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STUDENT RESEARCH
OPPORTUNITIES: WHERE
PASSION MEETS PROFESSION
uws.edu.au/hie
STUDYING SUMMER, BSC HONOURS
AND HIGHER DEGR...
2
3
Table of Contents
4	 The Hawkesbury Institute Student Experience
5	 Access to Career-Building Research Facilities
6	 Pro...
4
Hello,
Thank you for considering the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment as the next destination
in establishing yo...
5
Access To Career-Building Research Facilities
The Institute has a world-first set of facilities for field-based climate ...
6
Addressing impact of climate variability on plant growth and physiology
Our lab addresses the impact of climate
change (...
7
Ecophysiology of photosynthesis in relation to environmental
stress and climate change
My research focuses on the
ecophy...
8
Investigating how insect and plant communities change with climate
and with habitat degradation
My interests include spe...
9
Understanding the mechanisms driving plant community and biogeochemical
responses to elevated CO2, altered rainfall patt...
10
Examining how plants defend themselves against herbivores by
varying their leaf chemistry
I study plant-animal interact...
11
investigating trophic interactions between insect herbivores, their host plants
and other organisms including other her...
12
Understanding how animals manage energy budgets with respect to
environmental conditions and the consequences on perfor...
13
Investigating the ecology and evolution of plants in determining
species distributions and population abundance
My rese...
14
Researching impacts of global change, in particular rising levels
of atmospheric CO2
and climate change, on woodland fu...
15
Understanding the effects of climate change factors on the structure
and function of soil microbial communities
My rese...
16
Examining how different global change drivers such as climate change and altered
nutrient budgets affect the structure ...
17
Examining the link between belowground community structure
and ecosystem functioning
I’m broadly interested in soil eco...
18
Assessing factors influencing nutrient cycling and
consequences for ecosystem feedbacks
My overall research goal assess...
19
Unravelling the forces driving the massive microbial
diversity present in terrestrial ecosystems
Contrary to popular op...
20
Examining whole organism biology and evolutionary ecology
My research covers a range of subjects in
whole organism biol...
21
Environmental Regulation of Molecular,
Metabolic and Epigenetic Processes in Plants
Plants sense environmental stress a...
22
ABC-GOLF: ACCOUNTING FOR BIODIVERSITY AND CARBON IN SYDNEY’S GOLF COURSES
My research investigates whether golf
courses...
23
Characterizing changes in the hydraulic architecture of
Eucalyptus trees from humid towards arid environments
I am a pl...
24
Deciphering Plant-Fungal Communication – Investigating
the Molecular Nuts and Bolts of Symbiosis
Both disease-causing a...
25
explorING insectS, microbeS and host-tree interactions among
the wood boring fungus-cultivating ambrosia beetles
I enjo...
26
27
Contact details
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment
University of Western Sydney
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith NSW 2751 Aus...
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2014 hie-summer-honours-hdr-booklet

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A booklet outlining Honours and PhD supervisors and projects based at the Hawkesbury Institute within the University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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Transcript of "2014 hie-summer-honours-hdr-booklet"

  1. 1. STUDENT RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES: WHERE PASSION MEETS PROFESSION uws.edu.au/hie STUDYING SUMMER, BSC HONOURS AND HIGHER DEGREE RESEARCH PROGRAMS AT HIE EditionTwo–Mid2014
  2. 2. 2
  3. 3. 3 Table of Contents 4 The Hawkesbury Institute Student Experience 5 Access to Career-Building Research Facilities 6 Professor David Tissue: Addressing impact of climate variability on plant growth and physiology 7 Professor David Ellsworth: Ecophysiology of photosynthesis in relation to environmental stress and climate change 8 Professor James Cook: Investigating how insect and plant communities change with climate and with habitat degradation 9 Associate Professor Sally Power: Understanding the mechanisms driving plant community and biogeochemical responses to elevated CO2 , altered rainfall patterns and nutrient enrichment 10 Doctor Ben Moore: Examining how plants defend themselves against herbivores by varying their leaf chemistry 11 Doctor Scott Johnson: Investigating trophic interactions between insect herbivores, their host plants and other organisms including other herbivores and natural enemies 12 Doctor Chris Turbill: Understanding how animals manage energy budgets with respect to environmental conditions and the consequences on performance and fitness 13 Doctor Paul Rymer: Investigating the ecology and evolution of plants in determining species distributions and population abundance 14 Doctor Teresa Gimeno: Researching impacts of global change, in particular rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and