Metabolic physiology of dormant and resting seeds

Investigating environmental adaptation in dormant and resting seeds

This research project investigates the functional ecology of seeds, with respect to metabolic physiology and metabolic depression during dormancy. It is widely appreciated that plant seeds are capable of extended metabolic depression, but there are few actual measurements of metabolic rate for seeds. It is thought that seeds remain aerobic (consume oxygen, produce carbon dioxide) during moderate metabolic depression, but metabolic rate is even further reduced and may become anaerobic and difficult-to-impossible measure during deeper cryptobiotis.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

This project will explore the diversity in metabolic rate for a variety of species of plant seeds, by quantifying aerobic and anaerobic metabolic rates for rest and various levels of dormancy. These results will be examined in view of the phylogenetic diversity of the plant species (phylogenetically-informed analysis), mass of the seed and in particular the mass of the metabolically-active embryonic tissue (allometry), and possible environmental adaptations (metabolic ecology), for example to aridity and fire regime.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Professor Philip Withers

I am a comparative animal physiologist, with broad interests in animal structure and function; I am in the School of Biological Sciences at UWA. My research is focused on the environmental physiology of primarily terrestrial vertebrate animals (amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals). I am interested in adaptations related to thermoregulation, water and solute balance and metabolism that enable these animals to survive in hostile environments, particularly arid desert environments.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Domestic students

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

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.

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.

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