Summer Scholars 2021-2022

2 March, 2022
Congratulations to the 2021-22 Kings Park Science Summer Scholars on completing their summer projects! ☀️🔬🌱
Over the last twelve weeks, they’ve each explored a different aspect of biodiversity conservation research here at Kings Park, ranging from genetics to seed ecology, cryopreservation, restoration, and more.
We are proud to support these talented science students through the Friends of Kings Park Fund. Stay tuned for the Winter edition of For People & Plants magazine to learn more about each of their projects.

Melissa Blake’s project explored pollination methods to improve restoration outcomes for Tetratheca erubescens, a rare plant found on banded ironstone formations in Koolyanobbing.

“In the wild, the flowers are buzz pollinated by native insects, and their seeds are distributed by ants, so the plants are often mating with close relatives. I’m testing whether cross pollination (with pollen from more genetically distant individuals) can result in more vigorous seedlings.”

Melissa has been busy hand-pollinating flowers, using pollen from specific plants, and then collecting their fruits to test the seeds. Melissa will continue exploring this topic through Honours with Murdoch University and Kings Park Science this year.

Jess Overton investigated seed dormancy alleviation for the native wattle Prickly Moses (Acacia pulchella). Their seeds are physically dormant, which means they need physical impacts (such as heat) to break dormancy and allow for germination.

“My research aims to figure out what temperature the seeds need to break their dormancy, ranging from 70 to 100 °C. I’ve collected seeds from the Northern Jarrah Forest and Banksia Woodlands, so will also be exploring whether annual rainfall or fuel loads in these two ecosystems influence their seed dormancy alleviation requirements.”

Jess will tackle the next steps of this project for Honours with Murdoch University and Kings Park Science this year.

Kyle Robertson investigated the genetic legacy of the Critically Endangered Corrigin Grevillea (Grevillea scapigera) using conservation genomics. This species was presumed extinct in 1984, until a small population was re-discovered in the wild in 1990.

“The history of Grevillea scapigera is really interesting from a genetics point of view. I’ve been extracting DNA sequences from plant samples, with the aim to eventually assemble a reference genome. Better understanding the genetic composition and diversity of this species will help with monitoring wild populations and doing more targeted translocations.”

Kyle will be continuing this project with Masters at Edith Cowan University and Kings Park Science starting this year.

Lene Balasupramaniyam’s project aimed to identify short-lived species stored in Kings Park’s conservation seed bank, focusing on species native to the bushlands of Kings Park and Bold Park.

“Seed banks are an important part of ex situ conservation. However, seeds can lose viability over time in storage and their longevity (or lifespan) can vary widely. I’ve been germinating seeds of six annual species which were collected in Kings Park and Bold Park between 1997 and 2021, to track the viability of these collections over time.”

Lene plans to keep exploring this topic during Honours with Murdoch University and Kings Park Science this year.

Amanda Kelleher spent the summer in the science labs, learning techniques for tissue culture (the storage of plant tissues in artificial nutrient media) and cryopreservation (the storage of plant tissues at very low temperatures in liquid nitrogen)

“I’ll be using these techniques to study the cryopreservation of the Corrigin Grevillea (Grevillea scapigera). My research will be exploring the effects of cryopreservation on a process called glycolysis, where glucose is broken down to produce energy. In particular, we want to understand whether glycolysis is happening during the plant’s recovery phase.”

Amanda will be continuing this research during Honours with Murdoch University and Kings Park Science this year.