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Research Funding Provided by: Australian Government
Research Funding Provided by
Australian Government

Australian Research Council

Environmental Futures Network
Environmental Futures Network
The University of Adelaide
North Terrace Campus
Darling Building
South Australia 5005

Phone: +61 8 8303 3952
Facsimile: +61 8 8303 4364

Early Career Researcher Programs (ECRs) Round 2 Reports

[back to Round 1 or Round 3 or Round 4 or Round 5 reports]

 

1. Project title: Research visit to University of NSW, Vera Weisbecker Lab to learn clearing and staining techniques
CI(s)/Institution: Aaron Camens, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide ($7

Aims/background:

Aims of this project:

  • 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 of research.
  • Project:

    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.

Outcomes:

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 researchers.
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 ($3,500)

Aims/background:

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.

Project:

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.

Outcomes:

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.

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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)

Aims/background:

Project:

Outcomes:

 

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5. Project title: Attending a laboratory-training course to learn molecular sexing methods for lizards and snakes
CI(s)/Institution: Rajkumar Radder, ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences (1,800)

Aims/background:

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.

Project:

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 sexing there.

Outcomes:

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 School workshop
CI(s)/Institution: Dr Michael Schmidt, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CSIRO ($3,365)

Aims/background:

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).

Project:

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 work.
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.

Outcomes:

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.

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