waxflower (Chamelaucium uncinatum) in Bold Park, an urban bushland in Perth, Western Australia.
  • (1998 - 2001): Control of Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) on Airlie Island, Western Australia.

Selected publications

  • Vanky K, Shivas RG, Barrett MD and Lutz M (2013) Eriocortex eriocauli, gen. et sp. nov. (Ustilaginomycetes) from Australia. Mycobiota 1: 9-16.
  • Description of Agaricus lamelliperdidtus Lebel and M.D. Barrett in Lebel T (2013) Two new species of sequestrate Agaricus (section Minores) from Australia. Mycological Progress DOI 10.1007/s11557-012-0879-x
  • Harrington, M.G., Jackes, B.R., Barrett, M.D., Craven, L.A. and Barrett, R.L (2012) Phylogenetic revision of tribe Backhousieae (Myrtaceae): Neogene divergence, a revised circumscription of Backhousia and two new species. Australian Systematic Botany 25: 404-417
  • Description of Inocybe torresiae Matheny, Bougher and M.D. Barrett in Bougher NL, Matheny PB and Gates GM (2012) Five new species and records of Inocybe (Agaricales) from temperate and tropical Australia. Nuytsia 22(2): 57-74.
  • Barrett MD, Wallace MJ and Anthony JM 2012. Characterisation and cross application of ten novel microsatellite markers for a rare sword sedge, Lepidosperma gibsonii (Cyperaceae). American Journal of Botany 99: e14-e16.
  • Thornhill A, Wilson P, Drudge J, Barrett MD, Hope G, Craven L, Crisp M. 2012. Pollen Morphology of the Myrtaceae Part 3. Tribes Chamelaucieae, Leptospermeae and Lindsayomyrteae. Australian Journal of Botany 60: 165-199.
  • Barrett RL, Barrett MD 2011. Two new species of Triodia (Poaceae: Triodieae) from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Telopea 13: 57-67.
  • Phillips RD, Barrett MD, Dixon KW, Hopper SD. 2011. Do mycorrhizal symbioses cause rarity in orchids? Journal of Ecology 99: 858-869. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01797.x
  • Shivas RG, Barrett MD, Barrett RL, Vanky K 2011. Two new species of Moreaua (Ustilaginomycetes) from Actinoschoenus and Chrysitrix, from Western Australia. Mycologia Balanica 8: 137-140.
  • Wallace, M. J., Barrett, M. D. and Barrett, R. L. (2011). Novel chloroplast markers for the study of intraspecific variation and hybridisation in the Lepidosperma costale species complex (Cyperaceae). Conservation Genetics Resources 3: 355-360.
  • Cusimano N, Barrett, MD, Hetterscheid WLA and Renner SS. 2010. A phylogeny of the Areae (Araceae) implies that Typhonium, Sauromatum, and the Australian species of Typhonoum are distinct clades. Taxon 59: 439-47.
  • George AS and Barrett MD. 2010. Two new taxa of Verticordia (Myrtaceae: Chamelaucieae) from south-western Australia. Nuytsia 20: 309-318.
  • Sinclair EA, Anthony J, Coupland GT, Waycott M, Barrett MD, Barrett RL, Cambridge ML, Wallace, MJ, Dixon KW, Krauss SL and Kendrick GA. 2009. Characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite markers in the widespread Australian seagrass, Posidonia australis Hook. f. (Posidoniaceae), with cross-amplification in the sympatric P. sinuosa. Conservation Genetic Resources 1: 273-276.
  • Barrett MD, Craven LA and Barrett RL 2009. Calytrix gomphrenoides (Myrtaceae), a new species from the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Nuytsia 19(1): 1-8.
  • Barrett MD, Barrett RL, Shivas RG, andMcTaggart AR (2009) Tilletia micrairae. Fungal Planet 33. Persoonia 22, 170-171.
  • R.H.Petersen and M.D.Barrett 2008. Xerula flavo-olivacea var. kimberleyana R.H.Petersen and M.D.Barrett. In: Petersen, R.H. (2008): The genus Xerula (Agaricales; Fungi) in Australia and New Zealand. - Nova Hedwigia 87: 1-67.
  • Descriptions of Micraira brevis M.D. Barrett and R.L. Barrett and M. sp. A In: M. Lazarides, 2005. Micraira, Flora of Australia Vol. 44B, Poaceae 3.
  • Dixon, I.R., Dixon, K.D. and Barrett, M.D. 2002. Eradication of Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) on Airlie Island, off the Pilbara coast, Western Australia. In: C.R. Veitch and M.N. Clout (Eds), Turning the Tide: The eradication of invasive species. Proceedings of the International Conference on Eradication of Island Invasives, Auckland, NZ, February 2001.
  • Krauss SL, Dixon K, Hood P, Barrett M. 2001. Practical outcomes in conservation genetics of Australian plants. In: "Promotion, Practise and Partnerships". Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation. ANPC, Canberra
  • Description of Goodenia psammophila Sage and M.D. Barrett In: Sage, L. 2001. Three new species of Goodenia from the Kimberley. Nuytsia 13(3): 351-357.
  • Descriptions of Grevillea microstyla M.D. Barrett and Makinson and G. maherae Makinson and M.D. Barrett In: R.O. Makinson, 2000. Grevillea, Flora of Australia Vol. 17A, Proteaceae 2, Grevillea. Melbourne: ABRS/CSIRO Australia.
  • Hay, A., Barrett, M.D. and Barrett, R.L. (1999). A new Species of Typhonium from the Kimberley Region. Nuytsia 13(1): 243-245.
  • Barrett, R.L., Barrett, M.D., Start, A.N. and Dixon, K.W. 2001. Flora survey of the Yampi Sound Defence Training Area, Derby, Western Australia. Report to the Australian Heritage Commission.
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