Table of contents school of plant biology introduction


Department of AGRICULTURE AND FOOD wESTERN AUSTRALIA



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Department of AGRICULTURE AND FOOD wESTERN AUSTRALIA



ADJ. SENIOR LECTURER Manisha Shankar

Senior Plant Pathologist, Department of Agriculture and Food, South Perth

Ph: 9368 3533; Email: mshankar@agric.wa.gov.au
Phenotyping for seedling resistance and adult plant resistance to yellow spot of wheat in a doubled haploid mapping population fixed for 5BL locus

The project deals with evaluation of seedling plant response to yellow spot in the glasshouse and adult plant resistance in the field. Good progress has been made internationally to understand resistance to yellow spot (causal fungus Pyrenophora tritici-repentis) of wheat and this work has helped identify the main resistance factor in Australian germplasm being toxin insensitivity at the 5BL locus, tsn1. Limited understanding exists on the extent of occurrence of tsn1 in Australian breeding material and yet there appears to be considerable variation in response to yellow spot resistance among tsn1 carrying lines that could, when understood, provide significant opportunity to enhance expression of resistance in Australian germplasm, additional to the moderate resistance achieved with the 5BL tsn1 locus.


Field phenotyping for resistance to septoria tritici blotch of wheat in a doubled haploid mapping population

This project deals with evaluation of adult plant response to septoria tritici blotch in a field nursery. Septoria tritici blotch (STB) (causal fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola) is a major disease of wheat growing regions of the world. Resistance to M. graminicola is simply inherited and may be controlled by one or two dominant or partially dominant genes. Research groups in Europe have identified several genes conferring resistance to STB in wheat. The vast pathological variation in M. graminicola, its capacity to overcome resistance and its rapidly developing genomics across the globe, stresses the importance of a better understanding of the existing resistance genes in the Australian germplasm.



Adj. Assoc. prof. daniel real

Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, Pasture Science Group, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA 6151 Ph: 9368 3879 Email: daniel.real@agric.wa.gov.au


Research Interests
As a participant of the Future Farm Industries CRC, my research interest is in perennial forage legume breeding. Specific projects can be developed to suit student’s interest within our breeding program in Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata). For further details please contact me by email: daniel.real@agric.wa.gov.au

Department of Environment and Conservation



The department has the lead responsibility for conserving Western Australia’s biodiversity and the protection, sustainable use and enjoyment of the State’s natural environment. It provides a clear focus on key environmental and biodiversity conservation priorities such as the sustainable use of our natural resources, climate change and greenhouse gases, introduced pest plants, animals and diseases, salinity and other land, air and water quality issues. It manages 27 million hectares covering the State’s national parks, marine parks, conservation parks, State forests and timber reserves, nature reserves, marine nature reserves and marine management areas. The department is also responsible for fire preparedness and pest animal and weed control on 89 million hectares of unallocated Crown land and unmanaged reserves.
Flora Conservation and herbarium program 2010-2011

Science division
The Flora Conservation and Herbarium Program is one of eight thematic programs within the Department of Environment and Conservation’s Science Division. Key research activities include developing an improved understanding of factors and processes that are critical for the conservation of the State’s plant diversity and taxonomic and molecular taxonomic studies on the State’s flora. Ensuring the persistence of rare and threatened species, ameliorating key threats such as dieback and weeds, developing threatened species reintroduction methodologies and improving our understanding of genetic and ecological factors that are vital for the long term viability of plant species are major objectives.
Contact: Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au

Science Division

Department of Environment and Conservation

Email:dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.ao

Phone: 08 9334 0490
Research Theme: Genetic and ecological consequences of small population processes, rarity and habitat fragmentation
Genetic and ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation and population viability in key species in the Dongolocking area of the Wheatbelt and the Swan Coastal Plain

This project will build on studies already underway in this area that aim to understand and quantify how genetic and demographic processes interact to influence the viability and long-term conservation value of native plant populations in remnant vegetation, and relate this to easily measured landscape and population parameters. This information can then be used to identify and prioritize high viability remnants for in-situ conservation and assess the value of small remnants in maintaining connectivity in the landscape by facilitating pollen movement and thus gene flow. The project also aims to test conservation genetics theory regarding the genetic deterioration of small fragmented populations but focuses on common species rather than rare species. This is important since it is the more abundant species that are the critical components of landscapes with regard to maintenance of broader ecosystem function such as hydrology and nutrient cycling, as well as provision of habitat for other native organisms. This project will involve the use of molecular genetic and field base ecological and demographic techniques.


