Jim Willis Studentships 2019/20

The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria invites applications for vacation studentships honouring the late Dr James Hamlyn Willis, distinguished former senior member of staff at the National Herbarium of Victoria. You will be in the third or fourth year of a Science degree, with interests in plant and/or fungal systematics. The studentship will allow you to participate, under supervision, in one of the research programs at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.

There are two studentships available and each is awarded for an eight-week period during December to February, and remuneration is $2,009.09 gross per fortnight.  Applications will be assessed on the merit of the applicant.  The following projects are offered for 2019/2020:


Should Australian Hedgehog Fungi be Echidna Fungi?

Hydnum is a cosmopolitan genus of fleshy spine fungi. For many years, Australian material has been considered conspecific with Hydnum repandum from the Northern Hemisphere, known colloquially as the Hedgehog Fungus. Recent DNA sequencing indicates that there are numerous species in the Hydnum repandum group, often with distributions restricted to particular continents. It is likely that Australasian collections represent species endemic to the region.

In this project, the extensive collections of Hydnum in the National Herbarium of Victoria will be examined across morphological, molecular and ecological features. This information will be integrated to produce a modern treatment of the Australian species, including assessment of two existing names in the genus based on type material from Australia.

Tom May
T 03 9252 2319

Gareth Holmes


Taxonomy and Phylogeny of New Australian Truffles

The fungi of Australia represent an ecologically and evolutionarily diverse assemblage of species, the majority of which remain undescribed despite years of sustained research. This is especially true for hypogeous (underground) sequestrate (truffle-like) fungi, which have eluded many investigators due to their subterranean lifestyles and ephemeral fruiting bodies. Many of these fungi play critical roles as mycorrhizal symbionts with several flagship Australian plant genera (e.g. Eucalyptus, Acacia).

Using herbarium material, notes, images, and molecular data, we will describe new taxa across three predominately ectomycorrhizal orders of Basidiomycota, the mushroom-forming phylum. Target orders are Boletales (the porcini order), Russulales (the brittlegill and milkcap order), and Hysterangiales (an enigmatic order that is highly diverse in Australia). In addition to describing these new entities, we are interested in inferring the phylogenetic position of these new taxa within their respective orders. This project will entail utilizing light microscopy, descriptive morphology, and phylogenetics to elucidate the identity of these mysterious organisms.

Teresa Lebel
T 03 9252 2361
E teresa.lebel@rbg.vic.gov.au

Naveed Davoodian


Variation in Acacia genistifolia 

Acacia is Australia’s largest plant genus. At nearly 1000 species and 250 years of history, it might appear that they should be all sorted now.

Acacia genistifolia, demonstrates morphological variation that suggests further cryptic taxa may warrant recognition. A project that closely measures representative herbarium specimens and analyses the resultant data via PATN or a similar analytical package will shed light on the nature of the variation in the species. Fieldwork will further test any taxonomic hypotheses generated and a report/paper will present the findings.

Daniel Ohlsen
T 03 9252 2369

Neville Walsh
T 03 9252 2310


Taxonomic validity of the Longford Leek-orchid – critically endangered species or natural variation of a widespread species?

The Longford Leek-orchid is an attractive, summer-flowering form of the widespread Fragrant Leek-orchid (Prasophyllum odoratum), suggested by some (Backhouse 2019) to be a unique species warranting taxonomic recognition. The species appears to have relatively tall and crowded flower spikes, flowers in December (a month later than other lowland populations of P. odoratum in eastern Victoria) and is the only population of P. odoratum growing in native grassland habitat in Victoria. 

The Longford Leek-orchid is currently known from only a single population of around 100 plants growing on a roadside near Longford in central Gippsland, where it is at risk from multiple threats. Taxonomic evaluation of this putative taxa is urgently needed to inform conservation actions.

This project will involve collection of specimens from the wild population of Longford Leek-orchid, review of herbarium specimens of P. odoratum, and analysis of morphological traits to evaluate the taxonomic validity of the Longford Leek-orchid. 

Noushka Reiter
T 03 5990 2252

Marc Freestone
T 03 9252 2329


Enquiries and applications  

For general enquiries about the studentships, please contact:
Frank Udovicic
T 03 9252 2313
E frank.udovicic@rbg.vic.gov.au

Applications should include curriculum vitae (including university transcript), two referees, and a brief covering letter explaining how the applicant would benefit from the Jim Willis Studentship and how they can contribute to research at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and reasons for preference of particular project. 

Applications (PDF format only) should be addressed and emailed to Dr Frank Udovicic, Manager Research, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (frank.udovicic@rbg.vic.gov.au), by 11 October 2019.