climate change, on woodland functioning 15 Doctor Sarah Hortal: Understanding the effects of climate change factors on the structure and function of soil microbial communities 16 Doctor Raul Ochoa Hueso: Examining how different global change drivers such as climate change and altered nutrient budgets affect the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems 17 Doctor Uffe Nielsen: Examining the link between belowground community structure and ecosystem functioning 18 Doctor Catriona Macdonald: Assessing factors influencing nutrient cycling and consequences for ecosystem feedbacks 19 Doctor Jeff Powell: Unravelling the forces driving the massive microbial diversity present in terrestrial ecosystems 20 Doctor Justin Welbergen: Examining whole organism biology, and evolutionary ecology 21 Doctor Chris Cazzonelli: Environmental Regulation of Molecular, Metabolic and Epigenetic Processes in Plants 22 Doctor Sabine Nooten: Accounting for biodiversity and carbon in Sydney’s golf courses 23 Doctor Sebastian Pfautsch: Characterizing changes in the hydraulic architecture of Eucalyptus trees from humid towards arid environments 24 Doctor Jonathan Plett: Deciphering Plant-Fungal Communication – Investigating the Molecular Nuts and Bolts of Symbiosis 25 Doctor Shannon Smith: Exploring insects, microbes and host-tree interactions among the wood boring fungus-cultivating ambrosia beetles
  4. 4. 4 Hello, Thank you for considering the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment as the next destination in establishing your career in the plant, animal, agricultural and ecosystem sciences. As a team, we have been very fortunate to be able to build an unparalleled research institute here on the Hawkesbury campus, as part of our vision of creating large-scale, cutting-edge facilities that will help us learn more about the dynamics of an ever-changing world. We invite you to be part of our journey and join a friendly, motivated and high-achieving team of researchers and fellow students drawn from all over the world. We believe strongly that by creating the best-equipped facilities and finding the very best researchers in their field into one location, we can offer an experience that will pay enormous dividends in your career. You can work alongside our researchers in a variety of ways, from 6-week Summer programs to Honours through to full PhD-level research. The University and the Institute together offer access to a significant number of scholarships that can help you gain access to your program of choice and help you balance study and life in a flexible, accommodating way. The best way to find out about our Institute and our research is to see for yourself – please come along and meet some of our friendly staff and students and explore your options for being part of the Institute. Yours faithfully, Professor Ian Anderson Director – Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment PS – we are open to any discussions and ideas you may have about projects not outlined in this booklet that may be more closely suited to your area of interest. Please feel free to discuss your ideas with our researchers directly. OUR Student Experience “Creating the best-equipped facilities and finding the very best researchers is the foundation of our success and yours…”
  5. 5. 5 Access To Career-Building Research Facilities The Institute has a world-first set of facilities for field-based climate research including: EucFACE is the world’s only native- forest Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment that exposes full-height trees to elevated CO2 through six 25m rings with access via 43m high cranes. Forty-eight small rainout shelters provide controlled watering to grass pasture and small plant experiments to assess the effect of drought on carbon cycling, soil biology and plant growth. The latest technology incorporating Sanger and Next-Generation Sequencing platforms offers researchers and external customers fast access to DNA sequencing services, backed up by current Illumina certification. These PC2-compliant laboratories are housed in a building that incorporates environmentally sustainable design and are dedicated for environmental genomics, soil science, molecular biology, plant physiology, microbiology and plant-insect interactions. Twelve Whole Tree Chambers provide a range of environmental conditions from elevated or reduced CO2 , temperature or rainfall conditions for trees up to nine metres high. The Cumberland Plains Carbon and Water Observatory provides a baseline measure of CO2 and water flow in the forest, enabling researchers to compare the effects of elevated CO2 against ambient forest conditions. These controlled-growth rooms and chambers are used for plant biochemistry and manipulative plant-microbe interaction research, employing similar experimental treatments as those in the glasshouses and field research facilities. Six Large Rainout Shelters enable controlled exposure to drought and automatically close during rainfall events, enabling researchers to assess responses to drying and wetting conditions. Three state-of-the-art greenhouses currently hold the insectary and native plant experiments with fully controlled CO2 and temperature conditions.
