Developing technologies to overcome barriers to seed recruitment and seedling establishment in restoration

Creating new tools to improve planting success in restoration


With ongoing degradation and significant biodiversity loss occurring in large parts of southern Australia, intervention is needed to reinstate critical ecosystems. In order to do so, we need to overcome the diverse array of abiotic and biotic factors that currently limit restoration success.

Ecological filters such as water repellency, a strong abiotic barrier, and interactions between plants and other organisms (weed species) can prevent establishment of native species in restoration. To overcome these barriers, this project builds on agricultural seed enhancement technologies that have advanced native ecological restoration within the United States and arid ecosystems of Western Australia.

Polymer seed coating is a technique that has been utilised in agriculture, whereby seeds are covered with filler materials and binders that allows the incorporation of chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and growth-promoting substances that aid in seed germination and early seedling performance.

The coating may also be used as a method to create uniform sized seed, allowing for precision mechanised seed sowing and optimised emergence. However few native species have yet been studied for broad-scale restoration using this approach.


Research is therefore needed to develop these seed enhancement technologies and test their utility through field trials in our unique Australian ecosystems.

As part of this project the successful PhD applicant will focus on:

  1. overcoming the barriers to restoration
  2. the development of seed enhancement technologies
  3. test their scalability in the field.

Project goals:

  • Determine the legacy of the degraded/remnant environment (focusing on floristic composition, the soil physiochemical properties, weed seed bank etc).
  • Development of seed enhancement technologies to overcome the selected/studied barriers in restoration.
  • Test seed enhancement technologies utilising multiyear, large-scale field trials in our unique Australian ecosystems.


Suggested readings


Research team leader: Dr Alison Ritchie

I am a Research Scientist, examining research areas; restoration ecology, seed enhancement technologies, pollination ecology and plant-pollinator interactions within disturbed landscapes of the Southwest of WA. I am in the School of Biological Sciences within in ERIE group at UWA. I divide my time between UWA and the Kings Park Science group at Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

This project is co-lead by Dr Todd Erickson.


Funding and Collaborations


  • In addition to the $675,400 ARC Linkage Grant (LP170100075), the project will also receive $225,000 cash and $1,065,660 in-kind from partner organisations

External Collaborators:

    • Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority and Hanson Construction Materials Pty Ltd.



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 - Botany knowledge is desirable.
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.