School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th

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Agriculture Central Wing; Ph 6488 2208; Email:
Areas of interest

Y Phosphorus (P) dynamics in pastures and revegetated areas in the Peel Harvey region

Y Ability of native legumes to remediate hydrocarbon contamination of soil

Y Herbaceous native plants with novel P nutrition

Y Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and plant P nutrition

Y New annual and perennial pasture legumes
PROJECT TITLE: Effect of lowering the concentration of soil available P on competition among pasture species of differing P requirements and common pasture weeds.
BACKGROUND – P reserves are diminishing and there is an urgent need to reduce P use in farming systems. In pastures, P fertiliser use could be reduced through replacing current pasture legumes (ie subclover) with species with a lower critical P (ie species that reach maximum yield at a lower P level eg serradellas). However, it is unknown how a change in soil P would affect competition at germination among these legumes and other pasture species and weeds. This project would look at the competition between subclover, serradella, annual ryegrass and capeweed under a range of soil P levels.


Room 2.104 Agriculture Central Wing; Ph 6488 3584; Email:
Plant Physiological Ecology
My main interest is in how plants are affected by their environment (e.g. climatic and soil conditions), but also how plants affect their environment (e.g. invading weeds affecting native plant communities, revegetation effects on rehabilitated land, positive effects of companion crops and rotational crops, legumes mobilising soil P). The main factors of interest in SW Australia are water and mineral nutrients (especially P). Below is a list of possible topics, but I also welcome your own ideas! Do contact me if you want to know more!
Ecophysiology of native species under stress

  • Decline of SW Australian eucalypts (Eucalyptus wandoo). Our State Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health offers various opportunities to do research projects into tree declines that are occurring in woodlands and forests of the region, and appear to be related to reduced rainfall. Projects may include tree water relations, nutrition, pathology, competition, modelling, etc. For scholarship info see website ( Collaborations with Pieter Poot and Michael Renton. Martin Bader, Jerome Chopard and several others outside UWA.

  • Samphire ecophysiology at the Fortescue Marshes in the Pilbara: drought, flooding, salinity. Tissue tolerance, water use and C balance, root dynamics, population dynamics, ecohydrology Collaboration with Tim Colmer.

  • Fitness differences between different provenances of native species, and their crossbred offspring, exposed to abiotic stress. Collaboration with Siegy Krauss and Hans Lambers.

Plant water relations and ecohydrology

  • Ecological engineering and ecohydrology: achieving defined hydrological outcomes through optimal combinations of plant species and soil conditions. Collaboration with Christoph Hinz and Hans Lambers.

  • Dryland crops: water use efficiency and drought tolerance.

Photosynthesis and transpiration of native plants

  • Sclerophyllous leaves: are they physiologically and biochemically different or just a different way of ‘packaging’ photosynthetic tissue?

Plant nutrition

  • Phosphorus economy of native plants: relationships between P acquisition efficiency, P use efficiency, growth and dominance status in native ecosystems. Collaboration with Hans Lambers, Kingsley Dixon and Francois Teste.

  • Phosphorus use efficiency of crops.

  • Timing and placement of cluster roots – costs and benefits in terms of C and P.


School of Plant Biology & Australian Institute of Marine Biology, UWA Oceans Institute, Fairway, Ph. 6369 4047,
Thomas Wernberg’s main research interests are ecological interactions involving marine plants on and around subtidal reefs and in estuaries (e.g., the Swan River). His research has a strong empirical focus and relies on field and laboratory observations and experiments to tease apart the causes of species distribution in nature. He is particularly interested in the nexus between physiology, ecology and biogeography, and the need to understand current and future patterns of global change (climate change, invasive species, eutrophication).
Most, but not all, of his projects will require an ability to scuba dive, and many projects will require willingness to participate in field trips to remote coastal areas (e.g., temperate south coast, tropical northwest coast). Projects will be co-supervised by one or more of his current collaborators Prof Gary Kendrick (UWA), Dr. Dan Smale (UWA), Andrew Heyward (AIMS), Martial Depcynski (AIMS), Dr. Mat Vanderklift (CSIRO), and Dr. Mads Thomsen (Danish National Research Institute).
Project Ideas

  1. Ecology of macroalgae in coral reef lagoons;

  2. Distribution and diversity of coastal macroalgae in the Kimberley region;

  3. Influence of climate on reproduction, recruitment, growth, productivity and mortality of canopy algae;

  4. Temperature adaptation in marine macroalgae (ecophysiology);

  5. Combined effects of multiple stressors on macroalgae (e.g., temperature, pH and eutrophication);

  6. Consequences of ocean climate on seaweed-herbivore interactions;

  7. Biogeography of marine macroalgae;

  8. Comparative ecology and ecophysiology of invasive and non-invasive Caulerpa species;

  9. Interactions between an invasive snail (Battilaria australis), algae and seagrasses in the Swan River.


Room 2.129 Agriculture Central Wing; Ph 6488 1240; Email:
Research interests

My main research focuses on the understanding of interspecific and intergeneric genome relationships and genome interactions of wide hybrids using cytogenetic and molecular approaches. In collaboration with my colleagues, I worked on the breeding, genetics, identification of barriers to wide hybridization, cytoevolution, chromosome inheritance, molecular evolution, molecular phylogenetics and molecular marker-assisted breeding of Ziziphus, Actinidia, Chamelaucium, Verticordia, Boronia and Leucadendron. Currently, I am interested in understanding the reproductive biology, molecular genetics and cytogenetics of Proteaceous plants, Brassica and field pea wide hybridisation and barley and wheat genomics and proteomics. I strongly believe that the best way to conserve biodiversity is to bring the plants to cultivation through collection, selection and breeding.
Project Ideas

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