Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Dr Maurizio Rossetto

Manager, Evolutionary Ecology (Principal Research Scientist)

Science & Conservation

Evolutionary Ecology


+61-2-9231 8337

+61-2-9251 7231

Research interests

My principal research interest is in the evolutionary, ecological and conservation genetics of native plants. One of my lab’s main objectives is to understand why species are distributed and assembled the way they are. This involves three main research steps: 1) describe the distribution of diversity; 2) place diversity patterns within a temporal context; 3) explore adaptive responses to local selective filters.

Most of our research focuses on two main study systems: Australian rainforest habitats (because they represent a unique combination of long- and short-term evolutionary responses to environmental change) and Sydney’s sandstone flora (because of its high biodiversity, interesting evolutionary history and management issues). With the latter we are working on diverse project ranging from tracking adaptive changes across an altitudinal gradient, to exploring the impact of habitat change on hanging swamp floras.

In the Evolutionary Ecology lab we combine genetic (and increasingly genomic) environmental and ecological data to investigate the factors that affect diversification across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Understanding the relationship between genetic exchange, ecological traits and environmental variables enables us to investigate speciation processes, as well as develop improved analytical models for predicting the consequences of environmental change and supporting management strategies. Our research is based on numerous and diverse taxa, techniques and study systems. We are generally interested in the development and application of new molecular approaches that support innovative evolutionary and conservation research on the Australian flora, and are currently taking advantage of the new and exciting opportunities provided by Next Generation Sequencing.




adaptive differentiation, biogeography, conservation genomics, habitat modeling, molecular and evolutionary ecology, next generation sequencing, temporal dynamics, transient evolution

Current research projects

Some research foci

  • Adaptive responses to environmental variability - tracking associations between genetic, morphological, environmental and climatic gradients (at population, species and assemblage levels). Aiming to gather relevant knowledge on the response of species and ecological communities to environmental and climatic change. Managing biodiversity under a changing climate requires a risk assessment for species, in terms of their susceptibility to likely changes in climate and the associated effects on existing threats.
  • Unravelling the evolutionary and environmental processes leading to rarity or endemism by investigating the association between genetic fitness and ecological traits. From an evolutionary view-point, this research explores the reasons between the differential success of lineages, and is also directly relevant to the development of appropriate management strategies for populations, species and ecological communities. 
  • Developing genomic tools to quantify and qualify landscape-level biodiversity.
  • Functional biogeography of Australian rainforests: combining phylogenetic, distributional and functional data to investigate the evolution of rainforest floras in the Southern hemisphere. 
  • Evolution and biogeography of the Australian flora - including a range of collaborative projects on Cunoniaceae, Elaeocarpaceae, Lauraceae, Proteaceae, Podocarpaceae, Vitaceae and other important Australian families.

Postdoctoral fellows

  • Dr Marlien van der Merwe, ‘Trascriptomic variation in native plants distributed across an environmental gradient (the ‘Biodiversity and Adaptation Transect’)’. 
  • Dr Hannah McPherson, ‘Biodiversity and landscape dynamics across an environmental gradient (the ‘Biodiversity and Adaptation Transect’)’.
  • Dr Rohan Mellick, ‘Associations between environmental and genetic patterns’.

Postgraduate students 

  • Susan Rutherford, PhD (with S. Bonser, UNSW and P. Wilson). ‘Adaptive variation versus vicariance: What drives speciation in eucalypts’?
  • Melita Milner, PhD (with Assoc. Prof. M. Crisp, Australian National University and P Weston). ‘Phylogeography of Lomatia and Telopea (Proteaceae)’.
  • Frances Elliot, PhD (with Prof. R. Henry, Southern Cross University). 'Extent of clonality and taxonomic relationships in Davidsonia (Cunoniaceae)'.
  • Margaret Heslewood, PhD (with Prof. A. Lowe, University of Adelaide). ‘Genetic structure and differentiation across Ceratopetalum (Cunoniaceae)’.

