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Subproject 4.2.7 Student update, December 2011

CRC students

Pauci-seedlings-m

Glass-house-grown seedlings of Eucalyptus pauciflora.

Sarah Hadjigol (MSc, University of Tasmania) did a research project that involved a collaboration between CRC research project 2 (Quality Wood Products) and subproject 4.2.7 (Genetic Resource Management). Sarah recently submitted her thesis that compared genetic architecture among blue gum (E. globulus) provenances using microsatellite and SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data to determine whether genes that control wood properties are influenced by selection.  You can read Sara’s abstract here.

Affiliated students

Archana-m

Archana Gauli measures quantitative traits in a field trial of E. pauciflora at Dungrove, Tasmania

Archana Gauli (PhD student, UTAS) is studying genetic diversity in Eucalyptus pauciflora. This species has a wide distribution, from northern New South Wales to South Australia and Tasmania, and occurs naturally from the tree line (up to 1965 m) in the Australian Alps to near sea-level in southern Victoria and Tasmania. Eucalyptus pauciflora has the ability to withstand cold temperatures, dry winds and periodic drought and is currently being explored for the development of biodiverse carbon plantings in dry, cold areas of Tasmania.  The first phase of Archana’s project was a study of genetic variation in seedling morphology and growth using a glasshouse trial based on open-pollinated seed collected from 37 Tasmanian and 13 mainland populations of E. pauciflora.  Archana measured 38 morphological, developmental and growth traits in 1296 glass-house grown seedlings, yielding a large quantitative genetic data set (nearly 50,000 data points!). Virtually all of the traits analysed showed significant differences between populations.  Most of this variation was due to differences between populations within regions (i.e., Tasmania and mainland) and only a few traits differed significantly between Tasmanian and mainland populations.  Many of the genetic differences between populations were correlated with climatic factors at the site of origin, arguing that the observed differentiation in seedling traits is adaptive.  Archana presented some of the results from the glasshouse trial, as well as early results from a large field trial established at Dungrove in 2010, at the annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia 2011 [view abstract] and received many positive reviews.  Archana is now preparing a publication reporting the results of her quantitative genetic analyses of seedling morphology.

Two more E. pauciflora trials were planted in October 2011 with the same seed lots that had been planted at Dungrove.  Archana is now spending some time in the field trials assessing performance and growth characteristics (e.g., insect damage and height) of the seedlings.

In the molecular lab, Archana has completed an initial screening of nuclear microsatellite loci and is currently screening chloroplast microsatellites for polymorphism across her samples.  She has extracted DNA from some 1200 samples and next year will genotype her samples with both nuclear and chloroplast microsatellites.  These data will provide information on patterns of genetic diversity, gene flow, mating systems and phylogeography in E. pauciflora. The molecular data will eventually be compared to the quantitative data to assess patterns of adaptation in the species. Outcomes from the study will include empirical information for incorporation into guidelines and general strategies for identifying the most appropriate seed sources for planting genetically robust forests in harsh environments.

BIOBUZZ ISSUE FIFTEEN, DECEMBER 2011