Snippets from the past: 2008-2011

As part of the communication strategy of the CRC for Forestry’s Biodiversity project, Dr Dorothy Steane edited a highly successful electronic newsletter BIOBUZZ that reported on project activity and ideas from participating research groups and partners. The project was led by Brad Potts and other staff and students from the eucalypt genetics group contributed to several of the CRC research projects. The compilation of diverse articles produced by or concerning members of the eucalypt genetics group over a four year period: 2011; 2010; 2009 and 2008 are listed below. The newsletter was aimed a general readership from project scientists, industry partners and the public and these articles provides an interesting historical glimpse of a more applied component of our research and associated activities – plus some interesting odds and ends.



BIOBUZZ   Issue fifteen – December 2011

International Botanical Congress (IBC) 2011

The CRC was well-represented at the International Botanical Congress 2011, held in Melbourne in July. A contingent comprising Prof Brad Potts, Assoc Prof Rene Vaillancourt, Dr Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra, Dr Dorothy Steane, Dr Neil Davidson, Ms Christina Borzak (all from UTAS) and Dr Merv Shepherd (SCU) contributed in many ways to the botanical extravaganza. [read more]

Brazilian conference on improvement and culture of eucalypts  

Several CRCF staff attended the IUFRO conference on “Joining silvicultural and genetic strategies to minimize Eucalyptus environmental stresses: from research to practice” held in Porto Seguro, Brazil in November. [read more]

Sharing experience in developing a eucalypt resource with New Zealand foresters

Brad Potts recently attended a workshop in New Zealand aimed at exploring issues that need to be considered when a species is to be introduced to an area outside its native range.  The organisers of the conference had a particular interest in naturally durable eucalypts that are suited to New Zealand drylands. [read more]

Churchill Fellow brings Australia up to speed on eucalypt genomics

Former CRC student Dr Rebecca Jones was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in mid-2010 (see related article in Biobuzz 12).  After much organisation and planning, Beck embarked on a tour of the leading eucalypt and genomics labs of Europe and north America, thus bringing herself—and, more recently, her Australian colleagues—up to speed on the latest and greatest in eucalypt genomics research and technologies. [read more]

Source of all Eucalyptus

The first formal description of a eucalypt was by the French botanist Charles-Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle and was published in his book Sertum Anglicum, seu plantae rariores quas in hortis juxta Londinum.  A rare copy of the original book, with its magnificent engraved plates by James Sowerby and Pierre-Joseph Redoute, has been purchased by The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. [read more]

Plantation escapees form subject of trans-continental research

Matt Larcombe, a PhD student at the University of Tasmania, has teamed up with a Portuguese researcher to determine the extent of wildling establishment around blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantations, and the environmental factors that might be important in predicting their establishment. [read more]

Stringy bark diversity study winds up

Stringy bark, Eucalyptus obliqua, is one of the most important forestry species in Tasmania.  The resowing of coupes can require the use of off-site seed when seed is not available from the harvested coupe.  Justin Bloomfield has been studying the patterns of molecular genetic variation in E. obliqua to determine if there are underlying patterns of genetic diversity in native E. obliqua gene pools across Tasmania that need to be taken into account when transferring seed between seed zones. [read more]

Racial variation in Eucalyptus nitens reviewed

Eucalyptus nitens (shining gum) is the most widely planted temperate hardwood species in Australia and the main species currently planted in Tasmania.  E. nitens can be divided into races on the basis of geography and quantitative genetic differences.  A meta-analysis of the performance of these E. nitens races and the closely related E. denticulata in plantations around the world was published recently. [read more]

Good news!  Severe Mycosphaerella outbreak hits trial

Well, good news for some! A Eucalyptus globulus progeny trial at Goulds Country in north-east Tasmania was affected by a severe summer/autumn outbreak of the Mycosphaerella (Teratosphaera) leaf disease in 2010/11. Data collected from the trial will provide valuable information on the impact of such outbreaks on growth and form, and our ability to select genotypes more suited to Mycosphaerella-susceptible sites. ­[read more]


BIOBUZZ Issue fourteen – May 2011

Genome-wide markers provide mul­ti-purpose data for Euca­lyptus studies

Two research papers were published recently reporting the development and testing of a set of ­genome-wide markers for Eucalyptus. The Diversity Arrays Technology (DArT) markers were designed primarily for use in genetic linkage mapping and association studies, but they are also proving to be a powerful tool for studies of population genetics.  [read more]

Eucalyptus studies contribute to foundation species conference

Prof Brad Potts was invited to contribute to a conference on “The genetics of foundation species as drivers of ecological processes” that was held in February 2011 in Flagstaff, Arizona. Brad presented results of community genetics studies involving Eucalyptus globulus, a tree that is gaining a reputation as a model species for this type of research in the southern hemisphere. [read more]

CRC scientists attend STBA technical advisory meeting

The annual technical advisory meeting of the Southern Tree Breeding Association was held in Melbourne on 8-10th March 2011.  The CRC was represented at the meeting by Brad Potts, Matthew Hamilton and PhD student David Blackburn, all of whom presented talks. Matthew presented a research update on work being undertaken on Mycosphearella genetics in subproject 4.2.10 and David overviewed his PhD research being undertaken in research program 2.  Brad presented talks on quantitative genetics of Eucalyptus globulus, the status of the myrtle rust in Australia (click here for more information) and also provided an update on progress with the development of the CRC for Forestry application for extension (see prospectus).

