We apply molecular techniques to investigate evolutionary relationships and assist conservation of rare and endangered species in inland waters of southern and western Australia, including iconic species like the hairy marron. The group has projects on freshwater ecological communities, subterranean faunas and ancient communities. We apply genotyping, population genetics, environmental DNA (eDNA), metagenomics and functional genomics. The group is well known internationally for its freshwater crustacean research.
Postgraduate research projects in wildlife ecology all have a focus on arresting the decline of fauna by taking an applied approach to research. Through liaising with citizen science networks and government agencies, as well as conducting extensive field work activities, we are working towards conservation efforts for a range of bird, lizard and frog species within Australia and internationally. We are investigating a range of conservation issues, including climate change, rising sea level, habitat fragmentation, habitat restoration, rodenticides, and habitat usage, in order to determine their effects on population declines and the resilience of particular species.
Plants have physiological characteristics that are associated with water availability, which can allow some species to persist under hotter, drier conditions. Understanding the physiology of iconic plant species is essential to increasing our knowledge of the relationships between water availability, particularly groundwater, and the health of the ecological communities. Such knowledge is sought for the biodiverse Banksia woodlands of the Swan Coastal Plain bioregion. Conducting research into these characteristics will inform the revegetation and management of Banksia woodland under an increasingly drier climate.
Mining in Western Australia is a mainstay of the economy, and mine sites are common features of the landscape. Many of the mine sites operate with strict environmental conditions, emphasizing the challenging nature of rehabilitating land and water following (or during) mining activity. Many postgraduate opportunities exist in this field, and the Centre has an active research agenda in areas such as vegetation management, mine pit lakes, closure criteria for river diversions.
The risks posed by exposures to toxic materials in air and water represents an important area of environmental research, and the Centre has the specialised analytical equipment, expertise and collaborations necessary to provide quality supervision for postgraduate studies. Two current examples of postgraduate research in this area are: i) a project to characterize pollutants arising from the combustion of different vegetation types and investigating the associated toxicity using in vitro tests; and ii) improving exposure estimation techniques for particulate matter in rural and remote areas.
Research that involves economies, ecologies, cultures and societies, like those associated with sustainability and sustainable development, demand a particular interdisciplinary approach. The Centre has a well-developed capability in supervising interdisciplinary research, and much of this work is international in scope. Some examples include the social and environmental determinants of typhoid in Fiji, the useability of urban greenspaces and links to human health, and developing payment for ecosystem services schemes to alleviate poverty.
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