  6. 6. 6 Addressing impact of climate variability on plant growth and physiology Our lab addresses the impact of climate change (e.g. elevated CO2 , elevated temperature, droughts, floods) on plant growth and physiology in managed (crops) and unmanaged, native ecosystems. Forests for the future: making the most of a high CO2 world. We will use a novel strategy that rapidly identifies trees that exhibit a strong, positive growth response to elevated CO2 (eCO2 ), and the genetic attributes underlying these responses. We will use eucalypt species grown under varying CO2 , temperature and soil moisture conditions to characterise the impacts of eCO2 on key physiological traits underpinning forest tree growth and link it to modern genetic finger-printing, in order to provide a fast, reliable and inexpensive method to select winners and losers in a high CO2 world.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Cotton industry under threat from climate change? Climate change will influence cotton farming through rising CO2 , higher temperatures, lower humidity (higher VPD), and increasing frequency and severity of droughts and floods. We will use environmentally controlled facilities at HIE (glasshouses) and Narrabri NSW (chambers in a cotton field) to investigate the impacts of climate change on water use efficient and heat tolerant cotton, and therefore evaluate the likely effectiveness of adaptation strategies.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Shaping the Forest Landscape. Associated with rising [CO2 ] and temperature are predictions for increased precipitation variability and heat waves generating more frequent and intense droughts, which are projected to kill highly-susceptible seedlings and saplings generating significant long-term ecological impact. We aim to predict mortality in regenerating or newly planted forests. Importantly, we will determine whether growth in elevated [CO2 ] and temperature ameliorates or exacerbates tree seedling sensitivity to heat waves and drought, which is crucial for modelling future climate impacts on species distribution and ecosystem-level impacts on surface eco-hydrology and carbon balance.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Prof Tissue Email: d.tissue@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1853 Professor David Tissue
  7. 7. 7 Ecophysiology of photosynthesis in relation to environmental stress and climate change My research focuses on the ecophysiology of photosynthesis in relation to environmental stress and climate change. My work involves understanding the elevated CO2 response of native Australian plants and ecosystems, with research based at the Eucalyptus Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (EucFACE) experiment across from Yarramundi paddocks. Native grasses outperform invasives in elevated CO2 Vast areas of native grassy woodlands and rangelands experience significant pressure from invasives. We ask the question whether elevated atmospheric CO2 helps the natives turn this around. You will work with the team at EucFACE to conduct measurements on native and invasive grasses and test this idea in a large-scale experiment near campus.  SUMMER, HONOURS Understory water dynamics and ecophysiology counters woody thickening in elevated CO2 You will participate in an Australian Research Council study that addresses the long-standing paradigm that the elevated CO2 response of grasses is not enough to counter woody thickening in a future with a higher CO2 atmosphere.  HONOURS, PHD Climate change: too hot, or not? Climate warming could drive plant warming up to deleterious temperatures in a so-called ‘vicious cycle’, or leaf warming could just increase rates of metabolism and water loss for cooling. You will gain experience in thermal imaging of leaves along with stomatal behaviour and find out how well native Australian plants can tolerate heat and elevated CO2 .  SUMMER, HONOURS Contact Prof Ellsworth: Email: d.ellsworth@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1365 Professor David Ellsworth
  8. 8. 8 Investigating how insect and plant communities change with climate and with habitat degradation My interests include species interactions, community ecology and biodiversity. I focus on systems involving insects on plants and on how interactions and communities change with climate and with habitat degradation. A separate interest is in animal behaviour, focusing on understanding reasons for the incredible diversity of insect mating systems. Do parasites like it hot? Pollinator wasps developing inside figs are attacked by parasites that lay eggs through the fig wall. Pollinators in the fruit centre are out of reach to parasites, but figs in arid localities produce smaller fruits. This project will test if parasitism is greater at inland than coastal sites.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Insects in time machines We have set up large field experiments that simulate predicted changes in climate (CO2 , rainfall, temperature). The most visible effects are in the vegetation, but how do the communities of insects on these plants change? The project will explore how the structure of insect communities changes when climate is manipulated.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Why have two kinds of male? Some fig wasps have two male morphs. The wingless form hatches first and mates with females inside the fig, while the winged form disperses to mate with females elsewhere. The project will use ecological and/or genetic approaches to test if this dimorphism is under genetic or environmental control.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Prof Cook Email: james.cook@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1371 Professor James Cook
  9. 9. 9 Understanding the mechanisms driving plant community and biogeochemical responses to elevated CO2, altered rainfall patterns and nutrient enrichment My research is focused on understanding the mechanisms driving plant community and biogeochemical responses to elevated CO2 , altered rainfall patterns and nutrient enrichment. Current projects use a combination of field and laboratory techniques to investigate effects of these drivers on plant species interactions and the cycling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, including feedbacks between plants and soils. Drought and deluge How do climate extremes affect the diversity and functioning of grassland ecosystems? This project is part of a newly established grassland experiment manipulating the size and frequency of rainfall events, and levels of herbivore activity. It provides a unique opportunity to quantify the impacts of changes in rainfall patterns – in particular extreme events - on plant productivity, species diversity, nutrient cycling and carbon storage.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Effects of elevated CO2 on nutrient cycling in a Eucalyptus woodland. This project takes advantage of HIE’s cutting edge Free Air CO2 Enrichment (EucFACE) experimental facility to investigate how eCO2 affects the cycling and turnover of nitrogen and phosphorus – crucial determinants of forest response to a higher CO2 world.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Plant traits as predictors of ecosystem responses to climate change Understanding how species characteristics (traits) such as rooting strategy and photosynthetic rate are affected by climate and eCO2 can enable us to predict community- and ecosystem- level responses to future climate change. This project will quantify trait plasticity under climate stress and investigate the link between plant traits, community composition and water/nutrient cycling in a local ecosystem.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Assoc. Prof. Power Email: s.power@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1359 Associate Professor Sally Power
