Research Projects

We have a number of active research areas in PIREL. If you are interested in postgraduate research or developing a postdoc application then please contact us!

Interested in a PhD on ecological impacts of restoring grassy woodlands after removal of African Olive? We have a great project with staff from Royal Botanic Gardens for a keen student eligible for an Australian Postgraduate Award or MQ Research Excellence Scholarship – contact Michelle

Exotic plants and climate change

Much of our research is about trying to understand what the impacts of climate change may be on exotic plants. Climate change and exotic species are two of the most important threats to global diversity yet we understand little of the interaction of these two forces. We employ a range of techniques including bioclimatic modelling, the use of experimental mesocosms to look at the effect of elevated CO2 and extreme climatic events, and the effect of elevated CO2 in combination with disturbances such as fire on plants and communities. Visit our new website

Riparian vegetation and rehabilitation

Riparian systems are species-rich and important components of landscape function, however they are affected by a range of processes associated with agriculture and development including exotic plant invasion, channel modification, and changes to nutrient and carbon fluxes.  Our research with Associate Professor Kirstie Fryirs includes looking at the seed bank as a resource for riparian rehabilitation as well as examining the effect of climate change on riparian vegetation structure and functional diversity.

Invasive acacias

There are over 1000 species of acacia in Australia and many have been introduced outside their native range for forestry, rehabilitation and horticultural purposes.  Many have become significant invaders in these novel areas and have substantial impacts on the recipient communities. We are looking at the role of enemy release, plant traits and interactions with the soil microbial community to try to understand why some acacias are such successful invaders.

Plant functional traits

Understanding variation in plant functional traits and how they contribute to the diversity of ecological strategies employed by plants is a continuing research interest in the lab. Our research includes understanding relationships between plant traits and invasive success, understanding global patterns of variation in key traits such as leaf size (with Assoc. Prof. Ian Wright) and plant height (with Prof. Angela Moles and colleagues), and looking at relationships between plant traits and leaf isoprenoid emission capacity  (with Assoc. Prof. Ian Wright and colleagues).

Images (top-bottom): The south African Pelargonium capitatum is invasive in Western Australia (Photo: Julia Cooke), Cattai Creek (photo: John Martyn), growing acacias in the glasshouse for soil feed-back experiments (photo: Christina Birnbaum), an example of extraordinary leaf shapes (photo: John Martyn).


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