Determining nativeness: An evolutionary approach to tracing the origin of cryptogenic plants

Tracing and managing native and alien plants in Australia

This project aims to determine the introduction history of cryptogenic plants in Australia and apply this information to the management of the species. Traditionally plants have been described as native in Australia if they were present during the earliest botanical surveys following British colonisation.

Recent research has revealed that many species were introduced by humans prior to this. These long-term alien species may have become so well integrated into ecosystems that they are indistinguishable from native species.

This project aims to determine the introduction history and post-introduction evolution and ecology of such species, based on multiple independent lines of evidence.

This information will be used to determine if the species are native or alien, and whether they need to be controlled, protected, or if no management is required. This will provide greater clarity in the requirements for management. This project will focus on a subset of one or two species, to serve more generally as a case study for management of species that were introduced to Australia prior to British colonisation.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below:

Research team leader: Dr Karen Bell

I am a molecular ecologist with research interests in invasion biology, community ecology and plant-insect interactions. I am conducting research examining ancient human-mediated species dispersal into and around Australia. My research aims to provide a broader view of ecological history, to help with the management of ecosystems under anthropogenic change.

PhD opportunities

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.

Requirements specific to this project include:

  • Ability and willingness to conduct field work in remote locations.
  • Familiarity with basic molecular biology protocols, including DNA isolation and PCR.
  • Experience with high-throughput sequencing is desirable.

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 applicationDifferent application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


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