  10. 10. 10 Examining how plants defend themselves against herbivores by varying their leaf chemistry I study plant-animal interactions. I ask how plants defend themselves against herbivores by varying their leaf chemistry and how different environments and climate change influence plants’ vulnerability to herbivores. I also ask how herbivores cope with the challenge of highly variable plants and choose safe nutritious diets while avoiding being poisoned. How Mountain Brushtail Possums (Bobucks) Tolerate Plant Compounds The mountain brushtail possum, or bobuck, is a sister species to the familiar common brushtail possum but with a much more restricted distribution and a different dietary niche. This project will investigate how the bobuck’s tolerance of several plant compounds helps to determine what it eats.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD How Koalas, Gliders And Possums Partition Available Food Resources Understanding how koalas, gliders and possums partition available food resources amongst themselves is difficult in natural environments without knowing exactly what each of these species eats. Laboratory analysis of leaf cuticular waxes combined with field studies of wild animals will help us to understand niche partitioning amongst marsupial folivores.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Identifying Herbivore Responses To Changes In Plant Chemicals Although ecologists often identify which plants get eaten by herbivores, when this damage occurs is generally ignored. However, the chemistry and nutrition of leaves varies both between seasons and through 24 hour periods. This project will investigate these patterns and how herbivores (mammals and invertebrates) respond to them.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Dr Moore: Email: b.moore@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1384 Doctor Ben Moore
  11. 11. 11 investigating trophic interactions between insect herbivores, their host plants and other organisms including other herbivores and natural enemies ‘Little things that rule the world’ is how the biologist E.O. Wilson described insects and other invertebrates. I investigate trophic interactions between insect herbivores, their host plants and other organisms, including other herbivores and natural enemies. I am particularly interested in trophic interactions that span above-belowground systems and the effects of global climate change. The real Hunger Games – how ladybug and parasitic wasps regulate lucerne aphid populations Around 30 years ago, Australia’s lucerne industry suffered massive losses with the arrival of three exotic aphid pests. Resistant cultivars and natural enemies have helped control aphids since, but breakdowns in cultivar resistance are increasingly common. Understanding how natural enemies regulate aphid populations is therefore important. This project will investigate the cut-throat world of insect predator-prey interactions.  SUMMER, HONOURS Get tough, get toxic or get a bodyguard – how do plant roots defend themselves against belowground insects? An Australian pasture can contain more root herbivores by weight than grazing mammals aboveground. We know much about how plants use leaf toughness, toxicity and plant bodyguards (recruiting the herbivore’s enemy) to resist insect attack aboveground, but virtually nothing about belowground defences. This project will shed light on the hidden world of root-insect interactions.  HONOURS, PHD Putting the ‘upstairs-downstairs’ into ecosystem responses to global climate change? Traditionally studied separately, it’s now recognised that above- and belowground systems are linked via plant-mediated mechanisms. The effects of global climate change on, say, a root herbivore would therefore have cascading effects on aboveground herbivores and their natural enemies. Using state-of-the art facilities, this project will identify key drivers and ecosystem engineers in future climates.  HONOURS, PHD Contact Dr Johnson: Email: scott.johnson@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1374 Doctor Scott Johnson
  12. 12. 12 Understanding how animals manage energy budgets with respect to environmental conditions and the consequences on performance and fitness I am an animal physiological ecologist, with a particular interest in the ecological significance of thermoregulatory and metabolic physiology. I seek to understand how an animal manages its energy budget with respect to environmental conditions and the consequences to performance and fitness (i.e. survival and lifetime reproductive success). My research integrates behaviour, physiology, genetics and life-history ecology and to explain the significance of variation among individuals, populations and species. Rate of ageing: using telomeres to measure a physiological cost underpinning trade-offs in life history ecology This cutting edge project uses rate of telomere shortening – an index of ageing developed in medical research – to address a fundamental question of evolutionary ecology: What is the physiological cost of variation in the ‘pace’ of life-history traits, such as metabolism, growth rate and reproductive effort? Telomeres are repeated DNA units that shorten with exposure to oxidative stress. A number of well-supported projects suited for honours and PhD students are available in this research program.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Energetic consequences of anti- predator behaviour by small mammals Predation has non-lethal effects on the behaviour, physiology and life-history of prey species. This research program seeks to understand how anti-predator behaviours, such as reduced foraging activity, affect an animal’s energy budget. Do mammals adjust their resting (e.g. thermoregulatory) energy costs to compensate for reduced energy intake under high predation risk? What is the relationship between predation risk, stress hormone levels and daily energy expenditure? These questions are important for understanding how Australia’s small mammals cope with interactions between predation pressure and environmental degradation.