1. Systematics and biogeography of Australian Asparagales

    Asparagales contains one third of all monocots in 14 families. The order includes Orchidaceae and economically important taxa (e.g. onion, orchids, and irises). Australasia is the centre of diversity of non-Orchidaceae Asparagales and contains significant native diversity (48 genera, c. 327 spp). Despite this species richness, understanding of Asparagales diversity is incomplete.

    I have multiple research projects underway investigating the evolution of Australian Asparagales. This research is being conducted with collaborators Dan Murphy, John Conran, and Chris Pires and is supported by Australian Biological Resources Study and the Hermon Slade Foundation. The goals of these studies include:

    1. Trace Evolution of Asparagales Ecological and Morphological Diversity: Reconstruct the phylogeny of Australian non-orchid Asparagales to understand the evolution of morphological and ecological traits, and the biogeographic history of Australian lineages in a global context.
    2. Resolve Lomandra Cryptic Diversity: To apply genomic skimming (RADseq) techniques to infer relationships within the Lomandra species complex and to apply an integrated taxonomic approach to test taxonomic hypotheses, identify morphological synapomorphies, and revise generic and species circumscriptions.
    3. Identify and Validate Informative Nuclear Markers for Asparagales: Capitalise on advances in high-throughput next-generation sequencing techniques (transcriptome based exon-capture) to identify highly variable nuclear loci for studying the divergence of Australian taxa at deep and shallow time-scales.

  2. Australian tribe Poeae systematics

    The Australasian region (including Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea) contains a significant proportion (around 22% or 115 species) of global Poa diversity, but the evolutionary relationships of taxa from this region are incompletely understood. Our research has shown that Poa has diversified in Australasia relatively recently, within the last 4.5 million years and has successfully radiated across coastal, lowland and alpine elevations, in woodland understory and open grassland vegetation.

    I have research projects that are ongoing investigating the evolution and morphological diversity of Australasian tribe Poeae. This research is being conducted with collaborators Dan Murphy, Neville Walsh, and Kerry Ford and is supported by Australian Biological Resources Study. The goals of these studies include:

    1. Reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of Australasian Poa as the basis for understanding the timing of evolution of Poa tussock-grasslands.
    2. Integrate next generation technologies (RADseq) to resolve Poa species complexes (Poa sieberiana, Poa labillardierei, Poa poiformis).
    3. Characterise morphological diversity of Australian Poa to support accurate species delimitations.
    4. Generate a digital multi-access taxonomic key to identify Australasian tribe Poeae grasses that relies on images and non-technical language for use by non-taxonomists.
    5. Test the accuracy of DNA barcoding methods in Australian Grasses.