Giant eucalypts found in … EUROPE!

Dr Dean Nicolle, the director of Currency Creek Arboretum – home to the largest and most comprehensive Eucalyptus collection in the world – recently went on a tour of Europe in search of giant trees.  While not quite as big as The Centurion, Dean did come across some very respectable specimens.   [read more]

Hybrid vigour key to assessing risk of gene flow from exotic plantations

The risk of gene flow from exotic eucalypt plantations into wild eucalypt populations depends on a number of factors including the movement of pollen in the landscape, the likelihood of hybridisation between two species and the likelihood of hybrid establishment in the wild.  A fourth factor that is being monitored is the relative fitness of hybrids in the wild compared to the native species.  Matt Larcombe reports.­ [read more]

Using genetics to plan for native carbon plantings

Archana Gauli, a CRC-affiliated PhD student at UTAS, is studying the quantitative and molecular genetics of cabbage gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) to identify important genetic and environmental factors that need to be taken into consideration when planting native forests for carbon sequestration.  [read more]

­­Stringy bark population research makes front cover of AJB

In the scientific equivalent to a centrefold, Eucalyptus obliqua has made the front cover of Australian Journal of Botany. UTAS lecturer and photographer, Rob Wiltshire, provided a stunning photograph of an E. obliqua canopy in Tasmania’s southern forests to illustrate Justin Bloomfield’s article on E. obliqua population structure.  [read more]

Genetics study tackles biotic effects of drought

A new CRC-affiliated PhD student at UTAS, Adam McKiernan, will study the effect of drought on the defensive chemistry of Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian blue gum) and the consequences for associated biota.  [read more]

Leaf defensive chemicals and Mycosphaerella leaf disease

Eucalypts have to put up with attacks from browsing mammals, insects and fungi such as Mycosphaerella leaf disease (MLD).  We know that eucalypts produce nasty chemicals to counter at least some of these attacks … but do the chemicals produced for one purpose have any effect on the incidence or magnitude of attack from other enemy lines?  Matt Hamilton (UTAS) has been investigating whether there is any relationship between leaf defense chemicals produced to deter marsupial browsers and MLD damage on juvenile foliage. [read more]

The genetic relationship between Mycosphaerella leaf disease and growth

Over the past seven years, blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) progeny trials have been established in north-western and north-eastern Tasmania to study the genetics of Mycosphaerella leaf disease (MLD).  This valuable resource will produce genetic data for many years to come and it is important that the trials are monitored regularly for growth and health traits.  At present the trials range from just three to seven years old. They were assessed recently for growth. [read more]


BIOBUZZ 13 (December 2010)

Alpine white gums show complex patterns of genetic diversity

Alex Matthews recently completed his Honours at the University of Tasmania.  He used morphology and nuclear microsatellite markers to study the genetic diversity and relationships among 29 populations of two closely related alpine white gums, Eucalyptus gunnii and E. urnigera.  The study showed that geographically isolated populations of E. urnigera deserve special attention.  [read more]

Assessing the risk of gene flow into Australia’s rare native eucalypts

A paper was published recently that reviewed the risk of gene flow from plantation eucalypts into populations of all nationally listed threatened and endangered eucalypt species in Australia. Brad Potts (UTas) summarises the findings …[read more]

Measuring hybrid establishment along plantation boundaries

The risk of gene flow from exotic Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantations to other native species is being investigated by Matt Larcombe (PhD student, UTAS).  Matt is surveying boundaries of plantations and native forests for hybrid seedlings, native seedlings and pure plantation species seedlings.  His early results are showing an interesting trend … [read more]

Blue gum mapping a team effort

A multi-organisational effort has led to an updated distribution map of Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian blue gum) in Tasmania. The work was undertaken by staff from the Threatened Species Section of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), the Forest Practices Authority, Forestry Tasmania and University of Tasmania … [read more]

Adaptive potential of Eucalyptus pauciflora focus of PhD study

Eucalyptus pauciflora, also known as “cabbage gum”, is a widespread species that grows in disjunct populations in a range of habitats, from the tree line in the Australian Alps to near sea-level in southern Victoria and Tasmania.  Archana Gauli is a new PhD student based at UTAS, whose research is affiliated with the Biodiversity project of the CRC.  Archana is studying the genetic diversity and adaptive potential of this species, with particular emphasis on environmental fitness of local and non-local provenances. [read more]

Screening Eucalyptus nitens seedlings for resistance to browsing

One avenue for reducing damage to forestry seedlings by browsing mammals is to plant genetic stock that is naturally high in plant secondary metabolites.  Researchers at UTAS are testing a simple screening method that allows rapid high-throughput assessments of the secondary metabolite content of eucalypt seedlings … [read more]

What does a tree do in response to defoliation?