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Coping with change: integrating thermal physiology with the pace-of- life syndrome hypothesis Many endothermic animals (mammals and birds) do not always maintain a constant high body temperature but instead exhibit controlled bouts of hypothermia (e.g. daily torpor and hibernation). This flexibility in body temperature has a large effect on resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure and therefore is an important adaptation to cope with variable environmental conditions. In this research program, I seek to understand why individuals often differ in thermal physiology by testing the hypothesis that individuals display consistent strategies or combinations of behavioural, physiological and life- history traits that differ in benefits and costs depending on the environment.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Dr Turbill: Email: c.turbill@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1456 Doctor Christopher Turbill
  13. 13. 13 Investigating the ecology and evolution of plants in determining species distributions and population abundance My research focuses on the ecology and evolution of plants, in particular the importance of genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in determining species distributions and population abundance. My lab uses a combination of ecological, physiological and molecular techniques to address the core question: What processes drive and erode biological diversity? Students are encouraged to discuss potential projects of mutual interest. Environmental gradients provide the tools to cope with climatic change Natural variants distributed along environmental gradients are predicted to enable plants to adapt and acclimatise to climate change. Students can contribute to field transplants, glasshouse and/or laboratory experiments. Collaborators: David Tissue (HIE), Maurizio Rossetto (Royal Botanic Gardens) Margaret Byrne (WA Dept. Parks Wildlife).  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Ecological restoration: Is local always best? This project explores the conflicting goals in ecological restoration to maximise local adaptation and resilience to climate change. Students will have opportunities to undertake field, common garden and/ or molecular experiments. This collaboration with Greening Australia aims to develop best practice guidelines.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Ecology and evolution of invasive species Invasive species have economic and environmental costs. This project aims to understand the ecology and evolution of introduced species to enable predictions of future weeds and range expansions, and develop control measures. Students have scope to develop theoretical/applied projects. Collaborators: Dr Markus Riegler Dr Ben Moore (HIE), and Dr Andy Sheppard (CSIRO).  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Dr Rymer: Email: p.rymer@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1094 Doctor Paul Rymer
  14. 14. 14 Researching impacts of global change, in particular rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and climate change, on woodland functioning I am a plant ecophysiologist with a strong interest on ecohydrology. My main research interest lies on the impact of global change, in particular rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and climate change, on woodland functioning. I am particularly interested on the impact of these two global change drivers on woodland productivity and water use efficiency. Interactive effects of nutrient limitation and climatic variability on the growth phenology of mature eucalypt trees Radial growth in a key ecosystem process related to the carbon sink and storage capacity of mature woodlands. Radial growth and wood formation have a strong seasonality although they are also sensitive to environmental variability, including climate and soil nutrient availability. However, wood formation is hard to predict in evergreen eucalypt woodlands subjected to strong inter-annual variability. This project aims to elucidate the growth phenology of mature Eucalyptus tereticornis trees and its relation to climate under contrasting levels of soil nutrient availability.  SUMMER, HONOURS Contact Dr Gimeno: Email: t.gimeno@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1385 Doctor Teresa E. Gimeno
  15. 15. 15 Understanding the effects of climate change factors on the structure and function of soil microbial communities My research interests focus on soil microbial ecology. I am particularly interested on better understanding the effects of climate change factors on the structure and function of soil microbial communities and how soil microbes may affect plant communities, and vice versa, through plant-soil feedback processes. How plants and mycorrhizal fungi interact Mycorrhizal fungi live in symbiotic association with plants. Community structure is defined by processes such as competition among different individuals or species. In this project we aim to better understand the factors driving the outcome of competitive interactions and how outcomes may change under different climate change scenarios.  SUMMER, HONOURS Contact Dr Hortal: Email: s.hortalbotifoll@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1925 Doctor Sara Hortal
  16. 16. 16 Examining how different global change drivers such as climate change and altered nutrient budgets affect the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems My research is mainly focused on understanding how and to what extent different global change drivers such as climate change and altered nutrient budgets affect the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. He is also particularly interested in how ecosystem heterogeneity at different temporal and spatial scales mediates the response to these drivers. I use a wide range of experimental approaches (from controlled greenhouse experiments to field manipulation experiments and observational studies) and measurements (including soil nutrients, plant and microbial community composition, and surrogates of ecosystem processes related to nutrient cycling) in an attempt to integrate responses at the whole ecosystem level. Nutrient constraints on plant productivity in Australian grassland ecosystems This project will focus on the effects of nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) enrichment on plant community composition in an improved grassland. This experiment is a new addition to the international Nutrient Network (http://www.nutnet.umn.edu), which actively seeks to identify the main effects of human alteration of global nutrient budgets.  SUMMER, HONOURS Effects of elevated CO2 on plant nutrient demand This project will use HIE’s Free Air CO2 Enrichment (EucFACE) experimental facility to investigate how eCO2 (and its associated release of carbon limitation for plant growth) affects plant demand for other nutrients (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus), putting the emphasis on plant-soil interactions.  SUMMER, HONOURS Plant community dynamics under altered rainfall regimes With this new project, we seek to determine if, as predicted, grassland species are able to adapt to altered rainfall regimes by “selecting” favorable and species-specific microhabitats within the grassland. This has important implications in terms of the potential consequences of climate change in global-scale biodiversity loss.  SUMMER, HONOURS Contact Dr Ochoa Hueso: Email: r.ochoahueso@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1651 Doctor Raul Ochoa-Hueso
