How do growth and developmental temperature affect plant thermal tolerance? (*Honours 2020*)

Understanding the effects of climate change on natural populations is a driving force for environmental and ecological science today. The ability of plants or animals to respond to changes in the environment they experience can determine whether populations will survive or go extinct in a changing world. The study of ‘phenotypic plasticity’, changes in response to environmental change, due to warming temperatures is a very active field of research, but our understanding of many fundamental issues is still unclear and will only be resolved by high-quality empirical experiments. 

Start date: S1 2020 (and/or as summer scholarship placement)

The project would make use of a large-scale experiment already running as part of an ongoing project investigating the response to temperature of an Australian Alpine herb (Wahlenbergia ceracea). We have developed controlled crossed lines to assess the effect of parental and offspring thermal growth environments on the thermal tolerance and plasticity thereof.  There are several different metrics of thermal tolerance commonly applied in the literature, but our understanding of the differences in these indices and the mechanisms underlying them is patchy. By exploring the drivers of thermal tolerance and correlations among different measures we will gain insight into how thermal tolerance, and plasticity therein, evolves.

 This project would address the following questions:

  • How do parental and offspring growth temperatures affect thermal tolerance and plasticity therein?
  • How do metrics of thermal tolerance differ in and what are the mechanisms underlying those differences?

This project will involve physiological measurements of glasshouse Wahlenbergia plants, and then analysis of the data; full training will be provided for all aspects, and you will be part of a larger team working on the plasticity in response to temperature.