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Ms Jenna Currie

profile_currie_thumbMs Jenna Currie
PhD student

Topic: the effect of flowering patterns and pollinator biodiversity on gene flow in spotted gum.

University of Tasmania

Gene flow between plantations and native forests may be regulated by prezygotic mating barriers which prevent crossing. Despite their importance for gene pool management, flowering patterns and reproductive ecology are poorly understood for many tropical hardwood species, but the available evidence suggests the potential for long distance dispersal of pollen by bats and birds is a key difference between tropical and temperate tree species. Spotted gums (Genus Corymbia Section Politaria) and spotted gum hybrids (with C. torelliana Section Cadagaria) are preferred taxa for commercial hardwood plantations in northern Australia. Spotted gums occur naturally as a species replacement series along the eastern seaboard of Australia from north Queensland to eastern Victoria. Spotted gum plantations are largely established within close proximity to native forests containing spotted gums and other Corymbia spp. so that interbreeding is likely. The implications of gene flow for the genetic structure of native spotted gums are largely unknown but there may be significant evolutionary or ecological consequences. Gene flow from plantations of spotted gum hybrids with C. torelliana presents an additional risk as C. torelliana has been declared as an environmental weed in some shires in Northern NSW. The objective of this study is to understand how flowering patterns and pollinator diversity influence gene flow in spotted gums and how this might be used to promote or reduce gene flow in Corymbia.

I intend to set up a long term flowering study of spotted gums and their hybrid with C. torelliana. The study will examine genetic factors (species, provenance, age) on flowering abundance and synchrony. The study will also examine biological and management factors, including site and climatic variates. A study will be designed to encompass multiple sites across the major plantation zones in south east Queensland and northern New South Wales with a view to collecting data well beyond the life of the current project.

Another component of my project will investigate the factors influencing small mammal pollinator biodiversity in tropical hardwood plantations. This may be an effective way to restrict or promote gene flow and will evaluate the potential ecological ‘service’ these pollinators may provide in reducing insect loads in plantations.

I completed my bachelor of agricultural science with honours at the University of Adelaide, Waite campus, in 2004. A large component of my honours work was with the Seed Conservation Centre, botanical gardens of Adelaide and involved seed germination and storage protocols of two endangered plant species endemic to Kangaroo Island.

After graduating I worked as a technical officer for the cereal grain biochemistry lab at the University of Adelaide, and then joined the horticulture pathology department of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

My supervisors are Dr Mervyn Shepherd (Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics, Southern Cross University), Dr David Lee ( Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Forestry Division) and Dr Ross Goldingay (School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University).

This project is part of the CRC for Forestry Biodiversity Project (4.2), subproject 4.2.6 on the management of the risk of gene flow from eucalypt plantations.

To browse other PhD projects available with the Biodiversity Project, click here