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Dr Matt A.M. Renner

Honorary Research Associate


I am a Research Scientist at the National Herbarium of New South Wales, where I maintain broad research interests, spanning macroevolutionary dynamics to plant-pollinator interactions, but focus on discovery and documentation of Australia’s plants.  I have curatorial responsibility for bryophytes, ferns, and forget-me-nots in addition to orchids, which were my first botanical love, and at home I maintain a modest living collection focussed on Australian Dendrobium sect. Dendrocoryne

Research Interests

My research focuses on discovery and documentation of Australian plants, especially more challenging, understudied groups, and has two broad themes:

  1. Documenting the diversity of Australian plant life. This theme, comprises a sequence of projects investigating some challenging plant groups, including peas and bryophytes.  
  2. Understanding the diversity of Australian plant life. Understanding how Australia’s unique plant life has come to be, through changing climates and vegetation types, interactions with other land masses, involves reconstructing historical processes from contemporary patterns.

Current Projects

 I enjoy synthesizing data from a range of sources using tools including molecular phylogeny inference and geometric morphometric methods to address fundamental questions about the diversity of Australian plants.  Here are some of my current projects:

The Pultenaea glabra complex
Collaborators: Drs Russell Barrett and Peter Weston and Mr Steve Clarke
This project combines next generation molecular and morphological techniques to understand relationships within the Pultenaea glabra complex, a species of conservation significance but which includes a number of morphologically and ecologically distinct forms. 

Climate space exploration in Acacia, linking traits, rates, and time-trees.
Collaborators: Drs Daniel Murphy (Royal Botanic Garden, Victoria), Charles Foster (University of Sydney), Joe Miller (GBIF, Copenhagen)
This project synthesizes biodiversity data from Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH) with BioClimatic layers, trait data, and a comprehensively sampled molecular phylogeny to query how Acacia has explored climate space on a drying continent through time. 

An integrative revision of Australian Aneuraceae
Collaborators: Drs Lei Shu (East China Normal University) and David Glenny (Landcare Research, NZ). 
Arguably the Aneuraceae are the last 'black box' in the Australian bryophyte flora, in that they present such a challenge to morphological studies that we don’t yet have a clear idea of how diverse they might be.  This project, which has been funded by ABRS from July 2019, aims to synthesize molecular and morphological data to resolve species in Australia and their relationships in a global context. 

Species boundaries in Australasian Lejeuneaceae (Marchantiopsida)
Collaborators: Drs David Glenny (Landcare Research, NZ) and Peter de Lange (Auckland University of Technology).
Lejeuneaceae is the most species-rich family of liverwort, with more than 1000 species.  Though diversity is concentrated in the tropics, Australasia has a distinctive flora comprising many unique southern-temperate elements.  Species of this family are usually small, difficult to work with, and relatively character poor, so have not attracted as much attention as other, more charismatic bryophyte groups.  As such there are still new species to discover and describe in this family. 

Phylogenetics of Astrotricha (Araliaceae)
Collaborators: Mr Richard Dimon, Drs Trevor Wilson, Marlien van der Merwe, and A/Prof Murray Henwood (University of Sydney)
Astrotricha is endemic to Australia, comprising around 25 species in mesic, monsoon, and semi-arid zones.  Most diversity is in south-east Australia, however species circumscription remains problematic.  This project, which formed the basis for an honours thesis, seeks to resolve the relationships of Astrotricha within the Araliaceae, resolve relationships among species, to provide a robust phylogenetic framework upon which revisionary studies can proceed, and understand the timing and tempo of speciation across Australia. 

Publication highlights

For a complete publication list, see my Google Scholar or ResearchGate profiles

Renner MAM, Foster CSP, Miller JT, Murphy DJ (2020) Increased diversification rates are coupled with higher rates of climate space exploration in Australian Acacia (Caesalpinioideae). New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/nph.16349
Here is a presentation on these findings, and there are many other great talks on The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney facebook page:

Field AR, Renner MAM (2019) Rediscovered or reconsidered: the presumed extinct ferns and lycophytes of tropical Queensland, Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 32: 111—122.

