Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Molecular Laboratory report 2011-2012

Carolyn Connelly - Molecular Laboratory Coordinator

The Molecular Laboratory provides support and training in a safe working environment to researchers in Plant Diversity and Evolutionary Ecology. September 2011 marked the anniversary of 20 years of Molecular Research in the National Herbarium of NSW.

The Laboratory’s molecular research programs began with an ARC-funded project on the phylogeny and biogeography of the waratahs and their relatives. This emerged from collaboration between Honorary Research Associate Professor John Thomson, who had just retired as Professor of Genetics at the University of Sydney, and Dr Peter Weston, then a Research Scientist at the Herbarium. Dr Barbara Briggs, who was then Senior Assistant Director, Science, was the management advocate for the molecular program and a strong voice in its support.

Organising the molecular tissue samples continued this year with further development of the Laboratory Tab in the Trust’s database. Lookup tables and user databasing guides were written. Relocation of the Molecular Laboratory storeroom to the former Science and Conservation field store was completed this year. The majority of storeroom materials were sorted and retained or redistributed for use in PlantBank.

Laboratory Safety

One significant change was the introduction of GelRed for visualising DNA after electrophoresis. It is much safer to use than ethidium bromide and does not require separate waste disposal. Several Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) pertinent to the laboratory were revised by the molecular group this year and as an ongoing process.

Scientific Volunteers

May this year saw new laboratory volunteer Gaye Wingett join in with existing laboratory volunteer Daria Sosna to curate plant tissues stored in the freezers. Samples of plant tissues stored in individual packets of silica gel (which are often fully hydrated) are removed and placed into labelled envelopes. The envelopes are then stored in sealed boxes of up to 200 samples over a bed of (dehydrated) silica gel.

Research Projects

Many of the projects underway in the molecular laboratory are reported elsewhere on this website.

Ferns and conifers of Australia

Dr Nathalie Nagalingum has been collecting data for several projects to infer phylogenies and understand phylogenetic diversity/endemism of the Australian flora. In June 2012, she was joined by Ani Lee, an undergraduate student from the University of California, Berkeley. They are extracting DNA and sequencing chloroplast markers from ferns (Nathalie) and from conifers (Ani). These plants were obtained from the collections of the three gardens, as well as during a field trip to northeast Queensland in July.

Cunoniaceae (Oxalidales)

Margaret Heslewood continued research on the historical biogeography and phylogeography of family Cunoniaceae in Australasia, and is preparing papers for a PhD thesis.

Systematics of Myrtaceae:

Margaret Heslewood recommenced a sequencing project on Myrtaceae for Peter Wilson in February.





DNA sequences of Australian ferns. Image: N Nagalingum

Celebrating 20 years of Molecular Research at Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, pictured are founding scientists Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Honorary Research Associate John Thomson, Senior Principle Research Scientist Peter Weston and Honorary Research Associate Barbara Briggs. Photo: C. Connelly.