  17. 17. 17 Examining the link between belowground community structure and ecosystem functioning I’m broadly interested in soil ecology and particularly the diversity and composition of belowground communities, the link between belowground community structure and ecosystem functioning, management of soils for sustainable production, and above-belowground linkages. Three projects are outlined below, but students are encouraged to contact me to discuss other potential projects. Restoration of belowground communities in Cumberland Plain Woodlands This study aims to determine if current restoration practices used for Cumberland Plain Woodlands also restore belowground communities, and if so whether this promotes ecosystem functioning (i.e. nutrient availability, decomposition). The results would help promote best restoration and management practices of Cumberland Plain Woodlands.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Climate change impacts on belowground communities This project aims to quantify the impacts of climate change on belowground communities and potential feedbacks on ecosystem functioning/properties. The project would utilize existing HIE facilities such as the rainout shelters (changing rainfall regime) or EucFACE (increased CO2 concentrations), and the student would collaborate with other HIE staff and/or students.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Bioindicators of human impacts in continental Antarctica The aim of this potential PhD project is to establish whether we can use soil invertebrates (mites, nematodes, tardigrades) as bioindicators for human impacts in continental Antarctica (i.e. disturbance, pollution). Part of the project will be undertaken at the Australian Antarctic Division (with Dr Catherine King) in Hobart, Tasmania.  PHD Contact Dr Nielsen: Email: u.nielsen@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1131 Doctor Uffe Nielsen
  18. 18. 18 Assessing factors influencing nutrient cycling and consequences for ecosystem feedbacks My overall research goal assesses factors influencing nutrient cycling and consequences for ecosystem feedbacks. Specifically I seek to determine the drivers of change in nutrient cycling (N and P) and how they respond to global change (climate change, land management and pollution). How does biological nitrogen fixation contribute to nutrient availability under elevated CO2 (eCO2 )? In unmanaged nutrient poor systems, biological N2 -fixation is an important mechanism by which N becomes available for plant uptake. Under eCO2 , plant N-demand increases, but the response of free-living N2 fixation to this is unknown. This project will assess the effect of eCO2 on N2 fixation and on associated N2-fixers and consequences for ecosystem response.  HONOURS, PHD Phosphate availability under elevated (CO2 ) and temperature (eT) - the role of soil bacteria Phosphorous (P) availability limits growth across many Australian ecosystems, and increased plant growth under future climate scenarios will only be sustained if plant nutrient supply increases to meet demand. This project uses field and laboratory methods to determine soil P availability and role of P-solubilising bacteria under future climate scenarios.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contribution of through flow and stem flow to nutrient cycling in a Eucalyptus forest. Through fall could have an important ‘priming’ function for mineralisation of organic matter through the provision of limiting nutrients to the litter-layer. This project seeks to quantify nutrient inputs from through flow in a Eucalyptus woodland and to determine its contribution to ecosystem functioning.  HONOURS Contact Dr Macdonald: Email: c.macdonald@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1332 Doctor Catriona Macdonald
  19. 19. 19 Unravelling the forces driving the massive microbial diversity present in terrestrial ecosystems Contrary to popular opinion, microbes are the dominant form of life on the plant (and probably beyond). My work unravels the forces driving the massive microbial diversity present in terrestrial ecosystems and aims to find new ways to exploit this diversity for our benefit (including ecosystem restoration and agricultural productivity). Swapping partners: promiscuity, ploy, or protection One of the most important roles of a plant’s root system is to interface with beneficial microbial partners. Who a plant chooses to partner with depends on a number of factors but often comes down to who is the best partner under the circumstances or who can ‘trick’ the plant into providing resources. Understanding these dynamics is critical for increasing food production and alleviating plant stress in marginal environments.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Death and decay in the Cumberland Plain Much of the world’s carbon is tied up in trees. The rate that this carbon re-enters the atmosphere and exacerbates climate change depends on factors driving tree mortality and wood decomposition. Fungal interactions are now recognised as a very important a driver of these processes and an understanding of their roles is needed to develop sensible policies around carbon offsets.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Contact Dr Powell: Email: jeff.powell@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1093 Doctor Jeff Powell