What does a plant do when a wallaby eats its leaves?  Christina Borzak (PhD student, University of Tasmania) is collaborating with Dr Karen Barry (Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research) and Dr Libby Pinkard (CSIRO) to investigate the genetic basis of variation in growth and physiological responses of Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) seedlings to defoliation.  [read more].

Latitudinal differences in Mycosphaerella susceptibility

A young blue gum (E. globulus) progeny trial in north-eastern Tasmania was exposed to Mycosphaerella leaf disease during winter 2010.  Damage levels averaged 6.2% and there was a strong latitudinal cline in the susceptibility of the E. globulus subraces to the disease.  This is good news for tree breeders aiming to decrease susceptibility of E. globulus to Mycosphaerella leaf disease. [read more]

BIOBUZZ 12 (August 2010)

Churchill Fellowship for genomic researcher

Former CRC student Dr Rebecca Jones has been awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship.  Beck will spend six weeks visiting key research centres in Europe and the USA to learn the latest techniques for analysing genomic data—in particular, the Eucalyptus genome.  [read more]

Community genetics experts establish research program at UTAS

­The overlapping disciplines of ‘community genetics’ and ‘community and ecosystem ecology’ have received a boost in research capacity at UTAS. Associate Professor Joe Bailey and  Dr Jennifer Schweitzer recently joined UTAS from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and are keen to develop research links across Australia. Both Joe and Jen are ecologists with particular interest in the effect that genetics has on communities and ecosystems, from effects among trees down to interactions between organisms and soils.  [read more]

CRC geneticists join expert consultative panel

CRC researchers Prof. Brad Potts, Dr Chris Harwood and Assoc. Prof. René Vaillancourt attended a two-day workshop in Canberra at the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to help prepare an international OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) biology document on eucalypts.  Australia, Brazil and Japan are the lead countries involved in producing the document. The Eucalyptus document will initially focus on the nine main eucalypt species that are used in hybrid breeding programs and plantations around the world. The workshop included both national and international eucalypt experts.

Just how promiscuous are blue gums?

It has long been recognised that closely related eucalypt species often have weak reproductive barriers that allow inter-specific hybridisation to occur.  Hence, there is some concern that the burgeoning blue gum plantation estate in southern Australia could result in some ‘un-natural’ hybrids. But what, exactly, is the risk? UTAS PhD student Matt Larcombe investigates … [read more]

Serendipitous opportunity to study exotic hybrid establishment

Since 2006 UTAS researchers have been monitoring the gene flow from exotic E. nitens plantations into native Tasmanian species of Eucalyptus.  A  fire recently burnt part of a rare E. perriniana population that is surrounded by exotic E. nitens plantation, providing a serendipitous opportunity to monitor the germination, survival and establishment in situ of seedlings that may—or may not—be hybrids of the exotic E. nitens.  Matt Larcombe reports … [read more]

Inbreeding can be lethal

Inbreeding is one of the key factors that can reduce the productivity of eucalypt plantations, whether they are grown for pulp or carbon.  This message was reinforced recently for Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), which has produced the highest level of inbreeding depression yet reported for a eucalypt.  [read more]

Early phase change may protect against Mycosphaerella leaf disease

­’Phase change’ in eucalypts refers to the change from  juvenile to adult form and often includes dramatic changes in leaf morphology and physiology.  The process and timing of phase change in Tasmanian blue gum (E. globulus) fundamentally affects its interaction with pathogens and pest species in natural and plantation environments.  Mycosphaerella leaf disease tends to affect juvenile foliage, so it is logical that early transition to adult foliage may allow a tree to reduce foliar damage from this disease. Scientists at Forestry Tasmania and UTAS examined the genetic variation in the timing of phase change in E. globulus and how this related to variation in juvenile foliage susceptibility to Mycosphearella leaf disease. [read more]

BIOBUZZ 11 (May 2010)

Leaf oil chemistry of Eucalyptus nitens and the Tasmanian native eucalypts

Recent media stories have raised interest in the similarity of the leaf chemistry of Eucalyptus nitens to that of the Tasmanian native eucalypts.  The suggestion was raised that a chemical or chemicals leaching from E. nitens plantations may be the cause of toxicity detected by laboratory testing of some foam and surface water samples collected from the George River in North-eastern Tasmania. Two compounds in particular, 1,8 cineole and alpha-pinene that were found in the water samples are major components of the leaf volatile oils of many eucalypt species, including E. nitens.  This raised the question: how similar is the chemistry of the leaves of E. nitens to that of native Tasmanian species?  Brad Potts, Paul Tilyard and Julianne O’Reilly Wapstra decided to find out … [read more]

Eucalyptus grandis genome sequence now available!

