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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 3 reports

[back to Round 1 or Round 2 or Round 4 or Round 5 reports]

1 Project title: Genetic Diversity in a Fragmented Habitat: Laticaudid Sea-kraits as a Model System
CI(s)/Institution: Amanda Lane, University of Sydney ($1,300)

 

 

2. Project title: Research visit to Sean Connolly & Andrew Baird at James Cook Uni
CI(s)/Institution: Ariella Helfgott, University of Adelaide ($1,500)

 


3. Project title: Training course: Analysis of Environmental Data (Adelaide Jan 2007)
CI(s)/Institution: Angus MacGregor, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide, School of Geographical & Environmental Studies ($1,500)

Aims/background:

Analysis of Environmental Data was an intensive 2-week course run at the University of Adelaide from January 29 - February 10 2007 by Dr Steve Juggins, a leading environmental and palaeoecological statistician from the University of Newcastle (UK).

The course provided participants with training in the theory and application of statistical techniques useful for the analysis of environmental data with a particular focus on the development of palaeoecological transfer functions.

Project:

Addressing the specific need for specialist theoretical and analytical statistical training within the broader Australian palaeoecological research community, 76% of participants were Early Career Researchers. Such a high proportion of ECR's in attendance demonstrates that the course has served as a training platform for the next generation of Australian palaeoecologists. The course was attended by 25 participants, affiliated as follows:

The University of Adelaide 11
Australian National University 4
Southern Cross University 2
University of Tasmania 2
CALM WA 2
Geosciences Australia 1
MDBC 1
University of Maine USA 1
GNS New Zealand 1

Outcomes:

Participation in this course exposed Angus to a range of theoretical approaches and statistical applications not yet widely used in Australia. It has ensured Angus that his own inference model (or transfer function, in progress) is robust and of the highest international calibre. It is envisaged that 2-3 international papers (in preparation) will directly flow from the data analyses produced from the techniques learned at this workshop.
By default, the reconstruction techniques learned here by Angus and others at this course will filter down to junior researchers via his involvement in Working Group Project 2: Recent Human Impact on Australian Ecosystems (OZPACS).

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4. Project title: Research visit to Prof Jean Clobert's laboratory(France):tutoring in theory and application of mathematical models to explore phenotypic plasticity in animal populat
CI(s)/Institution: Christine Lambkin, QLD Museum; Nick Murphy & Michelle Guzik, University of Adelaide (19,600)

 

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5. Project title: Ancient DNA records of the environmental impact of climate change and humans on Australian megafauna
CI(s)/Institution: Nic Rawlence, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences ($3,500)

 

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6. Project title: Development and application of novel genetic markers to address issues of marine turtle conservation
CI(s)/Institution: Michael Jensen, PhD Candidate, University of Canberra, Institute of Applied Ecology ($3,500)

 


7. Project title: Travel funding to attend workshop on Orchid Population Dynamics
CI(s)/Institution: Renate Faast, University of Adelaide ($3,500)

Aims/background:

Attend a 2 day workshop March 17-18, 2007 in conjunction with the 3rd International Orchid Conservation Congress (IOCC): Population dynamics applied to Orchid Conservation, University of Costa Rica, San Jose run by Professors Raymond Tremblay, University of Puerto Rico and Pavel Kindlmann, University of South Bohemia in c. The workshop involved approximately twenty early career researchers from Europe, North America, South America and Australia providing an excellent opportunity to work with other researchers and two internationally renowned experts in the field of orchid biology and conservation. Participants included early career researchers as well as academics from all around the world, including UK; Puerto Rico; Australia; Canada and Argentina.

Project:

Training in the collection and analysis of demographic data using life cycle diagrams and matrix population models. Use of such models allows calculations of population growth rates as well as predictions of stable stage distribution, reproductive value (contribution of life stages to the next generation) and sensitivities (impact of each life stage on population growth rate) and as such provide an important tool for making conservation and management decisions. Calculations of confidence intervals, taking into consideration demographic, spatial and temporal variation were also discussed. Theory was reinforced and consolidated by providing an opportunity for every participant to analyse data sets from real orchid populations using software Poptools, RAMAS and Excel. Aspects of population dynamics at the landscape level were discussed including metapopulations and island biogeography theory highlighting the importance of migration, fragment size and isolation.

