Joanne Birch

Joanne Birch

Postdoctoral Fellow

As a plant systematist, Joanne Birch conducts research on the evolutionary relationships and historical biogeography of flowering plants. Joanne’s research is primarily on monocotyledons, focusing on the Poaceae tribe Poeae and the Asteliaceae (Asparagales). She reconstructs phylogenies based on molecular (DNA sequence) data to estimate relationships and conducts field and herbarium-based research to trace the evolution of morphological and ecological characters within lineages. Joanne studies patterns of plant biodiversity in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific to investigate the histories of these floras and identify the factors that have shaped them. She uses molecular dating techniques to establish time-frames for plant radiations.

Joanne’s postdoctoral project focusses on the tussock-grasses in the grass family (Poaceae), tribe Poeae. This is a tribe of cool temperate grasses including 17 genera and approximately 94 species in Australia. This project will investigate the utility and accuracy of DNA barcoding markers for identification of Poeae grasses, establish a molecular reference library for DNA barcoding, determine the phylogenetic relationships of taxa in tribe Poeae in Australia, and revise species concepts for Poa species for which taxonomic boundaries are incompletely understood. Joanne has ongoing research interests in the plant family Asteliaceae after completing her PhD at the University of Hawaii on the systematics and biogeography ofAstelia s.l. She is involved in a study reconstructing the phylogeny for the Astelioid clade in the Lower Asparagales and is currently completing a monograph of Astelia andCollospermum.


  • DNA barcoding of tussock-grasses (Poaceae: Poeae)
  • Systematics of Australasian Poa (Poaceae)
  • Application of next-generation sequencing methods to resolve relationships of recently diverged Australasian Poa radiations
  • Systematics of Asteliaceae
  • Evolutionary history of the Astelioid clade (order Asparagales)
  • Construction of a digital, multi-access key for identification of Australian Tussock-grasses (tribe Poeae)
  • Refereed journal articles
  • Other

Birch, J.L., Berwick, F., Walsh, N.G., Cantrill, D.J. and Murphy, D.J. (accepted 2015). Distribution of morphological diversity within widespread Australian species of Poa (Poaceae, tribe Poeae) and implications for taxonomy of the genus. Australian Systematic Botany.

Birch, J.L., Cantrill, D.J., Walsh, N.G. and Murphy, D.J. (2014). Phylogenetic investigation and divergence dating of Poa (Poaceae tribe Poeae) in the Australasian Region. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 175, 523–552. DOI: 10.1111/boj.12185.

Birch, J.L. and Keeley, S.C. (2013). Dispersal pathways across the pacific: the historical biogeography of Astelia s.l. (Asteliaceae, Asparagales). Journal of Biogeography 40, 1914–1927.

Birch, J.L., Keeley, S.C. and Morden, C.W. (2012). Molecular phylogeny and dating of Asteliaceae (Asparagales):Astelia s.l. evolution provides insight into the Oligocene history of New Zealand. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65, 102–115. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.05.031.

Birch, J.L. (2010). Book Review: The Timber Press Dictionary of Plant Names. Systematic Botany 35, 918.

Birch, J.L. (2009). A comparative analysis of nineteenth century pharmacopoeias in the Southeastern United States: a case study based on the Gideon Lincecum Herbarium.Economic Botany 63, 427–440.

Conference proceedings

Birch, J.L., Cantrill, D.G., Walsh, N.G. and Murphy, D.J. (2013). DNA barcoding of tussock grasses, BushBlitz Symposium, Canberra, Australia.

Birch, J.L., Cantrill, D.G., Walsh, N.G. and Murphy, D.J. (2013). Poaceae, Contributed Papers. Monocots V: 5th International Conference on the Comparative Biology of Monocotyledons, New York, New York, USA.