Research interests

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 frequently 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 analyses of population genomic patterns.

As of June 2019, I began work on a collaborative project focusing more directly on conservation of our native plants. Working with the Threatened Species Recovery Hub we are asking questions around how translocations can best be harnessed to mitigate risks of extinction in our endangered flora.

 

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