Further Information: Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Margaret Byrne, margaret.byrne@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Colin Yates, colin.yates@dec.wa.gov.au
How does population size and isolation affect pollinator visitation, flowering, pollination, seed production and seedling fitness in the rare Acacia woodmaniorum
The recently discovered Acacia woodmaniorum is endemic to the Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) ranges of Western Australia. The rare species is known from an area of only 40km2 and may be placed under threat from future mining operations. The project will investigate various aspects of pollination biology, including the determination of key pollinators and what affect population size and isolation has flowering, pollination, seed production and seedling fitness. Information on these aspects of pollination biology will further inform us about the patterns of pollen dispersal, that ultimately influence patterns of genetic variation in this species. The research is important for the ongoing management of natural populations that ensures any impacts from mining activities are minimised. This project will involve field based ecological and demographic techniques as well as glasshouse based work and will tie in with a larger study on fine scale genetic structure and patterns of gene flow in A. woodmaniourm.
Further Information: Dr David Coates (08 9334 0490), dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Melissa A Millar (08 9334 0303), melissa.millar@dec.wa.gov.au


Genetic and ecological consequences of rarity in the critically endangered ghost wattle Acacia sciophanes
Acacia sciophanes is an extremely rare species covering a geographic range of less than 7 Km. It is currently listed as threatened and ranked as Critically Endangered occurring in a heavily fragmented landscape where much of the native vegetation has been cleared for agricultural production. It develops into a diffuse, openly branched, wispy shrub up to 2.3 m tall and is closely related to a more common species Acacia anfractuosa that occurs over a range of some 200km. Previous studies indicate that it is characterised by reduced genetic diversity and increased inbreeding in its two populations but there is no clear evidence for inbreeding depression and reduced reproductive output influencing the viability of these populations. The aim of this project will be to expand previous mating system, genetic diversity and ecological studies to determine which key factors if any will limit the viability and long term survival of this species. This project will involve the use of molecular genetic and field base ecological and demographic techniques
Further Information: Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Colin Yates, colin.yates@dec.wa.gov.au


Pollen dispersal and gene flow among fragmented populations of Eremaea pauciflora in the wheatbelt

Gene flow is a fundamental element of evolutionary processes maintaining cohesion of species. Pollen dispersal is a major component of gene flow in shrubs in south-west WA and recent studies have shown that pollen dispersal can be very extensive even in fragmented landscapes. This project will investigate the patterns of pollen dispersal in the Myrtaceous shrub Eremaea pauciflora in the Dongolocking region and complements previous ecological work on reproductive biology on the species in this area. Highly polymorphic microsatellite markers have been developed for the species to facilitate paternity assignment of seed crops. Knowledge of pollen dispersal is important for management of remnant populations and rehabilitation programs.


Further Information: Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Margaret Byrne, margaret.byrne@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Colin Yates, colin.yates@dec.wa.gov.au
Species patterns in orchids in a fragmented landscape

Orchids are very species-rich in Western Australia, and many are restricted and threatened. Orchid taxonomy in fragmented landscapes is made more difficult by the fragmentation – many pieces of the puzzle are lacking. In particular, some populations that appear to constitute distinct species may not have appeared distinct before clearing, when the full range of variation would have been evident. Anecdotal evidence suggests that changes in the ecology of remnants (e.g. through changed fire regimes and local extinction of fossorial mammals) may be promoting clonality in orchid populations, further adding to the apparent distinctness of some taxa. This project will assess detailed population-level patterns in a number of orchid taxa in the fragmented wheatbelt, to assess species boundaries and taxonomic distinctiveness.