The preliminary draft assembly of the E. grandis genome, which is being sequenced by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), is now available in the public Eucalyptus Genome Database (EucalyptusDB). Members of the Eucalyptus research community and the wider plant genomics community are invited to make use of this resource, which is already widely accessed.  Access EucalyptusDB

Threatened eucalypts featured on ABC Stateline

A team of scientists including two of the CRC’s eucalypt genetics specialists, Dr Rebecca Jones and Prof Brad Potts, took ABC TV Stateline journalist Fiona Breen and her film crew into the field to examine the plights of two endangered eucalypts, the Mienna cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii ssp. divaricata) and Morrisby’s gum (E. morrisbyi).  You can view the resulting footage or read the transcript here.

Sustainable utilisation and conservation of forests in the genomics era

A team of CRC researchers made a significant impact at the IUFRO Malaysia 2010 conference in Kuala Lumpur in March.  The theme for the conference aimed to explore the practical application of genetics and genomics research to issues of sustainable management and conservation of forests.  The conference provided a pleasant balance of research presentations and networking opportunities, all enhanced by the famous Malaysian hospitality …  [read more]

Victoria’s charred forests awash with green

Until the Black Saturday fires of February 2009, the Wallaby Creek watershed on the Hume Plateau, Victoria, was home to one of the most magnificent stands of Eucalyptus regnans in Australia.  The oldest and largest trees germinated in 1701 and had reached 92 meters in height. Professor George Koch (Northern Arizona University) reports how one of his study sites has fared in the wake of the fire.  [read more]

New market niche for blue gum capsules

During a recent visit to a Hong Kong market, Gunns Projects and Research Manager Ian Ravenwood spied a pile of blue gum (E. globulus) capsules for sale.  Is this something that Tasmanians and Victorians have missed?  A culinary delight? (HOW long do you need to boil them?)  A delicious spice akin to nutmeg or cinnamon bark?  A panacea for all ills?  [click here to find out!]

Assessing pollen mediated gene flow at the landscape level

Welcome to Matthew Larcombe who has been awarded a competitive PhD scholarship from Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) to be taken up at the University of Tasmania.  Matt will continue and extend the exotic gene flow research program that was started by former UTAS researcher, Dr Robert Barbour.  Matt has already started his field work and glass house trials … [read more]

Forest practices plans to include off-site gene flow assessments

The Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority (FPA) recently released a technical report that provides information on which native eucalypts are susceptible to hybridisation with E. nitens, how to recognise hybrid seedlings, how to assess and manage hybridisation risk and how to monitor the level of hybridisation.  From now on, FPA officers will assess the risk of gene flow as part of each forest practices plan they prepare.  [ View technical report]

Children of the giant

Seedlings from the world’s tallest flowering plant, a giant Eucalyptus regnans, are being grown at the University of Tasmania for genetic studies of mating systems in E. regnans.  The level of inbreeding in the seedlings is surprisingly high compared to the level of inbreeding observed in “normal” trees …  [read more]

Non-lethal management strategies highlighted in New Zealand symposium

Late last year a contingent of CRC researchers travelled to Napier, New Zealand, to present their research to a diverse audience at the 22nd annual Australasian Wildlife Management Society Conference.  Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra organised a symposium on “Mitigating impacts of pest species through non-lethal management strategies” … [read more]

­­Integrated approach a must for browser control

Developing non-lethal methods of controlling browsers in eucalypt plantations is the principal research focus of subproject 4.2.8.  A recent workshop hosted by DPIPWE (Tasmania) presented key outcomes of this research, along with overviews of current and future practices.  Tim Wardlaw (Forestry Tasmania) attended … [read more

­Australian biota feature at International symposium

Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra and Natasha Wiggins (University of Tasmania) recently gave invited presentations to the British Ecological Society in their 2010 symposium series on “The integrative role of plant secondary metabolites in ecological systems” … [read more]


BIOBUZZ 10 (December 2009)

Clarke Medallist profiled by ABC’s Stateline

Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the after-effects of Brad Potts’ prestigious Clarke Medal award (see article in Biobuzz 8, April 2009) are still being felt across Tasmania.  ABC Stateline’s TV crew visited the UTAS School of Plant Science  in August to profile Brad Potts and his research.  Brad, being the generous person that he is, shared the publicity around by including as many of his team in the spotlight as he possibly could, with visits to SeedEnergy’s Cambridge Arboretum, the UTAS glass houses, the main eucalypt lab as well as the molecular lab.  [read the transcript from ABC Stateline]

