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Dr Rebecca Jones

profile_jones_thumb Dr Rebecca Jones
PhD student - COMPLETED

Topic: assessing the risk of genetic contamination from Eucalyptus globulus plantations in Australia

University of Tasmania

The Eucalyptus globulus complex consists of four species: E. bicostata, E. globulus, E. maidenii and E. pseudoglobulus distributed across Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. Eucalyptus globulus is planted widely within the natural range of the complex, and there is concern that ge­ne flow (via pollen and seed) from plantations may contaminate the native gene pools in plantation areas.

I used DNA analysis to determine the amount of genetic divergence between natural populations of the E. globulus complex. Understanding the genetic relationships between the provenances  allowed me to assess the genetic impact that pollen flow out of plantations would have on the native gene pool of the species. If there is little genetic difference between the plantation stock and the local stand, then there is less cause for concern if hybridisation occurs. This work continued our studies of the evolutionary history of this species complex.

Across the range of the complex, there is significant genetic variation in flowering time (both age to flowering and season of flowering), which provides a major barrier to gene flow between exotic plantations and native stands. I was interested in identifying the genes involved in the regulation of flowering time in E. globulus, and how the expression of these genes varies during the transition from the vegetative to the floral state each year. This information will eventually contribute towards a predictive model of the flowering time of a plantation, based on knowledge of the genetic material deployed and the climate of the local area.

After finishing my honours in 2000, I worked at the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics (Southern Cross University) on the genetic effects of habitat fragmentation on rare rainforest trees, and then worked on various conservation genetics projects back at the School of Plant Science at the University of Tasmania. After travelling and living overseas for a year I was motivated to begin study again in order to be well qualified to work overseas in my field. Luckily my PhD has involved travelling all over Australia: my field work involved eight weeks' travel along the coast and high country of New South Wales and Victoria, and into South Australia to sample the E. globulus species complex. I have also attended scientific conferences and meetings in the Wimmera (Victoria), Perth, Adelaide and Quebec City, Canada. I am currently working in a postdoctoral position at the University of Tasmania studying species divergence and hybridisation in eucalypts.

My supervisors were Associate Professor René Vaillancourt (School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania), Professor Brad Potts (School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania), Dr Dorothy Steane (School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania), Dr Jim Weller (School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania) and Dr Valerie Hecht (School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania).

This research was supported by an  ARC Linkage grant APAI and contributed to objectives of the CRC for Forestry  'Biodiversity' project (4.2), subprojects 4.2.6 ('Management of the risk of gene flow from eucalypt plantations') and 4.2.7 ('Management of genetic resources').

You can read a media release related to my research by following this link: 'South Australian bluegums thousands of years old'.

Rebecca Jones graduation profile_jones_intxt

Dressed up for graduation

Taking samples of the Eucalyptus globulus complex at the Jenolan Caves, Victoria