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!

Which Plant Where

The Which Plant Where project is a multi-year project developed in conjunction with industry partners with the goal of designing a multi-faceted plant selection tool to help inform practitioners about the right plant species to use in urban green spaces in the face of climate change. This project is highly interdisciplinary, involving inputs from species distribution modelling, collaborative engagement with stakeholders, field trials of urban forests and controlled glasshouse experiments measuring plant physiological traits in response to stress. Visit our website whichplantwhere.com.au

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 website weedfutures.net

Plant volatile emissions in a changing world

Plants produce and disperse a huge number of organic chemical compounds (VOCs) that become volatile when exposed to ambient air and generally produce a distinctive odour. In nature, plants’ being immobile organisms means they need VOCs to interact with their environment and other species in order to attract pollinators, deter herbivores and pathogens, cope with stressors and communicate with other plants. We are looking at how global change factors will influence VOC emissions and the consequences this will have on plant community function.

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 and understanding global patterns of variation in key traits.

Myrtle Rust

Myrtle rust is a pathogenic rust fungus native to Central and South America. It attacks plants in the Myrtaceae family, one of the most ecologically and economically important plant families in Australia. Since its introduction to Australia in 2010, myrtle rust has caused shoot dieback, reduced recruitment, and adult plant mortality in susceptible species. Through a combination of glasshouse studies, fieldwork and modelling techniques, we are studying the ecological impacts of myrtle rust in Australian ecosystems, with a focus on compositional changes and recruitment after fire in coastal woodland communities.

Images (top-bottom): Green walls on urban infrastructure, the south African Pelargonium capitatum is invasive in Western Australia (Photo: Julia Cooke), growing acacias in the glasshouse for volatile experiments (photo: Christina Birnbaum), an example of extraordinary leaf shapes (photo: John Martyn), Myrtaceae leaf infected by Myrtle Rust (photo: CRC).

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