School of plant biology research Project ideas for Prospective 4th

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Unit 1, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, UWA ALBANY; Ph 9842 0842; Email


I’ve developed theory (Plant & Soil 322: 49-86 2009) centred on the importance of OCBILs (old,

climatically-buffered, infertile landscapes) as drivers of accentuated evolution and ecological relationships rarely investigated, but prominent in the Southwest Australian and South Africa’s Greater Cape Floristic Regions, in Venezuela’s pantepui, parts of Brazil, eastern Australia, etc. Novel biological and ethnobotanical discovery abounds in this context.

If you enjoy field work, amongst collaborative cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural teams, and working in a well-resourced Centre offering modern research training and capability, consider the UWA Albany option for your honours or higher degree project (see
Potential Honours projects include:

  • Quantification and definition of OCBILs in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region

  • Understanding rarity, endemism and local dispersal in Haemodoraceae (Conostylis or the kangaroo paws)

  • Biological specialisation and restoration of herbfields of granite outcrops

  • The James Effect tested in eucalypts on OCBILs

  • Conservation, ethnobotany and land management on OCBILs

  • Accentuated persistence of old herbaceous lineages in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region

  • The Semiarid Cradle hypothesis tested with Haemodoraceae and eucalypts

  • Pollination ecology and the accentuated persistence of old herbaceous lineages in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region

  • Phylogenetics and pollination ecology of disputed subspecies in two Banksia species of the south coast

  • Comparative pollination ecology of generalist-pollinated versus vertebrate-pollinated eucalypts

  • Regional pollination ecology of Hakea laurina as a keystone species in the Great Southern

  • Urban pollination ecology: interactions of native and exotic players

  • Molecular phylogenetics and taxonomy of Eucalyptus tetraptera and related species

  • Species relationships and biology of the south coast endemic red and green kangaroo paws

  • Floristics and seed biology of gnamma (rock pool) plants

  • The impact of spraying phosphite to manage dieback in plant communities

  • The role of inter-fire recruitment in maintaining populations of long-unburnt obligate seeding bradysporous species

  • Pollination biology of the critically endangered Banksia montana in the Stirling Range

  • Honey possums, dieback disease and local extinction

  • Are lizard traps effective on granite rocks?

  • Were eucalypts dispersed by Noongars to inland granite rocks?

  • Remapping Yingilit’s boodja (country) between Denmark and Albany

  • Taxonomy of new species of eucalypts on the South Coast

  • Cross-cultural studies of grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea)


Room 1.123, Plant Biology First floor; Ph 6488 1484; Email:


The Plant Virology program at UWA under Prof. Roger Jones is a collaborative one with the Plant Virology research team at the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) headed by Ms Brenda Coutts. All projects will have the benefit and security of joint supervision and enjoy a strong network of support from UWA and DAFWA. It is this groups’ vision to foster plant virology interest and skills development in each generation of students passing through UWA.
We currently have active research activities studying virus diseases and their vectors in grains (currently of wheat, canola, pea, lupin), vegetables (cucurbits, potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, brassicas), pasture plants (tedera, annual medic) and wildflowers. Examples include projects developing innovative real-time PCR procedures for large-scale detection of mite and fungus vectored viruses of wheat; identifying the cause of black pod syndrome in lupin; studying the resistance phenoptypes and genes controlling them in germpasm of brassica species including canola, mustards and diverse vegetable brassicas; investigating the genes controlling resistance to aphid-vectored and contact transmitted viruses in potato; unraveling the cause of viroid outbreaks in tomato; and studying the etiology and epidemiology of Solanaceous vegetable viruses in WA. Also, a program is planned that will look at the causes, impact and epidemiology of virus diseases infecting new alternative pasture legumes and grasses.
Research is also underway to identify and understand the biological and molecular properties of viruses threatening native plants at the interface between natural and managed vegetation, at mine sites and in wildflower nurseries.

Examples of 4th Year Project, BSc Honours or MSc Ideas:

Characterisation of virus resistance pathotypes and genes in faba and common bean. Some faba and common bean cultivars contain resistance genes specific to different virus pathotypes. We need to unravel the relationships between virus pathotypes and cultivars with resistance.

How do perennial pasture species respond to invasion by viruses? We know surprisingly little about the threats posed to perennial pasture legumes by viruses. Given the considerable research activity currently underway on perennial pasture grasses and legumes at UWA, we are ideally placed to study this here.

Understanding breakdown of virus resistance in cucurbit cultivars in tropical and subtropical environments. Single virus gene resistance in cucurbits is effective overseas but not in Western Australia. We urgently need to understand why this is so since virus disease currently threatens continuation of the states cucurbit industry.

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