  20. 20. 20 Examining whole organism biology and evolutionary ecology My research covers a range of subjects in whole organism biology, but focuses on behavioural ecology, which is concerned with the ways organisms respond adaptively to changes in their social, ecological, and physical environment. I also have strong, parallel interests in conservation and climate change biology, and particularly in the impacts of extreme weather and climate events on biodiversity. I encourage prospective students to come up with their own ideas for research and am happy to consider any project that broadly aligns with my general fields of interest. Flying-foxes – impacts of extreme events One of the greatest unknowns in climate change biology is how changes in extreme weather and climate events will impact on the natural world. Flying-foxes are large fruitbats that roost in colonies containing thousands of individuals among the exposed branches of canopy trees. Our research has shown these species are vulnerable to temperature extremes, with temperatures beyond a threshold of 42o C causing extensive species, sex and age-biased mortality. A number of projects are available to investigate impacts of extreme temperature events on flying-fox roosting, foraging, or movement ecology.  SUMMER, HONOURS, PHD Cuckoos and hosts – adaptations and counteradaptations Coevolutionary arms-races, where adaptations in one party select for counteradaptations in another and vice-versa, are fundamental to interactions between organisms and their predators, pathogens and parasites. By laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species, brood parasites, such as cuckoos, burden their hosts with rearing chicks that are not their own. This favours the evolution of host defences that in turn select for improved parasite offenses. A range of projects is available, involving both field-based experiments and theoretical exercises, to explore coevolutionary processes in brood parasite-host systems.  HONOURS, PHD Lyrebirds – geographic variation in vocal mimicry (co-supervisor Dr A. Dalziell for PhD) Several species of bird from around the world imitate the sounds produced by other animals, but why they do so is unclear. Understanding how and why vocal mimicry changes across populations is essential to understanding the functions and ontogeny of animal signals. However, while there are many studies of geographic patterns in non-mimetic birdsong, almost nothing is known about how mimetic bird song varies between populations. This project investigates the geographic patterns of vocal mimicry in superb lyrebirds, one of the world’s most spectacular mimics.  HONOURS, PHD Contact Dr Welbergen: Email: j.welbergen@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1496 Doctor Justin A Welbergen
  21. 21. 21 Environmental Regulation of Molecular, Metabolic and Epigenetic Processes in Plants Plants sense environmental stress and adapt to seasonal changes by altering the packaging of DNA within the nucleus of the cell. The ultimate theme of environmental epigenetics is to understand the molecular mechanisms that facilitate cellular communication, memory formation and plant adaptation to climate change. Multidisciplinary projects offer experience in genetic and metabolic engineering, as well as advanced skills in next generation sequencing, molecular, epigenetic, biochemical, phenomic and reporter gene technologies. The long-term goals are to use model plant species to improve plant performance of ergonomically important crops in order to facilitate agricultural sustainability. Hunting for RNA regulatory switches and thermometers in plants Bacteria and plants are natural chemical factories producing nutrient metabolites (e.g. vitamins and antioxidants such as carotenoid pigments) that promote animal health and facilitate cellular communication. In bacteria, the regulation of gene expression or protein levels can be controlled by metabolite-binding RNA structural switches (called riboswitches), and temperature-sensing RNA structural thermometers. The goal is to identify metabolite and temperature sensitive RNA switches that promote memory and cellular acclimation in plants.  Honours, Masters, PhD The root to a healthier soil microenvironment Environmental conditions regulate the temporal and spatial variation of plant secondary metabolites (e.g. carotenoids) that provide pharmaceutical (e.g. antioxidants) and nutritional benefits (e.g. Vitamin A). Carotenoids are the red, orange and yellow pigmentations found in nature, which are essential for photosynthesis, photoprotection and the production of phytohormone signaling molecules. The next wave is to identify root-derived metabolites that attract beneficial microbial and fungal associations that promote a healthier soil microenvironment.  Honours, Masters, PhD Plant adaptation to mechanical stimulation Plants sense and respond to wind, rubbing, insect feeding, touching and mechanical stress by altering their phenotype, a phenomenon called thigmomorphogenesis. Physiological and morphological changes can negatively impact plant productivity. The molecular nature underpinning mechanical touch induced gene expression remains enigmatic and largely unknown.  Honours, Masters, PhD Contact Dr Cazzonelli: Email: c.cazzonelli@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1752 Doctor Chris Cazzonelli
  22. 22. 22 ABC-GOLF: ACCOUNTING FOR BIODIVERSITY AND CARBON IN SYDNEY’S GOLF COURSES My research investigates whether golf courses within the greater Sydney area contribute to a range of ecosystem services, by providing reservoirs for biodiversity and carbon stores. My work involves detailed surveys of floral and faunal biodiversity on a range of golf courses, spanning the Sydney basin, from the coast up to the mountains. Do golf courses harbour native bees and wasps? In urban environments golf courses could provide habitats for native bees and wasps (Hymenoptera), which in turn contribute to valuable pollination services on a local and regional scale. You will be involved in fieldwork - setting up and retrieving trap-nests on golf courses, and lab work - sorting and identifying hymenopteran species. You will gain valuable experience in insect taxonomy and applied biodiversity research.  Summer, Honours Can golf courses serve as bird biodiversity hotspots? In urban environments, introduced birds - such as the Indian Myna - are increasingly displacing native birds. Golf courses cover fairly large areas of green space; they could potentially provide habitats for native bird species and serve as biodiversity hot spots. You will be involved in assessing bird biodiversity, by surveying birds on golf courses and adjacent areas. This project gives you the opportunity to gain valuable experience in bird taxonomy and applied biodiversity research.  Summer, Honours Contact Dr Nooten: Email: s.nooten@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1421 Doctor Sabine Nooten
