Jim Ross PhD studentship

We are seeking a PhD student to study the genomics and evolutionary history of plants with disjunct outlier populations in the Long Forest area near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia

The student will be enrolled at The University of Melbourne and supervised by Dr Mike Bayly (School of BioSciences), Dr Frank Udovicic (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria) and Prof. David Cantrill (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria).

This Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria studentship, supported by the Cybec Foundation, honours Jim H. Ross, former Chief Botanist of the National Herbarium of Victoria. It includes includes a scholarship of $28K per annum (increasing to $30K in the final year) and includes funds to support research and fieldwork costs.  Additional research costs will also be supported by a grant from Eucalypt Australia.  The studentship will be offered on a competitive basis, and applicants will be judged on academic merit, research experience and research performance.  Students must be eligible to enrol in a PhD at The University Melbourne, should ideally have a background in molecular plant systematics, some experience with fieldwork, and an Honours or Masters degree with a grade of H1 (>80%).

The successful student must be able to commence in 2017.  Application deadline now extended to Jun 30 2017.  Interested students should contact Mike or Frank, and include a CV and summary of their academic and research experience.

Background on the research project

Long Forest Nature Conservation Reserve is a 600 hectare reserve, 50 km to the west of
Melbourne.  It has a unique assemblage of flora and fauna including many species more typical of mallee environments to the drier north-west of Victoria, e.g. Eucalyptus behriana (Bull Mallee), Eremophila deserti (Turkey Bush), and Rhagodia parabolica (Fragrant Saltbush), as well as others more typical of Gippsland and further east, e.g. Eucalyptus baueriana (Blue Box).  The status of the Long Forest area as home to taxa with markedly disjunct distributions makes it an outstanding living laboratory to investigate the possibility that these may represent relictual distributions, or a final refuge, for these taxa as past environmental conditions changed.  Understanding these past changes and consequent effects on the flora, may provide a unique opportunity to gain insights and predictions on how present flora may react to future climate change.  This information may then be used to underpin biodiversity management and conservation.

Long forest maps pics

Victorian distributions of some plant species with outlying occurrences (red arrows) in the Long Forest area

This project will focus on a number of taxa, including Eucalyptus behriana and E. baueriana, sampled throughout their geographic ranges. Genomic markers, based on high-throughput DNA sequencing, will be used to assess patterns of genetic diversity and relationships among populations, and to infer phylogeographic history of these species.  In the case of E. behriana this will include investigation of phylogeographic patterns across the mallee regions in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales in which the species occurs.  In the case of E. baueriana, it will also test the distinctiveness of recently recognised subspecies, two of which are considered endangered in Victoria. The importance of introgression with other co-occuring eucalypts will also be addressed.