Outcomes:

Of the 300 species of orchids recorded in South Australia, over one-third are threatened and Renate's PhD project is investigating various factors that may be responsible for the ongoing decline of some of South Australia's Caladenia orchid species. A major component of this research focuses on changes in successional habitat characteristics that may impact not only orchid survival and population growth rate but also their ability to colonise new habitats, essential for ensuring the long-term survival of species at the regional scale.Attending the Population Dynamics workshop has provided Renate with techniques for analysing population dynamics that are directly applicable to the data she is collecting for her PhD project. Furthermore, the techniques learned will be passed on to other researchers and managers involved in the Lofty Block Threatened Orchid Recovery Project (Department for Environment and Heritage, SA) and can be incorporated into current management processes. In addition to the workshop, scientific presentations at the International Orchid Conservation Congress (IOCC) included those directly relevant to Renate's research project as well as providing an excellent overview of global orchid research and conservation challenges. Equally as valuable was the opportunity to network with experts in the field.
Perhaps one of the most important outcomes of the IOCC arose from the Australian Region Orchid Specialist Group, where it was suggested that a national workshop be organised to review historic and current research and management involving orchids within the genus Caladenia R. Br. Dr. Lachlan Farrington (an ECR post-doctoral fellow also involved with the project) and Renate have been asked to form the South Australian component of the committee to organise such a workshop in Adelaide. This workshop will bring together national and international experts to provide an overview of Caladenia research with the aim of consolidating this work and identifying knowledge gaps that need to be addressed by future studies. Furthermore, it will provide an invaluable forum for integrating scientific research with on-ground conservation and management practices.

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8. Project title: Assessing the social and genetic architecture in Egernia whi
CI(s)/Institution: Geoff While, PhD Candidate, University of Tasmania, School of Zoology($3,500)

 

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9. Project title: Research visit to Prof Jean Clobert, France
CI(s)/Institution: Fabien Aubret, University of Sydney ($2,500)

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10. Project title: Travel funding to attend International workshop
CI(s)/Institution: Lachlan Farrington, Postdoctorial Fellow UoA ($3,50

Aims/background:

Population dynamics applied to Orchid Conservation, University of Costa Rica, San Jose run by Professors Raymond Tremblay, University of Puerto Rico and Pavel Kindlmann, University of South Bohemia. The workshop involved approximately twenty early career researchers from Europe, North America, South America and Australia providing an excellent opportunity to work with other researchers and two internationally renowned experts in the field of orchid biology and conservation.

Project:

To investigate statistical techniques for determining the probability of persistence or extinction of populations and species. The workshop involved a theoretical overview of current statistical techniques for investigating population dynamics in orchids. This involved identifying key life-history stages, the links between the stages and the transcription of this into experimental design and statistical analysis toward a conservationally meaningful outcome. Through the use of real data sets, workshop attendants were required to map out a life history diagram and then utilise various models and analysis programs (Poptools, RAMAS) to investigate and project long term patterns of population growth and viability in orchid populations. It was also demonstrated how the most critical life histories stages could be identified by adjusting model parameters and observing the projected effects on future viability. The workshop highlighted some of the areas of orchid research which require much more attention in order to better validate assumptions behind population dynamic research and highlighted the need for long-term data sets.

Outcomes:

Lachlan's current research is an investigation of the population genetics of several orchid species across a fragmented landscape in the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia with respect to different life-history strategies. Of the 300 species of orchids currently recognized in South Australian, approximately one third are either endangered or extinct and this is generally attributed to habitat fragmentation and associated decline. For example, some species are highly specific with respect to pollinating agents, utilizing a single species of insect for the transfer of pollen (pollinia) from one plant to another. Other species are more general and can utilize several different species for pollination.
Lachlan's project investigates the population genetics of species with different pollination syndromes and with varying levels of distribution to determine whether some life-history types are more vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances. The ultimate interpretation of this research will rely heavily on recognition and assimilation of ecological theory associated with the population dynamics of orchids and the interplay between this and patterns of genetic structure and diversity. The attendance of this workshop allowed Lachlan to gain an up to date and comprehensive overview of ecological based orchid research and provided the opportunity to interact with other orchid ecologists and geneticists.
This workshop promoted a more rigorous understanding of how orchid populations persist and the mechanisms driving evolution. In addition, the techniques demonstrated can also be applied to other organisms and will prove useful in future avenues of research and also increase Lachlan's supervisory potential.

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