Jim Willis Studentships 2020/21

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 $2,086.54 gross per fortnight.  Applications will be assessed on the merit of the applicant.  The following projects are offered for 2020/2021:


Phylogeography of Australasian Fungi

Many fungi appear to be confined to Australasia (Australia, New Zealand and other surrounding islands such as New Guinea and New Caledonia) — in a variety of distribution patterns. Rigorous species delimitation is a foundation of effective biogeographic analysis and therefore species in common need to be confirmed as truly conspecific. DNA barcodes are a practical means of delimiting species in many lineages of fungi. The increasing number of sequences coming on stream from fungarium barcoding projects means that there is potential to confirm the identity of species across their presumed distribution. This project will mine biodiversity aggregators such as the Atlas of Living Australia for distribution data (including from citizen science initiatives) and assess conspecificity using publicly available barcode sequences. The data set assembled will allow detection of distribution patterns and also inform future barcoding initiatives. Analyses will include outlier detection, DNA sequence alignment and construction of phylogenetic trees, classification (ordination and clustering) and bioregionalisation.

Tom May
T 03 9252 2319

Variation in Acacia mucronata

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.  As currently defined there are three subspecies of A. mucronata. All occur in Tasmania. with one, subsp. longifolia, extending to the mainland. There are varied opinions on whether two subspecies are sufficiently distinct to be maintained while, at the same time, perhaps the endemic Tasmanian subspecies may warrant recognition at species rank.

A project to undertake a numerical assessment of characters based predominantly on herbarium specimens will lend evidence for the appropriate ranks of recognition for the members of this species.

Dan Murphy
T 03 9252 2377
E daniel.murphy@rbg.vic.gov.au

Daniel Ohlsen
T 03 9252 2369
E daniel.ohlsen@rbg.vic.gov.au

Neville Walsh
T 03 9252 2310
E neville.walsh@rbg.vic.gov.au

Truffle Resources for the Long-footed Potoroo: a Baseline Study

The long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes) is an endangered marsupial found only in a few areas of southeastern Australia. Already threatened by habitat loss and predation by introduced species, the 2020 Australian bushfires burned many long-footed potoroo localities. Studies are underway to gauge the impacts of the fires on P. longipes, including its food resources. The diet of P. longipes is composed almost entirely of fungi, with the majority of these fungi being hypogeous (underground) and sequestrate (truffle-like).

Our primary goals are to (a) identify known long-footed potoroo localities within and outside the extent of recent bushfires and (b) generate inventories of truffle species at these sites based on herbarium records. Comparisons will be made between sites considering variables such as climate, substrate, aspect, logging history, and fire history. Previous studies of long-footed potoroo scats were successful in identifying morphospecies of truffles; since these initial studies there have been numerous advances in phylogenetic species delimitation of truffles. As such, interpretation of herbarium records will be guided by current phylogenetic knowledge.

These comparisons will serve as baseline information for future studies on the diet of P. longipes. While this work will be conducted entirely from existing data, there may be opportunities to visit field sites to collect fungi, soil, and/or scats.

Naveed Davoodian
T 03 9252 2328
E naveed.davoodian@rbg.vic.gov.au

Andre Messina
T 03 9252 2339
E andre.messina@rbg.vic.gov.au

Is Ajuga australis R.Br. really a single species?

Ajuga australis (Lamiaceae) is a morphologically variable taxon widespread across diverse habitats of eastern Australia (SA, Vic, NSW, Qld, Tas). One species name currently represents this diversity, but a morphological study of A. australis across New South Wales (Australia) suggests that this concept is likely composed of several taxa. With MEL herbarium specimens and new material sourced from the field, this project will contribute a quantitative analysis of morphological variability for Ajuga australis sens. lat. across its entire distribution, and will feed into an existing study that is funded to discover the global systematics of Ajuga using molecular data. With the advantage of an existing ex situ collection associated with the Ajuga project at RBGV, there may be an opportunity (dependent on time) to provide chromosome counts to test if there is a relationship between ploidy and the morphotypes recovered by morphological analysis. 

Liz James
T 03 5990 2378
E elizabeth.james@rbg.vic.gov.au

Neville Walsh
T 03 9252 2310
E neville.walsh@rbg.vic.gov.au


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 (single PDF only) should be addressed and emailed to Dr Frank Udovicic, Manager Research, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (frank.udovicic@rbg.vic.gov.au), by 16 October 2020.