Renner MAM (2018) A revision of Australian Plagiochila (Lophocoleinae: Jungermanniopsida). Telopea 21: 187—380.
Renner MAM, Heslewood MM, Heinrichs J (2018) Geometric morphometric methods achieve type specimen assignment in the cryptic Plagiochila arbuscula complex (Plagiochilaceae: Jungermanniopsida) with the minimum of morphological evidence. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 186: 108—128.
Renner MAM, Heslewood MM, Patzak SDF, Schafer-Verwimp A, Heinrichs (2017) By how much do we underestimate species diversity of liverworts using morphological evidence? An example from Australasian Plagiochila (Plagiochilaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 107: 576—593.

In the Media




  • Current: Mr Christopher Donovan. Root and shoot nutrition in vascular epiphytes. PhD Student, University of Sydney, primary supervisor A/Prof. Charles Warren.
  • Future: If you'd like to describe a new species, resolve relationships, or explore patterns of trait evolution, or have another botanical research project in mind and would like to work with the National Herbarium of New South Wales, email us.  We have a dynamic research team here, and will be happy to hear from you.  

Affiliations and committees

Fellow of the Linnean Society, London (2010—)
Research Associate, University of Sydney (2017—)
Scientific Editor, Telopea (2018—)

Scientific Curatorial responsibilities in herbarium

 Anthocerotaceae, Dendrocerotaceae, Leiosporocerotaceae, Notothyladaceae, Phymatocerotaceae, Acrobolbaceae, Adelanthaceae, Allisoniaceae, Aneuraceae, Antheliaceae, Arnelliaceae, Aytoniaceae, Balantiopsidaceae, Blasiaceae, Blepharidophyllaceae, Blepharostomataceae, Brevianthaceae, Calyculariaceae, Calypogeiaceae, Cephaloziaceae, Cephaloziellaceae, Chonecoleaceae, Cleveaceae, Conocephalaceae, Corsiniaceae, Cyathodiaceae, Dumortieraceae, Endogemmataceae, Exomothecaceae, Fossombroniaceae, Frullaniaceae, Geocalycaceae, Goebeliellaceae, Grolleaceae, Gymnomitriaceae, Gyrothyraceae, Haplomitriaceae, Harpanthaceae, Herbertaceae, Herzogianthaceae, Hygrobiellaceae, Hymenophytaceae, Jackiellaceae, Jubulaceae, Jungermanniaceae, Lejeuneaceae, Lepicoleaceae, Lepidolaenaceae, Lepidoziaceae, Lophocoleaceae, Lophoziaceae, Lunulariaceae, Makinoaceae, Marchantiaceae, Mastigophoraceae, Metzgeriaceae, Moerckiaceae, Monocarpaceae, Monocleaceae, Monosoleniaceae, Myliaceae, Neohodgsoniaceae, Neotrichocoleaceae, Noterocladaceae, Notoscyphaceae, Oxymitraceae, Pallaviciniaceae, Pelliaceae, Petalophyllaceae, Phyllothalliaceae, Plagiochilaceae, Pleuroziaceae, Porellaceae, Pseudolepicoleaceae, Ptilidiaceae, Radulaceae, Ricciaceae, Riellaceae, Saccogynaceae, Sandeothallaceae, Scapaniaceae, Schistochilaceae, Solenostomataceae, Southbyaceae, Sphaerocarpaceae, Stephaniellaceae, Targioniaceae, Treubiaceae, Trichocoleaceae, Trichotemnomataceae, Wiesnerellaceae, Adelotheciaceae, Amblystegiaceae, Ambuchananiaceae, Andreaceae, Andreaeobryaceae, Archidiaceae, Aulacomniaceae, Bartramiaceae, Brachytheciaceae, Bruchiaceae, Bryaceae, Bryobartramiaceae, Bryoxiphiaceae, Buxbaumiaceae, Calomniaceae, Calymperaceae, Campyliaceae, Catagoniaceae, Catoscopiaceae, Cinclidotaceae, Climaciaceae, Cratoneuraceae, Cryphaeaceae, Cyrtopodaceae, Daltoniaceae, Dicnemonaceae, Dicranaceae, Diphysciaceae, Disceliaceae, Ditrichiaceae, Drummondiaceae, Echinodiaceae, Encalyptaceae, Entodontaceae, Ephemeraceae, Erpodiaceae, Eusticiaceae, Fabroniaceae, Fissidentaceae, Fontinalaceae, Funariaceae, Garovagliaceae, Gigaspermaceae, Grimmiaceae, Hedwigiaceae, Helicophyllaceae, Helodiaceae, Hookeriaceae, Hydropogonaceae, Hylocomiaceae, Hypnaceae, Hypnodendraceae, Hypopterygiaceae, Lembophyllaceae, Leptodontaceae, Leptostomataceae, Lepyrodontaceae, Leskeaceae, Leucobryaceae, Leucodontaceae, Lecomiaceae, Meesiaceae, Meteoriaceae, Microtheciellaceae, Mielichhoferiaceae, Mitteniaceae, Mniaceae, Myriniaceae, Nyuriaceae, Neckeraceae, Oedipodiaceae, Orthodontaceae, Orthorrhychiaceae, Orthotrichaceae, Pyllodrepaniaceae, Phyllogoniaceae, Pilotrichaceae, Plagiotheciaceae, Pleuroziopsaceae, Polytrichaceae, Pottiaceae, Prionodontaceae, Pseudoditrichaceae, Ptergynandraceae, Pterobryaceae, Pterobryellaceae, Ptychomitriaceae, Ptycomniaceae, Racopilaceae, Regmatondtaceae, Rhabdoweisiaceae, Rhacocarpaceae, Rhizogoniaceae, Rhytidiaceae, Rigociaceae, Rutenbergiaceae, Schistostegaceae, Scouleriaceae, Seligeriaceae, Sematophyllaceae, Serpotortellaceae, Sorapillaceae, Sphagnaceae, Spridentaceae, Splachnaceae, Splachnobryaceae, Stereophyllaceae, Symphyodontaceae, Takakiaceae, Tetraphidaceae, Theliaceae, Thuidiaceae, Timmiaceae, Trachylomataceae, Viridivelleraceae, Wardiaceae, Lycopodiaceae, Isoetaceae, Selaginellaceae, Anemiaceae, Aspleniaceae, Athyriaceae, Blechnaceae, Cibotiaceae, Culcitaceae, Cyatheaceae, Cystodiaceae, Cystopteridaceae, Davalliaceae, Dennstaedtiaceae, Desmophlebiaceae, Dicksoniaceae, Didymochlaenaceae, Diplaziopsidaceae, Dipteridaceae, Dryopteridaceae, Equisetaceae, Gleicheniaceae, Hemidyctiaceae, Hymenophyllaceae, Hypodematiaceae, Lindsaeaceae, Lomariopsidaceae, Lonchitidaceae, Loxogrammaceae, Loxsomataceae, Lygodiaceae, Marattiaceae, Marsileaceae, Matoniaceae, Metaxyaceae, Nephrolepidaceae, Oleandraceae, Onocleaceae, Ophioglossaceae, Osmundaceae, Plagiogyriaceae, Platyceriaceae, Platyzomataceae, Pleurisoriopsidaceae, Polypodiaceae, Psilotaceae, Pteridaceae, Rhachidosoraceae, Saccolomataceae, Salviniaceae, Schizaeaceae, Tectariaceae, Thelypteridaceae, Thyrsopteridaceae, Woodsiaceae, Boraginaceae, Hydroleaceae, Polemoniaceae, Orchidaceae.