Some examples for future postgraduate projects

  • Biogeography and evolution of Australian rainforest trees
  • The association between environmental and genetic variation - a window into the adaptive potential of populations and species
  • A genomic approach to biodiversity quantification
  • Hybridisation and adaptive evolution
  • How do temporal changes in dispersal patterns impact on species distribution

Key publications

Peer-reviewed publications

  • Milner ML, McIntosh EJ, Crisp MD, Weston PH, Rossetto M (2013) Microsatellite variation for phylogenetic, phylogeography and population genetic studies in Lomatia (Proteaceae). Australian Systematic Botany. Click here to view.
  • Kooyman RM, Zanne A, Gallagher RV, Cornwell W, Rossetto M, O’Connor P, Parkes EA, Catterall CF, Laffan SW, Lusk CH (2013) Growth form and functional traits influence response of woody plants to clearing and fragmentation of subtropical rain forest. Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12088.  Click here to view.
  • Sommerville, K, Rossetto M, Pulkownik A (2013) Maximising adaptive potential in translocated populations of clonal saltmarsh plants: a case study on Wilsonia backhousei, Convolvulaceae. Wetlands Ecology and Management DOI: 10.1007/s11273-013-9305-7. Click here to view.  
  • Mellick, R, Rossetto M, Allen C, Wilson PD, Hill RS, Lowe A (2013) Intraspecific divergence associated with a biogeographic barrier and climatic models show future threats and long-term decline of a rainforest conifer. The Open Conservation Biology Journal 7: 1-10. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto M, P Rymer (2013) Applications of molecular markers in plant conservation. Chapter 6 pp. 81-98 in RJ Henry ed. Molecular Markers in Plants. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Singapore.  
  • Mellick R, Wilson PD, Rossetto M (2013) Post-glacial spatial dynamics in a rainforest biodiversity hot spot. Diversity 5: 124-138. Click here to view
  • McPherson H, van der Merwe M, Delaney SK, Edwards MA, Henry RJ, McIntosh E, Rymer PD, Milner ML, Siow J, Rossetto M (2013) Capturing chloroplast variation for molecular ecology studies: a simple next generation sequencing approach applied to a rainforest tree. BMC Ecology 13:8. Click here to view
  • Eliott FG, Connelly C, Rossetto M, Shepherd M, Rice N, Henry RJ (2013) Novel Microsatellite markers for the endangered Australian rainforest tree Davidsonia jerseyana (Cunoniaceae) and cross-species amplification in the Davidsonia genus. Conservation Genetics Resources 5: 161-164. 
  • Milner ML, Rossetto M, Crisp MD, Weston PH (2012) The impact of multiple biogeographic barriers and hybridization on species-level differentiation. American Journal of Botany 99(12): 2045-2057. Click here to view
  • Mellick R, Lowe A, Allen C, Hill RS, Rossetto M (2012) Palaeodistribution modelling and genetic evidence highlight differential post-glacial range shifts of a rain forest conifer distributed across a broad latitudinal gradient. Journal of Biogeography 39: 2292-2302. Click here to view.
  • Thurlby KAG, Wilson PG, Sherwin WB, Connelly C, Rossetto M (2012) Reproductive bet-hedging in a rare yet widespread rainforest tree, Syzygium paniculatum (Myrtaceae). Austral Ecology 37: 936-944. Click here to view
  • Kooyman R, Rossetto M, Allen C, Cornwell W (2012) Australian tropical and sub-tropical rain forest community assembly: phylogeny, functional biogeography, and environmental gradients. Biotropica 44(5): 668-679. Click here to view.  
  • Rossetto M, Allen CB, Thurlby KAG, Weston PH, Milner LM (2012) Genetic structure and bio-climatic modelling support allopatric over parapatric speciation along a latitudinal gradient. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12:149. Click here to view
  • Kooyman R, Rossetto M, Laffan S (2012) Using Australian Virtual herbarium data to find all the woody rain forest plants in Australia Cunninghamia 12(3): 177-180. Click here to view.   
  • Kooyman R, Rossetto M, Cornwell W, Westoby M (2011) Phylogenetic tests of community assembly across regional to continental scales in tropical and sub-tropical rainforests. Global Ecology and Biogeography 20(5): 707-716. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto M, Thurlby KAG, Offord CA, Allen CB, Weston PH (2011) The impact of distance and a shifting temperature gradient on genetic connectivity across a heterogeneous landscape. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11:126. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, RM Kooyman (2011) Predicting distributions by analysing evolutionary, functional and environmental information - a review of population genetic studies on the Australian rainforest flora. Chapter 11 pp. 305-322 in JA Daniels ed. Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 9. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
