Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ben Zeeman joins the Plant Ecology Lab

Ben Zeeman has joined my Lab as a PhD student. Here's a little about Ben and his project.

I completed Honours in the Department of Botany at La Trobe University in mid-2013. Under the supervision of John Morgan and Ian Lunt (Charles Sturt University), I examined the long-term effects of drought, fire exclusion and herbivory on temperate woodland dynamics. From this research, I've just published my first scientific paper - in the Journal of Vegetation Science.
Following honours, I gained employment as a Research Assistant at the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE). At ARCUE, I worked on the design of a long-term ecological monitoring program in Melbourne’s urban grasslands, including the development of species inventories and the establishment of permanent transects across the entire reserve system. This work, funded by the Myer Foundation, provides an opportunity to document current condition of threatened grassland reserves, but will also allow us to track vegetation change in response to management over the coming decades.

My current PhD research is again being undertaken in the Department of Botany at La Trobe University under the supervision of John Morgan. My research will follow on from my work at ARCUE, using historical data to understand the current trajectory of vegetation change in Melbourne’s grasslands. In addition, I aim to identify how to best restore and conserve urban grasslands. My project will focus on examining how re-instating disturbance regimes will affect species composition, understanding the mechanisms of exotic species invasion, understanding the challenges for species adaptation to future climate predictions, and identifying the barriers to the recovery of declining native populations. The intention of my research is to assist in the management of a critically endangered ecosystem.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Karina Salmon - Hons 2013/14 - Role of fire in non-Themeda grasslands

Last year I completed my Bachelor of Science (Conservation Biology and Ecology) at La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia. I am currently undertaking Honours in the Botany Department at La Trobe University under the supervision of Dr. John Morgan.


I am interested in grassland ecology and the role that fire plays in these highly threatened systems, particularly its use to improve conservation outcomes.

With 35+ years of knowledge gained from fire studies in Themeda triandra grasslands, my Honours research aims to investigate the impacts of fire not only in T. triandra-dominated grasslands, but in other grassland types. The core of my research is to uncover whether fire as a positive management tool in one grassland type can be transferred to other systems, namely that of C3 grasslands which contain a different suite of plant species and have different management histories (grazing and fire suppression).  Most importantly, I aim to determine what factors influence survival of the dominant grass species (size of tussocks, grassland composition pre-fire, the number of grass tillers etc.) and assess recovery of these species post fire. Along with this, my work will also characterize fire events in these two grassland types and will contribute knowledge to the few studies that have looked at fire behaviour in grasslands in south-eastern Australia. This is inherently linked to my key question and will address whether the actual fire event, or, the individual species and composition of the grassland pre-fire determine survival post-fire. Answering these two key questions will contribute knowledge to the resilience of different grassland types to fire and will assist managers in using fire as a positive management tool into the future.