Summer scholarships in plant ecology and ecophysiology

Australian alps


This summer projects in the lab will include alpine ecology and reproductive biology as well as glasshouse projects on phenotypic plasticity in response to water availability. Contact Adrienne ( for more information.

Summer scholars in the lab this year will work on one or more the following projects, depending on their own interests and background.

Alpine seed and seedling ecology:
Plant conservation and adaptation to climate change
The Australian alpine region is critically vulnerable to climate change and increased human activity. Many alpine plant species are already threatened with extinction. The summer scholar on this project will be part of an enthusiastic team of ecologists, botanists and seed scientists currently investigating impacts of climate change on the reproductive ecology and demography of Australian alpine flora. This scholarship will involve fieldwork in the Australian Alps as well as work at ANU and the Australian National Botanical Garden Seed Bank. In addition to taking on a focused independent project, the scholar will contribute to in situ field surveys, seed collecting activities, and will learn first hand about seed banking as a tool for ex situ plant conservation. Project outcomes will contribute to facilitating effective management of Australian alpine flora, enabling us to preserve alpine biodiversity and improve ecosystem resilience to climate change.

The ecology and evolutionary biology of Australian Pelargonium species
Australia’s native Pelargonium species (relatives of the horticultural geraniums) are found throughout the temperate region of the country and are characterized by being very amenable to harsh conditions, and in having very variable form depending on growth conditions. Their variability has led to confusion about how many species of Pelargonium we really have, and to interesting questions about how the group has diversified. This project is part of a larger study on the evolution of the group and will focus on reproductive traits in particular. The scholar will contribute to fieldwork as well as conduct a focused glasshouse experiment to determine what the breeding systems of a subset of the species are.

The ecology of an Alpine dioecious herb: Aciphylla glacialis
Dioecious plants, those with separate sexes, differ in timing and amount of resources allocated to reproduction. Males allocate more resources to reproduction during flowering because they need to allocate nitrogen and phosphorus to pollen production. Whereas reproductive allocation (RA) in females, is higher during the fruiting and seeding stages, when the carbohydrate and nitrogen demands are higher. These different patterns of resource allocated to reproduction might cause sexual differences in ecology, such as growth, survival, number of reproductive events and flower production. This project examines Aciphylla glacialis (mountain celery) in the alpine and sub-alpine area of Mt. Kosciuszko, NSW. A scholar working on this project will conduct research on the reproductive ecology and ecophysiology of A. glacialis in the Alps.

Publications on these topics:

Hoyle, G. L., H. Cordiner, R. B. Good and A. B. Nicotra (2014). "Effects of reduced winter duration on seed dormancy and germination in six populations of the alpine herb Aciphyllya glacialis (Apiaceae)." Conservation Physiology 2(1): cou015.
Briceño, V. F., D. Harris-Pascal, A. B. Nicotra, E. Williams and M. C. Ball (2014). "Variation in snow cover drives differences in frost resistance in seedlings of the alpine herb Aciphylla glacialis " Environmental and Experimental Botany in press.
Hoyle, G. L., S. E. Venn, K. J. Steadman, R. B. Good, E. J. McAuliffe, E. R. Williams and A. B. Nicotra (2013). "Soil warming increases plant species richness but decreases germination from the alpine soil seed bank." Global Change Biology 19: 1549-1561.
Davidson, A. M., M. Jennions and A. B. Nicotra (2011). "Do invasive species show higher phenotypic plasticity than native species and, if so, is it adaptive? A meta-analysis." Ecology Letters 14(4): 419-431.
Nicotra, A. B. and A. Davidson (2010). "Adaptive phenotypic plasticity and plant water use." Functional Plant Biology 37(2): 117-127.
Nicotra, A. B., O. K. Atkin, S. P. Bonser, A. M. Davidson, E. J. Finnegan, U. Mathesius, P. Poot, M. D. Purugganan, C. L. Richards, F. Valladares and M. van Kleunen (2010). "Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate." Trends in Plant Science 15(12): 684-692.

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