Hot new tool for genetic studies

A research team comprising scientists from UTAS/CRC, Brazil, South Africa in collaboration with an Austalian biotech company have developed a set of highly polymorphic “DArT” markers in Eucalyptus that have diverse applications in a range of genetic studies.  These high-throughput genome-wide markers will greatly accelerate the process of gene discovery, are great for population genetic studies and will potentially allow rapid and relatively inexpensive resolution of previously intractable phylogenetic questions within Eucalyptus …[read more]

New trials test fitness of exotic hybrids

Shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens) is native to New South Wales and Victoria but is used widely in Tasmania as a plantation species.  A close relative of Tasmanian blue gum, it is possible that Eucalytus nitens has the potential to hybridise with wild populations of native Tasmanian species that grow in the vicinity of E. nitens plantations.  Two trials will be established in late 2009 to investigate the viability of exotic E. nitens hybrids. [read more]

Another PhD in the bag!

At present the CRC’s biodiversity students are submitting their theses like there is no tomorrow.  One recent submission was by CRC-affiliated UTAS student Rebecca Jones who studied the “Molecular evolution and genetic control of flowering in the Eucalyptus globulus species complex”.  Her excellent thesis impressed the critical eyes of her two examiners and so Beck will graduate in full regalia in December.  Congratulations Dr Jones!  [read Beck’s abstract]

Rising Star


Dr Julianne O’Reilly Wapstra was recently awarded a UTAS Rising Stars Award to the value of $75,000 over three years. The purpose of this program is to nurture research talent among staff at Levels B to C. Fifteen Rising Stars were awarded last year, while eight were awarded in this year’s program. As well as receiving funds, successful applicants will also receive advice on academic career development and leadership through several professional development programs run over the three year period.  Well done … and shine on, Julianne!

Browsing trials generate data

Browsing research team members, Alison Miller, Hugh Fitzgerald and Helen Stephens spent much of October assessing the progress of trees planted 2 years ago as part of a TCFA funded trial into non-lethal alternatives to 1080. [read more]

How disease susceptible are Eucalyptus globulus x nitens hybrids?

Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is generally considered to be more susceptible to Mycosphaerella leaf disease than its close relative, the shining gum (E. nitens).  This has lead to shining gum being planted in preference to blue gum in many lower altitude areas of high disease risk in Tasmania.  However, there is only one published study in which the two species have been compared directly.  Brad Potts and Paul Tilyard report on emerging results from a new trial in north western Tasmania, where the results differ significantly from the published literature … [read more]

­BIOBUZZ 9 – August 2009

Tree genetics can affect plantation biodiversity

While it is well known that the choice of germplasm used in industrial plantations or restoration planting of forest trees will affect plantation productivity and profitability, there has been little appreciation of the flow-on consequences that the choice of tree germplasm has on the broader community of organisms which develops within the plantation.  Recently published research by Dr Robert Barbour (formerly of UTAS) investigates the effects of genetic variation within blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) on the organisms that live on and under the trees. [read m­ore]

Where has all the South African blue gum gone?

In a recent trip to South Africa, Brad Potts (UTAS) went in search of the South African land race of the Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus).  To his astonishment he discovered that the modern population is but a shadow of its former glorious self. ­[read more]

Blue gum distribution review­ed for swift parrot habitat management

Eucalyptus globulus flowers are an important source of food for the threatened swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) during its breeding season. To assist with the management of swift parrot habitat, the natural range of Eucalyptus globulus in Tasmania was reviewed recently and a GIS (geographic information system) surface has been produced. ­­­­ [read more]

How far does Eucalyptus globulus pollen travel?

An understanding of the extent to which pollen is dispersed in the landscape is   important in assessing and managing the risk of gene flow between plantation and native forest.  In a collaborative study led by Dr. Makiko Mimura from the University of Tsukuba, Japan and started in 2006, molecular markers have been used to model effective pollen dispersal in native populations of Eucalyptus globulus. [read more]

Ashes to ashes: long term E. regnans study comes full circle

In June 2009, Professor Rod Griffin and his trusty field assistant Des Stackpole travelled from Tasmania to South Gippsland to pay homage to a 30 year old plantation, accompanied by the intrepid mature-aged tree climber and seed collection expert Marty Lavery.  Des Stackpole reports. [read more]

Geneticists get down to business

In June 2009, Peter Ades (University of Melbourne) joined colleagues from UTAS to update industry partners at Forestry Tasmania on the fine and broad scale population genetics of the ashes – in particular Eucalyptus obliqua and E. regnans. [read more]

Frost hits new Myco trial

In April this year frost caused damage to seedlings in the new blue gum/Mycosphaerella trial at Gould’s Country in north-eastern Tasmania. [read more]