  23. 23. 23 Characterizing changes in the hydraulic architecture of Eucalyptus trees from humid towards arid environments I am a plant physiologist with a focus on forest ecosystem functioning. I work at different levels of scale (from individual cells to entire ecosystems) to better understand how trees cope with climatic extremes like drought and heat stress. My research involves using a wide range of techniques, including microscopy, metabolite analyses and sap flow measurements. Characterizing changes in the hydraulic architecture of Eucalyptus trees from humid towards arid environments The genus Eucalyptus is occupying nearly all terrestrial ecosystems in Australia. Research indicates that the capacity to withstand water limitation is strongly related to the design of the water- transporting network within tree stems. During this project you will investigate how the architecture of xylem in eucalypts changes along a gradient of water availability, moving from costal (humid) to inland (arid) NSW.  Summer, HonoUrs Contact Dr Pfautsch: Email: s.pfautsch@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1921 Doctor Sebastian Pfautsch
  24. 24. 24 Deciphering Plant-Fungal Communication – Investigating the Molecular Nuts and Bolts of Symbiosis Both disease-causing and beneficial microbes use a variety of techniques to manipulate their hosts in order to colonise their tissues. My research focuses on characterising how microbes use small secreted proteins (SSPs) to manipulate the physiology of plant cells during the initial stages of symbiosis. These microbial SSPs re-program entire plant tissues such that they become the perfect environment to house the microbe. Only a few of these SSPs have been characterised to date. Using rhizobial and mycorrhizal fungi, my work aims to (i) identify these SSPs and (ii) to characterise their biology at the DNA, RNA and protein levels. The interest in SSP biology is not purely theoretical: understanding what plant pathways are manipulated by the microbial proteins in industrially important crops will enable breeders to select new plant cultivars that will most benefit from these relationships. Thus, the ultimate goal of this research will be to work closely with plant breeders to develop new crops adapted to the Australian climate that are more robust and that produce better with fewer inputs. A few of my current projects include: Characterising secreted proteins used by fungi to control their symbiotic partners Using the model interaction between the fungus Pisolithus microcarpus and its tree host Eucalyptus grandis, this project will be to characterise one or more fungal SSPs by identifying, through the use of a variety of techniques (e.g. yeast II hybrid analysis, plant and bacterial transformation, cloning), the plant developmental pathway(s) manipulated by each individual SSP. The plant pathway will then be mutated and the novel plant transgenic will be monitored for its ability to still associate with the symbiotic fungus.  Summer, Honours, Masters, PhD Elucidating the controls of sugar movement in plants during symbiosis Symbiotic microbes have evolved a dependency on plant sugars. We know that photosynthetically fixed sugars are mobilized during symbiosis and that they are taken up by the symbiont, but we do not know the molecular controls of this exchange. This project will be to begin the characterisation of sugar transporters used during the symbiotic interaction between Eucalyptus grandis and either beneficial microbes or disease causing microbes using techniques such as quantitative PCR, gene cloning and yeast-based complementation studies.  Summer, Honours, Masters, PhD Role of protein methylation in mediating symbiosis (in collaboration with Dr. S. Piller) My previous work, in collaboration with Dr. Piller, has highlighted the importance of post-translational protein modification (e.g. protein methylation) during symbiotic interactions. This project will be to identify proteins that are targeted for differential methylation using a variety of proteomic techniques and to determine their potential role during symbiosis.  Summer, Honours, Masters, PhD Contact Dr Plett: Email: j.plett@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1097 Doctor Jonathan Plett
  25. 25. 25 explorING insectS, microbeS and host-tree interactions among the wood boring fungus-cultivating ambrosia beetles I enjoy applying molecular tools to investigate a broad range of ecological or evolutionary questions or to address specific conservation concerns. My current focus lies in the exploration of insect, microbe and host-tree interactions among the wood boring fungus- cultivating ambrosia beetles within Australia. Fungal farmers in Australian Trees Australia is home to unique ambrosia beetles, including the world’s only known eusocial beetle and several species inhabiting living trees, yet their evolutionary ecology remains unknown. A number of projects are available in conjunction with Dr Markus Riegler to explore the group’s systematics, co- evolution with microbes, host-tree associations and community dynamics. These themes are of significant international and national interest due to the environmental and economic damage inflicted by wood boring beetles around the globe and because of many unique ecological and evolutionary aspects. Projects may involve field surveys, microbial assays, high-tech morphological systematics or landscape genetic analyses.  Summer, Honours, PhD The World’s most Social Beetle The world’s only known eusocial beetle, Austroplatypus incompertus, resides in eucalypt trees in Australia. Deep within tree trunks it forms colonies of a queen and loyal worker daughters who farm fungus for food. Their altruistic lifestyle has perplexed researchers for decades and many details about their biology and social system are waiting to be discovered. Projects may encompass field surveys, behavioural experiments, microbial assays or landscape genetic analyses.  Summer, Honours Coastal emu genetics The Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is an iconic Australian species but little is known about their population structure and dispersal. The last known coastal population of Emus in New South Wales (once abundant across the entire eastern seaboard) is endangered and threatened by the impeding re-development of a highway intersecting their habitat. We will undertake genetic studies to elucidate their population structure and investigate levels of gene flow or divergence among the coastal and inland Emus. This information could help inform their conservation and management.  Summer Contact Dr Smith: Email: s.smith@uws.edu.au Phone: +61 2 4570 1304 Doctor Shannon Smith
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  28. 28. Contact details Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment University of Western Sydney Locked Bag 1797 Penrith NSW 2751 Australia Bourke Street Richmond NSW 2753 Australia Phone: +61 2 4570 1125 Email: hieinfo@lists.uws.edu.au Web: www.uws.edu.au/hie HIE408306/2014 Scan this code to watch our video and learn more about the amazing facilities at the Hawkesbury Institute Dr Jeff Powell is conducting detailed soil biology experiments assessing effects of elevated CO2 on soil respiration at the EucFACE site.

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