School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th

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Room 2.127 Agriculture Central Wing; Ph 6488 2491; Email: Co-affiliation with the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW).
Plant Conservation Biology/Plant Ecophysiology SW Australia is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots as a result of its extraordinary plant diversity and the great threats that many species face. Over 50% of the flora is endemic with many of these species restricted to a small geographic range. However, other species are much more widespread. I am interested in better understanding the reasons for these large differences in success amongst species, the key traits that determine success in particular habitats and how these traits are related to the persistence of species under climate change. Projects can include glasshouse or field studies and physiological as well as morphological measurements and can include a range of co- supervisors within our Faculty, Kings Park or DEC. Possible projects could involve:

  1. Comparing traits of several closely related species that are restricted to particular habitats. Closely related species that occur in the same region but in different habitats (e.g. granite outcrop, jarrah forest, heathland) are likely to be very similar, except in those traits that are essential for success in their own habitat.

  1. Comparing traits of populations of a common species that occur in different habitats. In this case the different populations of a species may have already evolved into different ‘ecotypes’, each adapted to their own particular habitat, or the species is simply very plastic and acclimates to the different environmental conditions in each habitat it occurs in.

  1. Comparing closely related rare and common species. Closely related rare and common species within the same genus are likely to differ in traits associated with their relative success.

  1. Determining success of rare flora translocation. DPaW is responsible for the conservation of our rare and threatened flora. For many of the critically endangered species either Interim or Full Recovery Plans have been written or are currently being prepared. Due to the large number of declared flora species and the many DPaW officers involved in managing them, there are numerous possibilities for projects, including defining a species’ critical habitat, its physiological/ecological requirements, and comparing the ‘health’ of translocated versus natural populations.

  1. Weed biology/ecology

For many of our declared rare flora weeds are listed as one of the major threats. However, a lack of knowledge of the biology of many weed species hampers our efforts to eradicate them. Often an increase in nutrient and/or water availability (e.g. on roadsides) is thought to give weeds an advantage. Possible projects could involve glasshouse studies that compare growth and development of some major weed species, with that of native species they compete with, under different levels of watering and nutrition.
Metropolitan Turf Research (in collaboration with Tim Colmer and Louise Barton)

Within the Perth metropolitan area I am also involved in turf research aiming at conserving water by decreasing turf’s dependence on irrigation. Possible projects could involve glasshouse trials with a range of turf species to examine their drought tolerance and to test the effectiveness of a range of organic and inorganic soil amendments on increasing our sandy soil’s water holding capacity.
→→Of course I’m more than happy to discuss and consider any of your own project ideas ! ←←

WINTHROP PROFESSOR STEPHEN POWLES & Dr’s Roberto Busi, Danica Goggin, Michael Walsh and Qin Yu


Room G.008 Agriculture North Wing; Ph 6488 7833; Email:
AHRI is a GRDC and ARC funded multi-disciplinary research team investigating herbicide resistance in weed and crop species. Full details of AHRI people and research projects can be seen on the website
Potential AHRI supervisors for 2015 student research projects are Prof. Powles, Dr’s Busi, Goggin, Walsh, Yu.
Each year, students undertake their final year research project within AHRI. Some students who see their future in broadacre cropping undertake applied projects whereas others acquire more fundamental training by undertaking a biochemical/genetics based research project. Because of the diverse projects underway in AHRI (see website, fourth year students can conduct research ranging from biochemistry and molecular genetics of resistance, simulation modeling of crop weed management, herbicide evaluations in the lab, glasshouse and field, agro-ecology of resistance, seedbank dynamics, through to on-farm management. We aim for students to undertake a research project of sufficient quality to result in them being an author on a scientific paper published in an international research journal.
AHRI has close contacts with grain growers, farmer groups, public and private sector crop agronomists and with CSIRO, Department of Agriculture & Food and other agencies and there is the opportunity to work with individuals from these groups.
AHRI research projects for 2015 embrace a number of crops and weeds of direct relevance to broadacre Australian cropping.

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