Developing large-scale seed propagation treatments for species-rich mining environments

Re-seeding the forests with native plants

Rehabilitation of mined landscapes in the Jarrah Forest ecosystems of south-west Western Australia involves large-scale application of species-rich seed mixes. To improve seed use efficiency for species with problematic propagation requirements this project aims to develop a range of ecologically informed dormancy and seed enhancement technology applications.

Within a PhD program there is the potential to study a number of areas focussed on seed recruitment ecology of problematic species (such as for seeds from the Hibbertia genus):

  • Intra- and inter-specific variation between populations or collections years. This could include laboratory-based measures of depth of initial seed dormancy amongst populations, defined through response to smoke (including focus on plasticity in smoke response), and wet/dry and stratification treatments to characterise species or population differences and to refine procedures to increase the germination response.
  • Dormancy status/cycling in the soil seed bank (and role of smoke in this) through burial and retrieval studies, to examine dormancy loss in soil, including timing of onset and rate of embryo-growth, timing and rate of emergence, seed persistence in soil. These types of burial experiments have not been conducted in detail for Jarrah forest ecosystems, and they could include comparisons of seeds in forest vs rehab sites.
  • The efficacy of the lab-based dormancy pre-treatments in promoting seedling emergence of seeds sown in rehabilitation, overlayed with timing of seed sowing, or other treatments including priming in smoke/KAR, could also be a focus.
  • Along with the ecophysiology work, experiments would encompass approaches to develop reliable and practical germination promoting pre-treatments. Based on previous work, this would focus at least initially on variations of wet/dry cycling treatments, including efforts to simplify the number of steps whilst maximising the benefit and repeatability (through considering timing/duration of exposure to different temperatures or watering treatments, the role of light/dark at different stages, timing of application of smoke).

Project goals:

  1. Develop ecologically informed seed dormancy break treatments for species with problematic germination requirements from Jarrah Forest mine rehabilitation programs
  2. Combine improved dormancy management with the application of seed enhancement technologies (i.e. flash flaming, priming, pelleting, coating) through a series of laboratory-, glasshouse-, and field-based studies
  3. Scale seed dormancy break and SET treatments using custom-built machinery
  4. Quantify scaled seed use, seedling recruitment and rehabilitation performance across different mining environments and seasons.


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Research team leader: Dr Todd Erickson

I am a restoration ecologist working specifically on the improved and scaled used of native seeds in degraded environments; I am in the School of Biological Sciences at UWA. My research is focused on using seed enhancement technologies and the precision placement of these seeds in restoration sites. I am interested in how we can develop practitioner friendly tools to overcome complex seed dormancy and recruitment bottlenecks that then enable these seeds to recruit and survive in hostile environments, particularly highly degraded or dryland environments.

How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project:
    • Experience in undertaking field work in remote environments
    • Preferred knowledge of seed ecology and dormancy mechanisms
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.