  • Mellick, R, Lowe A, Rossetto M (2011) Consequences of long- and short-term fragmentation on the genetic diversity and differentiation of a late successional rainforest conifer. Australian Journal of Botany 59: 351-362. Click here to view.
  • Thurlby KAG, Connelly C, Wilson PG, Rossetto M (2011) Development of microsatellite loci for Syzygium paniculatum (Myrtaceae), a rare polyembryonic rainforest tree. Conservation Genetics Resources 3(2): 205-208.
  • James EA, Brown GK, Citroen R, Rossetto M, Porter C (2011) Development of microsatellite loci in Triglochin procera (Juncaginaceae), a polyploidy wetland plant. Conservation Genetics Resources 3(1): 103-105.
  • van der Merwe M, Spain C, Rossetto M (2010) Enhancing the survival and expansion potential of a founder population through clonality. New Phytologist 188(3): 868-878. Click here to view.
  • van der Merwe, M, J Christina, M Rossetto (2009) Microsatellite loci for a new Australian endemic plant species Erythroxylum sp. 'Cholmondely Creek' (J.R.Clarkson 9367) (Erythroxylaceae). Conservation Genetics Resources 1: 329-331.
  • Molecular Ecology Resources Primer Development Consortium (2009) Permanent genetic resources added to Molecular Ecology Resources database 1 May-31 July 2009. Molecular Ecology Resources 9(6): 1460-1466.
  • Rossetto, M, D Crayn, A Ford, R Mellick, K Sommerville (2009) The influence of environment and life-history traits on the distribution of genes and individuals: a comparative study of 11 rainforest trees. Molecular Ecology 18: 1422-1438. [PDF] from
  • Heslewood, M, C Porter, M Avino, M Rossetto (2009) Isolation and characterization of nuclear microsatellite loci in Ceratopetalum apetalum (Cunoniaceae). Molecular Ecology Resources 9: 566-568.
  • Kooyman, R, M Rossetto (2008) Definition of plant functional groups for informing implementation scenarios in resource-limited multi-species recovery planning. Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 2917-2937.  Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, R Kooyman, W Sherwin, R Jones (2008) Dispersal limitations, rather than bottlenecks or habitat specificity, can restrict the distribution of rare and endemic rainforest trees. American Journal of Botany 95:321-329. Click here to view.
  • McPherson, H, C Porter, PD Rymer, DM Crayn, M Rossetto (2008) Isolation and characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite loci from Tetratheca ericifolia (Elaeocarpaceae). Molecular Ecology Resources 8(4): 867-869.
  • Maynard, D, D Crayn, M Rossetto, R Kooyman, M Coode (2008) Elaeocarpus sedentarius sp. nov. (Elaeocarpaceae) - morphometric analysis of a new, rare species from eastern Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 21: 192-200. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, D Crayn, A Ford, P Ridgeway, P Rymer (2007) The comparative study of range-wide genetic structure across related, co-distributed rainforest trees reveals contrasting evolutionary histories. Australian Journal of Botany 55(4): 416-424. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, DM Crayn, BR Jackes, C Porter (2007) An updated estimate of intergeneric relationships in the Australian Vitaceae. Canadian Journal of Botany 85 (8): 722-730. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M (2007) From populations to communities: understanding changes in rainforest diversity through the integration of molecular, ecological and environmental data. Telopea 12(1): 47-58. Click here to view.
  • Hinten, GN, M Rossetto, P Baverstock (2007) New microsatellite markers for bush rat, Rattus fuscipes greyii: characterization and cross-species amplification. Molecular Ecology Notes 7: 1254-1257.
  • Flanagan, NS, D Ebert, C Porter, M Rossetto, R Peakall (2006) Microsatellites markers for evolutionary studies in the sexually deceptive orchid genus Chiloglottis. Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 123-126.
  • Sommerville, K, M Rossetto, A Pulkownik (2006) Isolation and characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite loci from Wilsonia backhousei (Convolvulaceae). Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 419-421.
  • Porter, C, PD Rymer, M Rossetto (2006) Isolation and characterisation of microsatellite markers for the Waratah, Telopea speciosissima (Proteaceae). Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 446-448.
  • Kooyman, R, M Rossetto (2006) Factors influencing species selection for littoral rainforest restoration: do environmental parameters matter? Ecological Management & Restoration 7(2): 113-122. Click here to view
  • Sherwin, WB, F Jabot, R Rush, M Rossetto (2006) Measurement of biological information with applications from genes to landscapes. Molecular Ecology 15: 2857-2869. Click here to view.
