Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Outstanding success in a Federal Grant Scheme

Support for one retired and three young scientists and at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust

Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust staff were very successful in the highly competitive Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) 2012/13 grant scheme. Three National Taxonomy Research (NTR) Grants and one Capacity-building Grant totalling $515,000 over three years were awarded to staff. All three NTR projects will use molecular and morphological data using state-of-the-art techniques to resolve relationships and two of them will fund new postdoctoral positions at the Trust for early career scientists.

Reg algae - Laurencia complex

Yola Metti (PhD yet to be awarded) grew up in Vancouver (Canada) and studied at the University of British Columbia before completing her PhD in Sydney. She will be collaborating with Dr Alan Millar (Trust) on a three-year project investigating the Laurencia complex (Rhodomelaceae). This group of common red algae contains approximately 170 species found along the world’s temperate and tropical coastlines. Australia is a major centre of diversity with 61 identified species. The Laurencia complex can dominate the intertidal zone and is often abundant in the shallow subtidal region. Within the State of NSW it is the third most abundant group of algae. These species can become very important in terms of intertidal biomass and ecology, where they provide food, oxygen and shelter to a vast array of intertidal organisms. In her three-year project, Yola will document the biodiversity of the group for the Algae of Australia, produce identification tools, and no doubt discover many new species.

Mintbushes - Family Prostantheroideae

Dr Trevor Wilson, also Canadian, studied at New Brunswick and Guelph before moving to Sydney to complete his PhD. He is the principal investigator in a collaborative three-year project with Dr Barry Conn (Trust) and Dr Murray Henwood (University of Sydney) that will conduct the first rigorous, comprehensive revision of the subfamily Prostantheroideae (Lamiaceae). There are over 300 species that belong to this endemic Australian subfamily. Some species are well known in horticulture, such as native rosemary (Westringia sp.) and the Australian mintbush (Prostanthera sp.). The delineation of several generic boundaries and species complexes are necessary before the correct treatment of Australian Lamiaceae can be achieved.

Bladderworts - Utricularia

The third ABRS NTR grant was awarded to Dr Richard Jobson who commenced work at the Trust in 2010. In his three-year project he will study all 62 Australian species of the carnivorous bladderwort genus Utricularia. Species level relationships across the genus remain mostly unknown, and resolution of species boundaries will enhance our understanding of Australia’s plant diversity, taxonomy, and biogeography. A well resolved phylogeny will also shed light on the evolution of the carnivorous suction bladder-traps that are possessed by all species. These extraordinary modified leaves have evolved for capture of small aquatic prey, thereby sustaining the plants in nutrient deficient habitats. The work will also provide a treatment for the Flora of Australia.

Grevilleas - G. anethifolia and G. triloba

Lastly but not least, Peter Olde (Trust Honorary Associate) received the only Capacity-building Grant given for 2012/13 to complete his revision of the Grevillea anethifolia and G. triloba (Proteaceae) species complexes. The funding will support the production of line drawings of the c.30 undescribed species he has identified.

All four projects will, in addition to documenting and improving our understanding of Australia’s floral diversity, describe species, make discoveries about the evolution of Australian flora and contribute to the conservation and management of rare and endangered species and their habitats.

Marco Duretto
Manager Plant Diversity
National Herbarium of New South Wales
The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust



Collecting site at Coffs Harbour

Laurencia calliptera

Laurencia elegans

Laurencia majuscula branchlets

Trevor Wilson at Kaputar

Flower beetle in Lasianthos
Flower beetle in Lasianthos

Prostanthera monticola

Prostanthera ovalifolia

Richard Jobson surveying a Banksia swamp
Richard Jobson in a banksia swamp

New species of Utricularia from north Queensland

New species of Utricularia from north Queensland