Further Information: Dr Kevin Thiele, kevin.thiele@dec.wa.goc.au
Research Theme: Molecular taxonomy, phylogeny and evolutionary patterns
Hybridisation and the origin of a new species in Stylidium caricifolium complex

The Stylidium caricifolium (Stylidiaceae) complex consists of seven currently recognized species and a taxon of putative hybrid origin. These taxa vary in geographical distribution from widespread, extending over a range of 500 km, to extremely localized covering a range of only 0.5 km. The taxon of putative hybrid origin is geographically restricted and rare and has yet to be formally recognised although it is likely to be a new species. To date hybridisation has not been considered an important process in the evolution of the south-west flora although it has recently proven to be a complicating factor in assessing the taxonomic status of a number of Critically Endangered Flora. Studies suggest that this rare Stylidium taxon is a distinct species that has evolved following past hybridisation between S. caricifolium and S. affine. The aim of this project is to further investigate the origin of this putative hybrid taxon using molecular genetic markers such as cp DNA and also re-assess the importance of hybridisation in the evolution and conservation of the south-west flora. This project will involve field surveys and the use of molecular genetic and phylogenetic techniques.


Further Information: Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au
Phylogenetic and phylogeographic studies on highly endemic plants on the Banded Ironstone Formation ranges.

The Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) ranges of Western Australia have a unique flora and fauna, with high species endemism on at least some ranges, and are under threat from mining operations. An understanding of the history of species evolution on these ranges will be important information for helping assess threats. Information on the phylogeny of Tetratheca suggests that some BIF endemic taxa are allied to endemic taxa on other BIF ranges, while others are related to geographically widely distant species. This project will develop molecular phylogenies for targeted genera that have endemic species on the BIF ranges and search for congruent patterns in their phylogenies to elucidate any common phytogeographic history for the ranges.


Further Information Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Margaret Byrne, margaret.byrne@dec.wa.gov.au



Phylogeny of the small-flowered Myrtaceae

The small-flowered Myrtaceae (tribe Chamelaucieae) are an extremely species-rich group in Western Australia, including many important and spectacular genera such as Chamelaucium, Darwinia, Thryptomene and Baeckea. Many new species and some new genera are currently being described through revisionary work in progress by Barbara Rye and Malcolm Trudgen at the Western Australian Herbarium. This project will develop a phylogeny for the group using both molecular and morphological data, for the purpose of testing generic, infrageneric and subtribal classifications in the Chamelaucieae.


Further Information: Dr Kevin Thiele, kevin.thiele@dec.wa.gov.au
Investigation of taxonomic boundaries in the Tetratheca hirsuta complex:

The Australian genus Tetratheca (black-eyed susan) has its centre of diversity in WA, where 70% of all species occur. Many of these have been recently described as new, and many have restricted distributions and are conservation listed as Priority or Threatened flora. Tetratheca hirsuta is a widespread and morphologically variable species which appears to have a number of distinct (and intergrading) geographic forms; two of these forms are recognised as Priority listed taxa under informal phrase-names. Taxonomic research on the T. hirsuta complex is needed to determine whether these should be described as new and to assess the significance of morphological patterns across this species’ range. This study would include field work across the Swan Coastal Plain, Darling Scarp and the south-west forests and employ a combination of morphological and molecular analysis tools to investigate taxon boundaries in this attractive group of plants.


Further Information: Ryonen Butcher, ryonen.butcher@dec.wa.goc.au

Visualising, exploring and traversing the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is a branching tree-structure used to represent phylogenetic relationships among all the world’s organisms. The Tree is both an integrative and explanatory structure – all known information about organisms can be placed at some level on the Tree of Life. New programs and initiatives in biodiversity informatics (such as the Atlas of Living Australia and the Encyclopedia of Life) seek to develop sophisticated, web-based tools for deploying information about organisms. The Tree of Life is increasingly seen as an ideal structure for exploring, visualizing and traversing the information webs envisaged by these projects. But our current methods for representing it are primitive and underwhelming. This project seeks a unique person – someone with an interest in evolutionary biology but who also is skilled in computer programming and gaming technologies – to explore new ways of representing the Tree of Life and develop and test prototype streaming Tree of Life Navigators.