BIOBUZZ 8 (March 2009)

Environmental selection key to stringy bark diversity

­­­­­­­­Justin Bloomfield was recently awarded his Honours for his research on the genetic diversity of stringy bark (Eu­calyptus obliqua) in Tasmania.  This species is widespread across Tasmania and Victoria, and grows in many different environments, from dry ridges to moist valleys and sodden plains.  Justin’s research sho­ws that populations in these diverse environments across the whole of Tasmania are genetically very similar indeed. [read more]

Farewell to Bob Barbour

­­­­­This month we are bidding farewell to Dr Robert Barbour (University of Tasmania) who has been the driving force behind subproject 4.2.6 (Management of the risk of gene flow from eucalypt plantations) since the start of the CRC.  Bob is going to join Roaring 40s Wind Farms, based in Launceston, as an environmental officer.  Bob’s smiling face and energetic enthusiasm will be sadly missed by the School of Plant Science (UTas) and the CRC.  We wish Bob and his family all the best for the future.

Australasian Forest Genetics Conference


­­­The second Australasian Forest Genetics Conference and the 18th meeting of the Australasian Forestry Research Working Group 1 (Genetics) will be held in Perth, Western Australia, 20-22 April 2009.  Brad Potts (UTAS), Chris Harwood (CSIRO) and PhD students Des Stackpole, David Blackburn and Gordon Bradbury (all from UTAS) will be attending.  Brad will present three posters and Des, David and Gordon will be giving talks.

Brad Potts lauded by Royal Society


Professor Brad Potts (­University of Tasmania) was recently awarded the Royal­­ Society of NSW’s Clarke Medal for distinguished work in a natural science in Australia and its territories.  This year’s medal was for botany and Brad now stands among the ranks of some very famous scientists.  [read more]

Major technological advances foreshadow 21st century genomics revolution

Dr Dorothy Steane (University of Tasmania) travelled to San Diego (California) in January to attend the seventeenth Plants and Animals Genomes Conference.  Despite the gorgeous weather, Dot was blown away by the storm of technology and genomics research.  Whereas the first human genome took $US 3 billion and 13 years to complete, we can now contemplate using individual human genome sequences for routine community health care (imagine the possibilities for trees!). Click here to read Dot’s conference report..

Eucalypts f­eature on Late Night Live

On Thursday 26th of February, late at night in small dark rooms across the planet, four eucalypt experts, including Brad Potts from the CRC for Forestry, were interviewed on ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live program.  The program investigated many aspects of Eucalyptus including history, ecology, genetics, taxonomy and the relationship between humans, eucalypts and fire.

[Click here to download a podcast of the interview]

Eucaflip branches out: Treeflip goes to press!

­ ­Buoyed by the enthusiastic reception of EucaFlip (a life-size guide to the Tasmanian eucalypts), Rob Wiltshire and Greg Jordan (UTAS) have moved on to an identification kit for the other tree species native to Tasmania. [read more]

Terminology changes with the times

Assessing the risks and consequences of pollen-mediated gene flow from non-local introduced species (or germplasm) into wild local populations is the subject of research subproject 4.2.6.   However, as our research develops we are finding that the terminology describing this process is also evolving. [read more]

­Buffering National Parks from genetic incursions

­Understanding the risks of pollen-mediated gene flow from E. nitens plantations into eucalypt populations of high conservation value – such as rare or endangered species or those within National Parks and World Heritage Areas – is important because such gene flow may affect the integrity of these populations. [rea­d more]

Breeding blue gums just got easier (or did it?)

Research outcomes from studies of  blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) reproductive biology were published recently. One paper examined outcrossing rates and contamination in an E. globulus seed orchard (Rao et al. 2008) and another reviewed recent advances in reproductive biology and seed production (Potts et al. 2008).

Controlled pollination studies have shown that reproductive success (number of seeds produced per flower pollinated) was determined primarily by the female, variation in which appeared to be due to both physical and physiological properties of the flower (Suitor et al. 2009).  Recent results also argue that the level of fertilisation of a flower and the level of resource competition are major factors determining capsule abortion (Suitor et al. 2008).

What pollinates the world’s tallest flowering plants?

Professor Rod Griffin and co-authors recently published a paper on the pollinators of Eucalyptus regnans, based on field work done 25 years ago. 13,859 insects that visited flowers were caught and classified to determine the major pollinator groups.  Pollen was washed from some of these insects to determine where and how many pollen grains they carried, enabling the researchers to identify the most effective pollinators.  So what are the major pollinators of these giants? How many pollen grains can an insect carry? [read more]

Julianne invited to speak at international conference

The talents and expertise of subproject leader Dr Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra (UTAS) have once again been recognised, this time with an invitation to speak at a symposium that is being organised by the pretigious ­British Ecological Society. [read more]

Sentree + stockings = less browsing

A two-year project aimed at saving eucalypt seedlings from mammalian browsing (using non-lethal methods) has come up with a formula that will help tree growers who wish to reduce browsing in their plantations. [read more]

Early browsing damage to seedlings may yield benefits later on


A year into her PhD, Christina Borzak has some interesting results from her browsing experiments.  She has found that one year after heavy browsing, seedlings appear to be less prone to attack from some pests than their taller, less browsed counterparts.  Click here to learn more.

