Projects available (PhD and Honours)

Honours projects

1. Insect pollination in a reputed hybrid swarm of arid zone plants (Senna artemisioides). In collaboration with Lauren Kaye.

2. Population biology of a blowfly species across areas that differ ecologically

Involves genetics and field work. May be suitable for students with an interest in forensic entomology.

3. Chemical ecology of a generalist coccinellid beetle species – where do they oviposit in the field, and why?

This project is ecological, chemical and behavioural and aims ultimately at providing practical recommendations for biological control of orchard pests.

4. Molecular analyses of glyphosate resistance in weeds

Many weeds are now becoming resistant to glyphosate via multiple mechanisms, honours projects are available on aspects of the recent, repeated, and ongoing contemporary evolution in this system. Projects would employ a variety of molecular techniques in the laboratory and could potentially lead to an industry funded PhD.

5. Spatio-temporal dynamics of pollination of urban flora

Urban development fragments plant populations, which may have important consequences for their pollination needs. What subset of flowering plants do native bees visit, how far do they fly, and what spatial coverage does a hive achieve? With CSIRO.

6. Microhabitat preferences of Scirtothrips aurantii: implications for effective biological control of mother-of-millions on the western Darling Downs

This thrips could be manipulated for biological control, but how should this be done, and will it be effective across all microenvironments? Colloquially, can this insect hack the extreme climatic conditions experienced on the western Darling Downs where mother-of-millions is most problematic?  This project will involve research in the the laboratory and field.

7. Responses of Scirtothrips aurantii to environmental pressure changes – how do tiny insects cope with intense rain?

These insects live on the plant surface and are exposed directly to rain. Can they anticipate rain? What do they do? This will provide a good comparison with what we know about a thrips species that lives within flowers.

8. One biological control agent, or many? Gene flow and species boundaries between Dactylopius opuntiae populations associated with different introduced cactus species.

Dactylopius opuntiae is a biological control agent of Opuntia stricta, O. ficus-indica, O. tomentosa, O. streptacantha, O. microdasys, and  O. paraguayensis. But differential survival and mating success across host-associated populations raises questions as to whether Dactylopius opuntiae comprises a complex of host-associated cryptic species.

9. How do the specific pollinators of cycads interact with different cycad species.

This is a good project for a midyear start. It will involve trapping and analyzing the volatile chemicals that are emitted by coning cycads and testing the response of thrips to these compounds.

10. Population connectivity in endemic snails from Great Artesian Basin springs

Project would involve using population genetics to determine the paths of dispersal/connectivity in springs in one or a few species of snails found only in the Edgbaston springs complex (which is associated with the Great Artesian Basin).

 

PhD projects

All of these projects are associated with funded projects and are eligible for top-ups (for students with an APA). Some are eligible for scholarship applications through CRC for Plant Biosecurity ($30K per yr for 3.5 yr + 2.5K travel).

1. Sound communication and population genetics of a generalist bug.

Understanding generalist species presents special problems, and resolving their host relationships requires a good understanding of their associations in the field, their sexual communication system and patterns of gene flow.

2. Behaviour of herbivorous insects (thrips) on plants relative to environmental variables, mainly temperature and air pressure.

For ecologists who want to know how organisms interact with their environment and how these interactions impact on their abundance.

3. Pollination and germination ecology of Macrozamia cycads that have dual pollinators (thrips and weevils).

Forms part of a broader project designed to understand the obligate pollination mutualisms of cycads and how these plants interact with their environment

 4. Host relationships and host searching behaviour of parasitic wasps that attack pest beetles associated with grain storage – host specificity and searching efficiency.

Aims at understanding behaviour so as to assess the feasibility of using the parasitic wasps involved in the biological control of grain pests. Top-ups for students with an APA scholarship are possible. Co-supervised with Greg Daglish & Andrew Ridley (Qld DAFF)

 

 

 

Header pictures by Renee Rossini and Rehan Silva. Used with permission.