My research aims to see the world from a plant’s perspective, to better understand not only plant ecology, but also the behaviour and ecology of the animals and fungi with which they interact. I work on some of the most fascinating examples of plant evolution in some of the world’s most renowned hotspots for plant biodiversity. For example, I have worked on sexual mimicry in Australian orchids, specialized orchid-fungi relationships in south-west Australia, and the incredible long-tongue fly of South Africa.
My discoveries contribute to a basic understanding of how plant biodiversity is generated and maintained, how plants influence their interacting partners, and how landscape and ecology combine to influence plant evolution across space and time.
Current research focus
Australia is a hotspot for bird pollination—we have hundreds of plants which have evolved a specialization towards birds as pollinators. Yet we do not know if birds move pollen differently to insects such as bees. My current research seeks to discover whether there are general differences in the way birds and insects pollinate plants. Understanding this has ramifications for how we plan seed collection for restoration, management of our endangered plants, and how we interpret the evolutionary history of our unique native flora.
My research is deeply multidisciplinary and this current project is no exception. I am using novel camera trapping methods to record insect visitation to flowers, as well as cutting edge genetic techniques.
I am also currently involved in projects working more directly on conservation of our native plants. For example, how best can we use translocations to mitigate risks of extinctions to our endangered native flora?