  • Crayn, DM, M Rossetto, DJ Maynard (2006) Molecular phylogeny and dating reveals an Oligo-Miocene radiation of dry-adapted shrubs (Tremandraceae) from rainforest tree progenitors (Elaeocarpaceae) in Australia. American Journal of Botany 93(9): 1328-1342. Click here to view.
  • Jackes, BR, M Rossetto (2006) A new combination in Clematicissus Planch. (Vitaceae). Telopea 11(3): 390-391. Click here to view
  • Rice, N, R Henry, M Rossetto (2006) DNA banks: a primary resource for conservation research. Chapter 6 pp. 41-48 in MC de Vicente ed. DNA banks - providing novel options for Genebanks? Topical Reviews in Agricultural Biodiversity, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy.
  • Rossetto, M (2006) Impacts of habitat fragmentation. Chapter 8 pp.117-129 in RJ Henry ed. Plant conservation genetics. The Hawthorn Press, NY, USA.
  • Rossetto, M, B Jackes, D Crayn (2006) Vitaceae - Molecular evolution with a focus on the Australian radiation. Chapter 10 pp. 269-292 in AK Sharma, A Sharma eds. Plant Genome: Biodiversity and Evolution - Volume 1, Part C: Phanerogams (Angiosperms - Dicotyledons). Science Publishers Inc, USA.
  • Rossetto, M (2005) A simple molecular approach for identifying a rare Acronychia (Rutaceae) provides new insights on its multiple hybrid origins. Biological Conservation 121(1): 35-43. Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, C Porter (2005) Isolation and characterisation of microsatellite loci from Eidothea hardeniana, an early Proteaceae. Molecular Ecology Notes 5: 106-108.
  • Taylor KJ, AJ Lowe, RJ Hunter, T Ridgway, PM Gresshoff, M Rossetto (2005) Genetic diversity and regional identity in the Australian remnant Nothofagus moorei. Australian Journal of Botany 53: 437-444. Click here to view
  • Rossetto M, RM Kooyman (2005) The tension between dispersal and persistence regulates the current distribution of rare paleo-endemic rainforest flora: a case study. Journal of Ecology 93: 906-917. Click here to view
  • Vallee, L, T Hogbin, L Monks, B Makinson, M Matthes, M Rossetto (2004) Guidelines for the translocation of threatened plants in Australia. Second Edition. Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Canberra.
  • Rossetto, M, CL Gross, R Jones, J Hunter (2004) The impact of clonality on an endangered tree (Elaeocarpus williamsianus) in a fragmented rainforest. Biological Conservation 117(1): 33-39. Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, R Jones, J Hunter (2004) Genetic effects of rainforest fragmentation in an early successional tree (Elaeocarpus grandis). Heredity 93(6): 610-618. Click here to view
  • Wells G, G Zawko, M Rossetto, KW Dixon (2003) A molecular approach to provenance delineation for the restoration of hummock grasslands (Triodia spp.) in arid-tropical Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration 4(S1): S60-S68. Click here to view.
  • Hinten, GN, F Harriss, M Rossetto, PR Baverstock. (2003) Genetic variation and island biogeography: microsatellite and mitochondrial variation in island populations of the bush rat, Rattus fuscipes greyii. Conservation Genetics 4(6): 759-778. Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, J McNally, RJ Henry (2002) Evaluating the potential of SSR flanking regions for examining relationships in Vitaceae. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 104: 61-66. Click here to view.  
  • Arnold, C, M Rossetto, J McNally, RJ Henry (2002) The application of SSRs characterised for grape (Vitis vinifera) to conservation studies in Vitaceae. American Journal of Botany 89: 22-28. Click here to view
  • Lee, LS, L Brooks, LE Homer, M Rossetto, RJ Henry, PR Baverstock (2002) Geographic variation in the essential oils and morphology of natural populations of Melaleuca alternifolia. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 30 (4): 343-360. Click here to view
  • Mattner, J, G Zawko, M Rossetto, S Krauss, K Dixon, K Sivasithamparam (2002) Conservation genetics and implications for restoration after mining of Hemiginea exilis (Lamiaceae), a serpentine endemic from Western Australian. Biological Conservation 107 (1): 37-45. Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, B Jackes, KD Scott, RJ Henry (2002) Is the genus Cissus (Vitaceae) monophyletic: evidence from plastid and nuclear ribosomal DNA. Systematic Botany 27 (3): 522-533. Click here to view
  • Jones, RC, J McNally, M Rossetto (2002) Isolation of microsatellite loci from a rainforest tree, Elaeocarpus grandis (Elaeocarpaceae), and amplification across closely related taxa. Molecular Ecology Notes 2 (2): 179-181.
  • Saenger, P, M Rossetto (2002) The use of DNA molecular techniques for mangrove studies. Mangrove Science 2: 1-9.
  • Arnold, C, M Rossetto (2002) Comparative population studies on two Cissus species (Vitaceae) in fragmented and undisturbed rainforest habitats. Cunninghamia 7(4): 683-693. Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, B Jackes, KD Scott, RJ Henry (2001) Intergeneric relationship in the Australian Vitaceae: new evidence from cpDNA analysis. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 48: 307-314. Click here to view