 New Mycosphaerella trial established in north-eastern Tasmania

A new field trial to study the susceptibility of Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) to Mycosphaerella leaf disease was established at Gould’s Country in north-eastern Tasmania in December 2008.  The new trial will allow a better estimate of the stability of genetic differences in susceptibility to this leaf disease. [read more]


BIOBUZZ 7 (November 2008)

Plant and Animal Genomes XVII Conference 2009

The seventeenth Plant and Animal Genomes Conference will be held in San Diego, California, USA, in January 2009.  Dr Dorothy Steane will be attending to present exciting new results from a set of newly-developed molecular markers (DArT markers).  Although she will be wearing her “Program Two” hat there are many links between her research in program two and the CRC’s Biodiversity project.

Australian Ecological Society Conference, Sydney, December 2008

The 33rd Australian Ecological Society (ESA) Annual Conference will be held later this year.  This year’s theme is “Interactions in Science, Interactions in Nature” and will focus on interactions in nature between individuals, assemblages of species, and the abiotic environment. The CRC will be well-represented at this conference with Simon Grove (Forestry Tasmania), Neil Davidson, Robert Barbour, Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra, PhD students Tanya Bailey, Christina Borzak, Helen Stephens and Honours student Jennifer Sanger (all from UTAS) attending.

Forest genetics research takes lime light in North America

­In August UTas PhD student, Rebecca Jones, gave two oral presentations at a IUFRO-CTIA conference entitled “Adaptation, Breeding and Conservation in the Era of Forest Tree Genomics and Environmental Change” in Quebec City, Canada.  The conference was followed up with visits to leading research groups at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, and Oregon State University, USA.  [read more]

Forests and climate change: the intelligence test for humanity

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environmental and development challenges by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.  Peter Volker (Forestry Tasmania) recently attended the IUCN World Conservation Congress and shares his impressions. [read more]

Tallest flowering plant on earth moves!

In April 2007 we reported on the successful use of LIDAR for identifying giant trees within tall eucalypt forests (click here to read article from Biobuzz 2, April 2007).  Eighteen months later, LIDAR has identified the tallest flowering plant on earth.  The previous record was 97 m, held by “Icarus Dream”, a swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans) in the Styx Valley.  That record has now been smashed by four metres.  The new giant measures an awesome 101 m and is located less than five kilometres from Foretry Tasmania’s Tahune Airwalk. [read more]

Naming the giants

The Tasmanian blue gum is one of the  tallest of all eucalypt species.  Four giant trees are known today, and the huge stem volume of one of these makes it the most massive of all Tasmanian trees.  While other giant trees in Tasmania have diverse names from Greek mythology and the contemporary world, the search is on for Aboriginal names for these four blue gums. [read more]

Planning for biodiversity values in production forest in the Wielangta area

‘Adaptive management’ is a term used to describe how information from observation and research is incorporated into on-ground management, with prescriptions and practices changing or evolving in response to new information.  Fred Duncan, from the Forest Practices Authority (Tasmania), reports on adaptive management that has resulted from cooperative research and information sharing by the many stakeholders concerned with the Wielangta Forests of Southern Tasmania. [read more]

Biodiversity researcher attends weed conference

In October Dr Robert Barbour (UTAS) attended the second Tasmanian Weed conference entitled ‘Why the Weeds Won’t Win‘. While most of the conference was focused on the management of weed invasion through seed dispersal within the agricultural and horticultural industries, Robert’s poster focussed on issues associated with dispersal by pollen.

Lord of the thistles champions Tasmanian blue gum

The Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) is Tasmania’s floral emblem.  But who decided?  Royalty?  Well … almost.  [read more]

Tool for defining the Eucalyptus globulus genetic resource

The Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is the main hardwood species grown in plantations in temperate regions of the world (including Australia).  One of the goals of this project is to better understand the patterns of genetic diversity that exist in  native populations of E. globulus. A tool that translates the results of our research into a user-friendly tool for tree breeders and forest managers is available on-line …[read more]

New eucalypt taxa for the island of Tasmania

Current classifications of many of our eucalypt species do not account for the large amount of spatially or ecologically structured genetic diversity that can occur within species.  For finer-scale management of our forest genetic resources, it is important that formal ‘labels’ be given to identifiable components of this genetic diversity, particularly where it is spatially or ecologically explicit.  Two subspecies of the Tasmanian endemic Eucalyptus cordata were described recently to address this. [read more]

