Research Supervision: Prof Siegfried Krauss, Prof Kingsley Dixon and Prof Grant Wardell-Johnson
Objectives: Train researchers in the application of molecular, genecological, remote sensing and mapping approaches for understanding the drivers and consequences of adaptively significant genetic variation and its spatial structure, to inform decisions regarding seed sourcing and seed farming for better restoration outcomes.
Outcomes: (1)Identify genetically optimal ecotypes and local habitat-matched provenance boundaries for restoration sites; (2) Ensure genetically appropriate germplasm is established in ex-situ seed banks and seed farms; (3) Describe the mating systems of priority taxa to maximise seed production in wild and farmed seed source populations.
PDF1 (Post Doctoral Fellow) and PhD1: Towards a provenance atlas for priority restoration species: genetic and non-genetic approaches.
Best practise seed sourcing for restoration generally recognises the superiority of local seed over relatively maladapted non-local seed. However, restoration practitioners ask “How local is local” before negative restoration impacts are felt. Recent challenges to the local-is-best paradigm, to address climate change and novel substrates for example, require further experimental assessment within a practical restoration context. This project will apply powerful new Next Generation Sequencing molecular approaches for population genomics and new methods of landscape genetic analysis for a rapid delineation of the locally adapted genetic provenance for priority species. The genetic component will be complemented by multivariate analyses of climatic and edaphic databases and utilization of new remote sensing approaches to generate ecological digital elevation models (DEMs) providing landscape-level understanding to enable a context for restoration and to enable habitat matched seed source zones linking restoration sites with locally adapted seed sources.
PhD2: A genecological assessment of spatial genetic variation in priority restoration species.
The assessment of the extent, drivers and consequences of genecological variation within plant species using reciprocal transplant trials has a long history. Despite their power and utility for assessing provenance effects, their use in a restoration context has been surprisingly limited. Here, provenance trials provide a unique experimental opportunity to assess provenance effects whilst achieving restoration outcomes. Provenance trials will be established within restoration sites for key species with seed sourced from multiple source populations, the choice of which will be informed by PDF1 project. Assessment will be on-going and include establishment and ecophysiological measures of plant growth.
PhD3: Overcoming the factors limiting seed production in wild and farmed populations - role of mating systems.
Seed production and quality is strongly influenced by the mating system. Mating systems are completely unknown in many key restoration groups such as spinifex and Acacia. The conversion of flowers to seed in many taxa is very low (<10% in spinifex), and represents a major bottleneck in the production of seed at scale for restoration. Increasing rates of conversion of ovules to seed, and the genetic quality of seed, has significant flow on benefits for restoration at scale. In this project, molecular markers (microsatellites) will be developed using NGS for target species, and adults and offspring genotyped for an assessment of mating system parameters. This genetic component will be complemented by pollination studies to assess self-incompatibility and pollen limitation as possible factors limiting seed set, and growth trials to assess the consequences of inbreeding.