Early Career Researcher Programs (ECRs) Round 2 Reports
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3 or Round 4 or Round
|1. Project title: Research visit
to University of NSW, Vera Weisbecker Lab to learn clearing and staining
CI(s)/Institution: Aaron Camens, PhD Candidate, University
of Adelaide ($7
- To gain skills in clearing and staining the pouch young of certain
marsupials in order to study osteological development.
- To collaborate with another researcher in investigating marsupial
ontogeny and draw on their expertise to better understand my field
In late August 2006 Aaron visited Vera Weisbecker
at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at
UNSW in Sydney. While there he learned methods of clearing and staining
animal specimens for osteological analysis as well as the use of
several computer programs used for morphometric analysis including
PAST (Palaeontological Statistics) and Mesquite. Potential for future
collaboration on works relating to our PhD projects was also established.
While visiting the Palaeontology department there he also visited
Dean of Science Professor Mike Archer to discuss my project and
PhD students Robin Beck, Julien Louys and Anna Gillespie to discuss
project and potential for future collaboration.
This visit provided him with an excellent opportunity
to visit one of the largest palaeontological study groups in Australia.
I learnt about what other projects are currently being undertaken
as well as several procedures and programs that will be useful in
my PhD research. It also provided him with the opportunity to establish
links and potential future collaborative efforts with other Australian
|2. Project title: The evolution
of dispersal in range-shifting populations
CI(s)/Institution: CI(s)/Institution: Ben Phillips,
ARC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences
The three aims of this project were to:
- learn the mechanics of individual-based modelling,
- collaborate with Dr Justin Travis to explore the effect of range-edges
on the spatial distribution of dispersal traits, and
- develop a foundation for further collaboration with Dr Travis.
In the two weeks Ben spent at Aberdeen with Dr Travis
he learnt the basics of constructing spatially-explicit, individual-based
population models in the C++ programming language. They collaboratively
developed a modelling framework in which to explore the effects of
density dependence and range expansion on several dispersal-relevant
traits. By the end of the period in Aberdeen they had written the
program to run the models and had begun the task of exploring the
parameter spaces. The work is ongoing, but initial results are very
encouraging and Ben envisages that between two and three publications
will result from this initial visit.
The timing of the visit coincided with a 4-day workshop organised
by UKPOPNET at York University, which brought together Europe's leading
experts on population modelling and climate change. Ben accompanied
Dr Travis to this workshop where he met leading researchers in the
field (Chris Thomas, Tim Benton, Calvin Dytham and Bob O'Hara). Much
of this workshop was devoted to techniques for marrying individual-based
models with field-collected data in a Bayesian framework, and several
theoreticians expressed an interest in using data from the toad system
to test and parameterise their models. He thus anticipates, not only
further collaboration with Dr Travis at Aberdeen University, but also
future collaborations with researchers at York University.
Overall, this was an immensely productive trip. Ben expects to
use what he has learned in Aberdeen to model entirely novel systems
in the future. Additionally, the work begun with Dr Travis promises
to yield useful insights into the evolutionary processes operating
on range-edges, which will be critical for the predictions of the
impact of climate change.
|3. Project title: Research visit
to South Africa to learn ecological patterns & conservation planning
CI(s)/Institution: CI(s)/Institution: Hedley Grantham,
PhD Candidate, University of Queensland, Ecology Centre ($3,500)
|4. Project title: A multidisciplinary
workshop for defining plant extinctions from island Oceania.
CI(s)/Institution: Matthew Prebble, Research Fellow
& Cassandra Rowe, Postdoctoral Research Fellow ($15,125)
|5. Project title: Attending
a laboratory-training course to learn molecular sexing methods for lizards
CI(s)/Institution: Rajkumar Radder, ARC Postdoctoral
Research Fellow, University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences (1,800)
The aim of this project was to understand the evolution
of diverse sex determination mechanisms in vertebrates using Australian
novel reptilian systems by adopting traditional 'hemipenes everson'
and histology method to sex newborn babies. These methods are efficient
and 100 % reliable, but have some flaws as well as drawbacks. For
instance, the histology method is time consuming and unfortunately
requires animal sacrifice, and thus does not allow us to understand
the long-term adaptive fitness of the babies. Hemipens everson provides
phenotypic sex information but is not designed to understand genetic
architecture of the babies. Recent discovery of molecular sexing methods
can overcome some of the problems associated with the above traditional
sexing methods. Also, molecular sexing methods allow us to understand
genetic mis-matching of sex if any. Hence, Rajumar wanted to attend
a laboratory training course in molecular sexing methods and apply
it to ongoing work on Bassiana duperreyi in the first instance and
to other Australian reptiles in the future.
Rajumar selected Arthur Georges lab at the University of Canberra,
ACT, because Arthur and his collaborators are involved in developing
molecular markers for sexing lizards and have an international reputation
in this area.
He took 100 tissue samples of offspring of lizard Bassiana duperreyi
from various incubation regimes and sex reversed phenotypes by the
application of steroid hormones to eggs to University of Canberra
and spent more than two weeks learning the methods of molecular
He learned cutting-edge molecular sexing techniques that overcome
several disadvantages of the traditional sexing methods like gonadal
histology. He intends to adopt this technique for sexing large numbers
of reptilian offspring. Also, during his stay in Canberra, he gave
two talks on his research findings i.e. one in University of Canberra
and another in Australian National University.
The financial support provided by the environmental futures network
will aid in enhancing our understanding of the evolution of sex
determining mechanisms. This work also has implications for conservation
of species with multi-modal sex determination. For example, TSD
places several reptiles under serious threat from global climate
change due to global warming because even a modest change in environmental
temperatures can massively shift offspring sex ratios.
|6. Project title: Attend a summer
CI(s)/Institution: Dr Michael Schmidt, Postdoctoral
Research Fellow, CSIRO ($3,365)
MIchael attended the 3rd European Space Agency summer
school in Frascati, Italy, from 30 July to 12 August 2006. The summer
school attracted 260 PhD students and post docs of which 65 were selected
to attend from more than 15 countries and diverse backgrounds in earth
sciences. The main motivation behind this school was monitoring and
modelling of the earth system ( http://envisat.esa.int/envschool/
). A strong focus was placed on the technical aspect of data assimilation
techniques in order to integrate data from various earth observations
and their error descriptions (Kalman Filter, 4DVar).
Lectures in the morning by world-known speakers were followed by
practical exercises at computers in the afternoon. This gave the
participants 'hands on' experience about topics of the morning sessions.
The afternoon practicals were followed by poster sessions for one
hour, where each participant got the chance to present his/her current
The lectures addressed the topics: Surface Energy, Data Assimilation,
Sea Ice, Climate Change and Remote Sensing, Climate Modelling, Earth
Explorers, Oceanography and Modelling. For a full program (including
pdf versions of the lectures) visit: http://envisat.esa.int/envschool/programme.html.
The first practical session introduced the educational software
Bilko for image processing (http://www.noc.soton.ac.uk/bilko/).
Other exercises over the two weeks included the retrieval of sea
surface temperature from AATSR data, the Benguela upwelling system
using AATSR and MERIS data, Ocean Eddies using AATSR data.
Michael found the summer school very inspirational due the diverse
background of attendees and the quality of the lectures. He learnt
a lot during the two weeks and has developed a much better understanding
of data assimilation methods. The extra knowledge will benefit his
further work in science and the investigation of climate change
impacts on Australian ecosystems. It was also inspirational to meet
so many talented young researchers from all over the world who are
useful contacts for future international collaboration.