Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Karen Sommerville

Scientific Officer, Rainforest Conservation Project

Science and Public Programs

Conservation and Horticultural Research
The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan


+61 2 4634 7942

+61 2 4648 2465

Research interests

  • Effects of environmental stress on plant germination and growth
  • Conservation of rare and threatened Australian plants 
  • Restoration of degraded natural environments
  • Molecular ecology of clonal plants
  • Symbiotic germination and cultivation of terrestrial orchids

Current research projects

  • Conservation options for rainforest species with recalcitrant seeds
  • Cryopreservation of orchid seeds and mycorrhizal fungi
  • Response of alpine seeds to a changing climate 
  • Ecology and reproductive biology of saltmarsh plants 
  • Molecular ecology of Wilsonia backhousei


  • Merritt DJ, Hay FR, Swarts ND, Sommerville KD, Dixon KW (in press) Ex situ conservation and cryopreservation of orchid germplasm. International Journal of Plant Sciences
  • 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
  • Sommerville KD, Martyn AJ, Offord CA (2013) Can seed characteristics or species distribution be used to predict the stratification requirements of herbs in the Australian Alps? Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 172: 187–204
  • Sommerville K, Pulkownik A, Burchett M (2012) Reproductive biology of a threatened saltmarsh plant – Wilsonia backhousei. Aquatic Botany, 99: 1–10.
  • Offord CA, Bunn E, Turner SR, Sommerville KD, Siemon J and Ashmore SE (2009) Tissue culture. In: Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia (Eds. CA Offord and PF Meagher), pp 109-128. Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Canberra.
  • Rossetto M, Crayn D, Ford A, Mellick R and Sommerville K (2009) The influence of environment and life-history traits on the distribution of genes and individuals: a comparative study of eleven rainforest trees. Molecular Ecology, 18: 1422-1438.
  • Sommerville, K.D., Heslewood, M.M., Siemon, J.P. and Offord, C.A. (2009) Banking site soil for the germination of terrestrial orchid seed collections. Seed Science and Technology, 37: 229-235.
  • Siemon J, Offord CA and Sommerville K (2009) Storage of terrestrial orchid seed and symbionts for ex situ conservation. Australasian Plant Conservation, 17(4): 7-8.
  • Sommerville, K.D., Siemon, J.P., Wood, C.B. and Offord, C.A. (2008) Simultaneous encapsulation of seed and mycorrhizal fungi for long-term storage and propagation of terrestrial orchids. Australian Journal of Botany, 56: 609 - 615.
  • Sommerville, K., Rossetto, M. and Pulkownik, A. (2006) Isolation and characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite loci from Wilsonia backhousei (Convolvulaceae). Molecular Ecology Notes, 6: 419–421.