Saving the genes of one of Australia’s rarest eucalypts

Morrisby’s gum, Eucalyptus morrisbyi, is endemic to Tasmania and is one of Australia’s rarest eucalypt species.  Despite being in a protected flora reserve, one genetically distinct population of E. morrisbyi has undergone dramatic decline in the last 20 years.  In a collaborative effort between the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian State Government and Forestry Tasmania, seed from this threatened population is being put aside for future generations. [read more]

Fitness tests for exotic hybrids

One potential impact of the large area of eucalypt plantations being established across Australia is the movement of plantation pollen into native eucalypt populations, resulting in hybridisation and introgression of non-local genes. This risk is being assessed through a multifaceted research project headed by Robert Barbour. [read more]

Exotic eucalypt hybrids go undercover

Young hybrid offspring of native Tasmanian Eucalyptus ovata and exotic E. nitens are readily identifiable by their distinctive juvenile foliage.  However, as the exotic hybrids mature they become difficult to distinguish from the native E. ovata.  This forms a conundrum for forest managers when it comes to identifying the exotic invaders. [read more]

Eucalyptus nitens breeding and genetic resources reviewed

Eucalyptus nitens is the second most widely planted eucalypt species in  Australia and is being genetically improved both in Australia and overseas.  Matt Hamilton and co-authors recently published two reviews of E. nitens breeding and genetic resources in Australian breeding programs. [read more]

Stringy bark research makes headway

A new study into genetic variation in Eucalyptus obliqua has been given a boost by new technology.  Justin Bloomfield, an honours student at the University of Tasmania, has collected samples from across Tasmania and is embarking on a new fast-paced genotyping program. [read more]

­­Late developer reaches maturity … after 29 years

After 29 years a field trial of Eucalyptus regnans has finally decided to produce some flowers.  Professor Rod Griffin recently re-visited a field trial he had established over a quarter of a century ago to study the breeding system of this forest giant and shares his thoughts. [read more]

Comparing strategies for surviving browsers

Over the winter months Christina Borzak (PhD student, UTAS) has been planting trials to assess the efficacy of different strategies that allow blue gums (Eucalyptus globulus) to live with the effects of mammalian browsers. [read more]

DNA profiling can help to identify which Mycosphaerella species are attacking your blue gums

When evaluating genetic differences in susceptibility of blue gums (Eucalyptus globulus) to Mycosphaerella leaf disease it is important to define the actual species of pathogen responsible for the damage.  However, it is often difficult to differentiate Mycosphaerella species based on field symptoms, especially when multiple species are present.  A DNA-based technique has been developed that allows rapid discrimination of five key Mycosphaerella species. [read more]

BIOBUZZ 6 (August 2008)

CRC Biodiversity researcher contributes to 2020 Summit

Knowledge transfer is important for the future direction of rural industries and communities, says CRC researcher Dr Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra went to the 2020 Summit to discuss how to increase and improve knowledge transfer and extension between researchers and industry partners.  [ Read more]

Old Forests, New Management 2008

Abstracts from the Old Forests, New Management conference, held in Hobart in February, are now available online.  Overviews and discussion of the conference can be found at IUFRO News 3, 2008 and FPA news, April 2008.

Eucalypts hit the airways!

Scientists think they are doing well if they get an article in Nature or Science. Well, think of the readership that Ian Connellan received for his article ‘Single Gum Theory’ published in the June edition of the QANTAS In-flight magazine (pages 65-70).  Go on, give him a citation!

PhD student Rebecca Jones’s research into a very old, isolated population of blue gum, Eucalyptus bicostata,attracted media attention recently due to its proximity to a proposed windfarm development – media release (April): South Australian blue gums thousands of years old

Advances in understanding the genetic control of eucalypt defensive chemistry 

BIOBUZZ 5 (April 2008)

Old Forests, New Management 2008

The Old Forests, New Management conference, held in Hobart in February, was a major milestone for the CRC for Forestry, not least for the Biodiversity Project.  With support from the Australian Government’s “Sir Mark Oliphant Conference Series”, it attracted 270 scientists, forestry representatives and environmentalists from 20 countries. [ Read more]

Professor Potts goes bush!

Brad Potts, leader of the CRC for Forestry Project 4.2 – Biodiversity, went bush recently with a film crew, managers and scientists from Forestry Tasmania (many of whom, such as Simon Grove, Marie Yee and Tim Wardlaw are also in the CRC for Forestry’s Biodiversity Project). [ Read more]

Hedging your bets

Do you like hedges but suffer from allergies to cypress, poplar, Pittosporum or privet?  Why not try making a eucalypt hedge?  This beautiful example of a Eucalyptus hedge

Click here for a better view