Further Information: Dr Kevin Thiele, kevin.thiele@dec.wa.goc.au
Research Theme: Seed biology and reintroductions of threatened flora
Assessment of temperature thresholds for seed germination in south west Western Australian species in relation to climate change scenarios

Current climate models predict rising temperatures and declining winter rainfall across much of fire-prone southern Western Australia. These changes have the potential to impact on the Region’s rich plant diversity. One plant characteristic that may respond to climate change is germination, with some species possibly vulnerable to even modest changes in temperature. Successful regeneration after disturbance such as fire may be adversely affected. This project would see the screening of selected SW WA species for their tolerance to a range of temperatures during germination and early seedling performance to provide a more precise understanding of the likely impact of predicted rising temperatures on these critical periods in a plants life cycle.


Further Information: Anne Cochrane, anne.cochrane@dec.wa.gov.au
Development of guidelines for use of artificial disturbance in flora management and threatened species recovery

The process of plant colonisation and establishment in many areas has been altered through human intervention and the management of threatened flora is increasingly relying on artificial disturbance to stimulate recruitment. Despite knowing that many threatened species require disturbance for recruitment, application of artificial disturbance treatments often fail to achieve their desired outcome. The nature, frequency and timing of disturbance are important for successful recruitment but using limited seed resources of threatened flora from ex situ collections in field investigations can be wasteful. With limited seed resources, it may be more appropriate to germinate seed under controlled conditions (eg temperature, moisture, predators) and plant the resultant seedlings. In the light of this, it would be prudent to establish disturbance guidelines based on surrogate common species as a priority. This project would investigate the nature of artificial disturbance that would provide the most effective result for recruitment and survival for plant species and to provide guidelines for their use in flora management and threatened species reintroduction.


Further Information: Anne Cochrane, anne.cochrane@dec.wa.gov.au
Good things come in small packages: seed biology of the triggerplants

Stylidium (the triggerplants) is a large and iconic plant group with more than 250 species in Western Australia, a significant proportion of which are rare, geographically restricted or poorly known. The genus is the subject of ongoing taxonomic research and seed banking efforts within DEC, however, to date there has been little research conducted on aspects of seed biology and morphology. This project will investigate the germination characteristics, seed coat morphology (using SEM), and seedling growth forms of both common and rare, and annual and perennial species of Stylidium. It will provide information fundamental to the conservation and management of threatened triggerplants as well as improving our systematic understanding of the genus.
Further Information: Andrew Crawford, andrew.crawford@dec.wa.gov.au

Anne Cochrane, anne.cochrane@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr Juliet Wege, juliet.wege@dec.wa.gov.au
Determining success criteria for reintroductions of threatened plants

Plant reintroductions are now recognised as a key management tool for preventing the extinction of species in the wild. They involve the planting of seed, seedlings or vegetatively propagated plants into an area where the plant formerly or currently occurs or to a new safe location. Plant reintroductions aim to create or maintain viable self sustaining populations yet developing criteria that can readily assess this objective is difficult particularly in long lived woody shrubs that make up many of Western Australia’s Critically Endangered Plants. This project will assess the use of novel techniques that may include eco-physiological approaches, use of molecular markers to estimate mating systems and population viability analysis as possible indicators of long term reintroduction success.


Further Information: Leonie Monks, anne.cochrane@dec.wa.gov.au

Dr David Coates, dave.coates@dec.wa.gov.au


Research Theme: Control and management of Phytophthora dieback
The use of high intensity phosphite techniques to control Phytophthora cinnamomi (Dieback)

Determination of the biology and epidemiology of Phytophthora cinnamomi, the major threat to the flora in the South Coast Region is important for implementing appropriate management options for the control of this pathogen. Further, understanding of the efficacy of high intensity phosphite for the control of P. cinnamomi would provide more options for the management of infested areas. The aim of this project is to advance our understanding of disease biology and epidemiology of P. cinnamomi in the native plant communities within the National Parks of the South Coast Region of Western Australia and to demonstrate the use of novel phosphite control techniques to reduce the impact of P. cinnamomi within the Threatened Ecological Communities of the Stirling Range National Park and Bell Track infestation in the Fitzgerald River National Park.


Further Information: Dr Chris Dunne, chris.dunne@dec.wa.gov.au


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