  • Lee, LS, M Rossetto, L Homer, RJ Henry (2001) Molecular analysis of wild plant germplasm: the case of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). Chapter 7 pp. 95-107 in RJ Henry ed. Plant genotyping: the DNA fingerprinting of plants. CABI, Wallingford, UK.
  • Rossetto, M (2001) Sourcing SSR markers from related plant species. Chapter 14 pp. 211-224 in RJ Henry ed. Plant genotyping: the DNA fingerprinting of plants. CABI, Wallingford, UK.
  • Rossetto, M, FCL Harriss, A Mclauchlan, RJ Henry, PR Baverstock, LS Lee (2000) Interspecific amplification of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia - Myrtaceae) microsatellite loci - potential implications for conservation studies. Australian Journal of Botany 48 (3): 367-373. Click here to view
  • Scott, KD, P Eggler, G Seaton, M Rossetto, EM Ablett, LS Lee, RJ Henry (2000) Analysis of SSRs derived from grape ESTs. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 100: 723-726. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, J McNally, RJ Henry, J Hunter, M Matthes (2000) Conservation genetics of an endangered rainforest tree (Fontainea oraria - Euphorbiaceae) and implications for closely related species. Conservation Genetics 1 (3): 217-229. Click here to view
  • Rossetto, M, G Jezierski, SD Hopper, KW Dixon (1999) Conservation genetics and clonality in two critically endangered eucalypts from the highly endemic south-western Australian flora. Biological Conservation. 88 (3): 321-331. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, A McLauchlan, FCL Harriss, RJ Henry, LS Lee, P Baverstock, TL Maguire, K Edwards. (1999) Abundance and polymorphism of microsatellite markers in tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia - Myrtaceae). Theoretical and Applied Genetics 98:1091-1098. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, RW Slade, PR Baverstock, RJ Henry, LS Lee (1999) Microsatellite variation and assessment of genetic structure in tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia - Myrtaceae). Molecular Ecology 8: 633-643. Click here to view.
  • Hinten, G, T Maguire, M Rossetto, P Baverstock (1999) Isolation and characterisation of microsatellite loci from the bush rat Rattus fuscipes greyii. Molecular Ecology 8: 1351-1352.
  • Hopper, SD, MF Fay, M Rossetto, MW Chase (1999) A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the bloodroot and kangaroo paw family, Haemodoraceae: taxonomic, biogeographic and conservation implications. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 131: 285-299. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, RJ Henry, PR Baverstock, LS Lee, A McLauchlan, FCL Harriss, TL Maguire. (1999) Patent Co-operation Treaty no. PCT/AU99/00820 for Myrtaceae Microsatellites.
  • Henry, RJ, LS Lee, E Ablett, K Scott, M Rossetto, P Eggler (1999) Vitaceae Microsatellites - PQ1276 (National).
  • Scott, K, G Seaton, E Ablett, M Rossetto, R Henry, SL Lee (1999) Thaumatin-like genes - PQ1276 (National).
  • Rossetto, M, SF Lucarotti, SD Hopper, KW Dixon (1997) DNA fingerprinting of Eucalyptus graniticola (the Dwellingup mallee) a critically endangered relict species or a rare hybrid? Heredity 79: 310-318. Click here to view.
  • K Atkins, J Benson, K Dixon, L Gilfedder, M Jusaitis, M Matthes, M Rossetto (1997) Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia. Australian Network for Plant Conservation. Canberra.
  • Rossetto, M, KW Dixon (1997) Are rare plant translocations beneficial to conservation? Chapter 79 pp. 442-445 in P Hale, D Lamb eds. 'Conservation Outside Reserves'. University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Sieler, IM, M Rossetto, KW Dixon (1997) II.2 Micropropagation of Caustis dioica (Chinese Puzzle). pp. 220-231 in YPS Bajaj ed. 'Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry, Vol. 39, High-Tech and Micropropagation V'. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany.
  • Rossetto, M, PK Weaver, KW Dixon (1995) Use of RAPD analysis in devising conservation strategies for the rare and endangered Grevillea scapigera (Proteaceae). Molecular Ecology 4: 321-329. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, KW Dixon, KA Meney, E Bunn (1992) In vitro propagation of Chinese Puzzle (Caustis dioica Cyperaceae) - a commercial sedge species from Western Australia. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture 30: 65-67. Click here to view.
  • Rossetto, M, KW Dixon, E Bunn (1992) Aeration: a simple method to control vitrification and improve in vitro culture of rare Australian plants. In Vitro Cell Dev. Biol. 28P: 192-196. Click here to view.
  • Zann, RA, M Rossetto (1991) Zebra finch incubation: brood patch, egg temperature and thermal properties of the nest. Emu 91: 107-109. Click here to view.