School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th

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For information on other Rare Plant Biology - Conservation Biotechnology projects please contact:

Supervisor: Dr. Eric Bunn (phone: 9480 3647, email

Research area: “Conservation Genetics”

  1. Restoration genetics

How far from a restoration site can seed be collected whilst still maintaining the genetic integrity of the local population? At what point is there a negative impact on restoration success? How can we best delineate the scale of the local genetic provenance when dealing with highly diverse plant communities? And when do other considerations, such as seed source population properties, become more important than local provenance issues? Within this project, there is enormous scope for population genetic studies using a range of molecular markers such as microsatellites, as well as powerful new tools coming on line through development with next generation sequencing technologies. Other opportunities exist with ecological studies, pollination studies and landscape characterisation studies across a broad range of species individually or as an integrated study, to contribute to better outcomes in bushland rehabilitation. This project will focus on banksia woodland communities in the Perth metropolitan area.

Supervisors: Dr Siegy Krauss (;

  1. Assessing functionality in restored Banksia populations.

Ecological restoration of diverse native plant communities is an increasingly important conservation action. However, the functionality of restored populations through the delivery of pollinator services for seed production is increasingly recognized as critical for the long term viability of these restored communities. This project builds on previous research in restored Banksia woodland communities to assess functionality through a combination of field and molecular lab work. Bird and insect pollinators in restored populations will be contrasted to those in natural populations, and paternity assignment performed on seed from restored and natural populations to assess realized patterns of pollen dispersal, and the integration between restored and natural populations. This ecological genetic study will lead to improved guidelines for the ecological restoration of functional and resilient plant populations. Supervisors: Dr Siegy Krauss (

  1. Pollination ecology and reproductive biology of rare acacias.

Acacia karina is a narrow endemic, restricted to a handful of populations on ironstone in the mid-west of WA. Some of these populations are to be impacted by mining activities, and an understanding of the levels and structuring of genetic variation, and the processes impacting on this genetic variation, are required for management and conservation. This project applies newly developed microsatellite markers for the detailed assessment of realized mating patterns through an analysis of paternity, to generate new data on outcrossing rates and pollen dispersal. In addition, fieldwork during its flowering period will generate new data on pollinators, pollinator movement and behaviour, and the reproductive biology of A. karina. These data will

be interpreted in the context of assessing impacts of mining activities on the long-term viability of this species, and contribute novel information on the reproductive biology of acacias generally.

Supervisors: Dr Paul Nevill (; Dr Siegy Krauss (

  1. Local adaptation and outbreeding depression among native triggerplant (Stylidiaceae) populations Triggerplants (Stylidium) are model systems to address vital issues in seed sourcing for ecological restoration such as local adaptation and outbreeding depression. This project builds on more than 5 years of research in establishing second generation seed following large scale cross pollination manipulations and provenance field trials by Dr Kristina Hufford. In this project, you would utilize these seed to establish plants in reciprocal field trials in the Darling Range, and monitor the success of these plants for an assessment of home-site advantage and outbreeding depression. The question to be answered is whether the evidence for outbreeding depression found in the first generation offspring continues into the second generation. In addition, there is the opportunity to assess population genetic variation among these source populations with microsatellite markers. Ultimately, these data will contribute to genetic provenance maps for seed collection and improved outcomes for bushland restoration.

Supervisors: Dr Siegy Krauss ((; Dr Erik Veneklaas

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