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Displaying items by tag: research

We are pleased to announce that the recipient of this years’ award is Solomon Maerowitz-McMahan for his project entitled Exploring Mycorrhizal Resilience: Insights from Post-Hazard Reduction Burns in Ku-ring-gai Chase Forests.

Solomon is a PhD candidate at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, specialising in fungal ecology. His work aims to quantify soil functions across diverse ecosystems and advocating for the preservation of natural resources on a global scale. Through investigating fire-induced adaptations of mycorrhizal fungi, he endeavours to inform land management practices that nurture ecological resilience.

The intersection between fire and fungal ecology is largely unexplored, with little functional understanding of the mechanisms through which fire impacts fungi. While previous research has shed light on the unique attributes aiding plant and animal survival in fire-affected ecosystems, studying fungi in the soil poses distinct challenges, often requiring indirect methods. Mycorrhizal fungi, forming symbiotic relationships with plants, play pivotal roles in these landscapes, influencing decomposition, nutrient cycling, and plant productivity. This project aims to highlight the role that mycorrhizal fungi play in fire-affected ecosystems and the methods that can be used to study these fungi. Drawing insights from forested sites across the Sydney basin, including Ku-ring-gai, and spanning Australia, we aim to untangle the direct and indirect effects of fire on mycorrhizal fungi and enhance our understanding of their impact on ecosystem recovery post-fire.

Published in STEP Matters 225
Saturday, 15 June 2019 17:50

John Martyn Research Grant Award for 2019

We are very pleased to announce that the John Martyn Research Grant for 2019 has been awarded to Gabriella Hoban. Gabriella’s research project is entitled Soil Characteristics as Indicators of Restoration Trajectories in Urban Woodlands. This subject is highly relevant to STEPs aims to restore degraded ecological communities.

She has provided us with this description of her project.

Hi! I’m Gabby. I am an honours student at the University of New South Wales. I love ecology, ecological restoration and conservation and have a slight obsession with plants.

For my honours project I will be studying the effect of soil characteristics on restoration trajectories in urban woodlands. My research will be based in western Sydney within the Cumberland Plain Woodland, a critically endangered vegetation community. In this region, a concentration of threatened species and ecological communities overlap with intense development pressure.

Through my project I aim to quantify the relationship between the abundance of exotic and native plant species in relation to soil constituents in bushland reserves with agricultural land use legacies. Soil samples will be collected and the effect of soil properties on restoration trajectories will be determined.

My research will build on existing data from long-term study sites established in 1989. This research provides an exciting opportunity to examine long term trends in regenerating bushland.

I hope this research can inform conservation efforts not only at this site, but also similar grassy reserves recovering from legacies of former agricultural land use that span a large area across south-eastern Australia.

Thank you to STEP and its members for the opportunity.

Published in STEP Matters 201

We are delighted to announce that Katie Rolls (Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University) is the winner of the inaugural John Martyn Research Grant for the Conservation of Bushland. The title of Katie's PhD is Adaptive Capacity of Widespread and Threatened Acacia Species to Climate Change. Here is what Katie has to say about herself.

I have a keen interest in conservation and ecology with particular focus on environmental gradients.

I commenced my research with the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in 2015. During my undergraduate degree I explored variation in seed coats of Acacia species along a natural gradient in the Blue Mountains where temperature decreases with altitude to determine how climate of origin and warming temperatures impact dormancy break and seed bank longevity. Throughout this time I developed a love for working in the field and being able to explore natural environments, which led me to continue my research with a master of research course. I performed a reciprocal transplant experiment researching factors that influence local adaptation and species distribution limits and looked at differences in emergence, growth and survival for Acacia species with contrasting distribution ranges when transplanted to warmer or cooler sites, as well as, within or beyond their current ranges.

I plan to build on this research in a PhD study looking into the physiological tolerance of plants through drought manipulation experiments, as well as, comparing growth of populations of seedlings within my transplant sites, which have been monitored for over a year. I hope to use the findings of my research to identify species and populations vulnerable to climate change in order to assist land managers in determining which species and populations are better suited to particular environments, and provide the scientific basis for adaptive management strategies including assisted migration to build resilience in populations under pressure from anthropogenic effects.

Published in STEP Matters 196