Professor Andrew Lowe leads new 2.5m DNA Barcoding Project

Did you know that over 400 new species were discovered in the Amazon between 2010-2013 alone? This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Professor Andrew Lowe of the Environment Institute says: “Of the estimated 10 million species that exist on our planet, only just over a million have so far been identified and described”.

Lowe will lead a 2.5 million dollar project that uses “DNA barcoding” to rapidly and accurately identify key animal and plant species. He predicts that it would take at least another 2000 years to identify Earth’s remaining species using traditional taxonomy.

“With DNA barcoding, we can vastly accelerate this rate and generate significant scientific and economic benefits.”

The national collaborative project is a partnership with scientists from Kings Park Botanic Garden, CSIRO, James Cook University and the South Australian Museum. Research infrastructure organisation Bioplatforms Australia is project managing the project and will provide access to DNA sequencing infrastructure and genomics and bioinformatics expertise. The project has support also from Fortescue Metals Group and BHP through its Bush Blitz program.

The project will provide value in 5 key areas:

  • verifying timber origins to combat illegal timber trading;
  • authenticating labelling and geographical origin of fish in the retail marketplace;
  • mapping plant biodiversity in the Pilbara to help with mine site environmental impact assessment and restoration management;
  • biodiversity discovery and impact assessment of invertebrates that inhabit underground aquifers utilised by mining and farming; and
  • generating barcodes for Australia’s orchids to enhance conservation.

“DNA barcoding has significant potential to enhance our understanding of Australian biodiversity and become an essential tool in the environmental assessment process and conservation planning,” says Professor Lowe. “By utilising a genetic rather than morphological marker system, barcoding can help combat illegal trade in endangered and valuable species through more accurate identification and tracking.”

Find out more about the exciting research coming out of The Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and about this project published on the LeadSA.

Just for fun: check out TIME magazine’s TOP 10 new species of 2013. It will be interesting to see what 2014 has in store!

New Paper – Leaf morphology shift: new data and analysis support climate link

A new paper involving Environment Institute members Greg Guerin and Andrew Lowe has recently been published in the Journal Biology Letters.

Samples from the Narrow-leaf Hopbush from the State Herbarium (Photo by Greg Guerin)

The paper titled ‘Leaf morphology shift: new data and analysis support climate link’ is following on from a previous paper written by Dr Guerin, Haixia Wen and Professor Lowe (‘Leaf morphology shift in response to climate change’) where the researchers concluded that climate change is changing the width of leaves.

This new research uses alternative data splits and statistical methods to re-test their original findings, including an extra 10 years’ worth of new data on leaf width from extra specimens collected up to 2011.

Read the paper to find out more

Professor Andrew Lowe has written an in depth Blog post about this research on Biodiversity Revolution called ‘First signs that climate change is causing adaptive shifts in plants’

Read an article relating to this research on ABC News

Read the Environment Institute’s previous blog post about this research and see past media coverage

NCCARF Fact Sheets – Wildlife corridors and climate change adaptation

The Adaptation Research Network for Terrestrial Biodiversity is one of eight research networks administered by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). It is hosted by James Cook University in Townsville, north Queensland.

NCCARF are producing a series of information sheets covering different areas of climate change and the environment.

Information sheet number 6 in this series is titled ‘Wildlife Corridors and Climate Change Adaptation’ and Environment Institute member Andrew Lowe was involved in helping to produce it.
The info sheet covers:

  • What are biodiversity corridors?
  • Corridors and climate change
  • Corridor types, design and size
  • Implications for managers and decision-makers

Downlad a PDF of this information sheet to find out more.

Other information sheets in this series can be downloaded from the NCCARF website.

Australian Biodiversity Month – Introducing ‘Biodiversity Revolution’

September is Australian Biodiversity month!

Biodiversity Month is held each year and aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.

Professor Andy Lowe

Professor Andrew Lowe, Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity (ACEBB) says that, “We are in the midst of the greatest biodiversity crisis the world has ever seen. The rate of extinction today is the highest in the history of the earth. Yet we still have a really poor understanding of the other species inhabiting our planet.”

At the same time there is cause for hope as we live in a period where our rate of technological development and discovery is the greatest in human history.

Professor Lowe believes this is a time of Biodiversity Revolution, in both positive and negative senses.

Andrew Lowe has started up a blog called ‘Biodiversity Revolution’ dedicated to using technology to increase our rate of discovery of biodiversity and ecosystem processes, and to using science to ensure the continued survival of the planet’s species and ecosystems.

“The vision for this blog is to share with the community all of the exciting new research which is happening all over the world in relation to biodiversity, as well as encouraging our researchers to get involved as guest bloggers and provide insight into their research,” says Andrew Lowe.

Subscribe to the blog to keep up to date with all of the exciting research happening in the world of biodiversity.

New Paper: Anthropogenic landscape change promotes asymmetric dispersal and limits regional patch occupancy in a spatially structured bird population

Professor Andrew Lowe

A new paper involving Environment Institute member Andrew Lowe as well as David Pavlacky Jr (University of Queensland), Hugh Possingham (University of Queensland), Peter Prentis (Queensland University of Technology), David Green (Simon Fraser University) and Anne Goldizen (University of Queensland) has been published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

The paper titled ‘Anthropogenic landscape change promotes asymmetric dispersal and limits regional patch occupancy in a spatially structured bird population‘ investigates using patch occupancy surveys and molecular data for a rainforest bird, the logrunner (Orthonyx temminckii), to determine (i) the effects of landscape change and patch structure on local extinction; (ii) the asymmetry of emigration and immigration rates; (iii) the relative influence of local and between-population landscapes on asymmetric emigration and immigration; and (iv) the relative contributions of habitat loss to asymmetric emigration and immigration.

Download the paper to read about their findings

Shrinking leaves point to climate change

Environment Institute researchers have discovered that recent climate change is causing leaves of some Australian plants to narrow in size.

The results are published online today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, and involve Environment Institute members Greg Guerin, Haixia Wen (also Chongqing University of Technology) and Andrew Lowe (also DENR).

The study taxon, Narrow-leaf Hopbush.

The study, which is the first of its kind in the world, highlights that plant species are already responding to changes in climate.

Researchers analysed leaves from herbarium specimens of Narrow-leaf Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa subsp. angustissima) dating from the 1880s to the present. The study focused on specimens from South Australia’s Flinders Ranges.

The analysis revealed a 2mm decrease in leaf width (within a total range of 1-9mm) over 127 years across the region. Between 1950 and 2005, there has been a 1.2ºC increase in maximum temperatures in South Australia but little change in rainfall in the Flinders Ranges.

“Climate change is often discussed in terms of future impacts, but changes in temperature over recent decades have already been ecologically significant,” says Dr Greg Guerin, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of Adelaide’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and lead author of the study.

Read the full media release.

Read what was featured in Nature

New Scientist article

BBC Article

Multi-species distribution modelling highlights the Adelaide Geosyncline, South Australia, as an important continental-scale arid-zone refugium

A new paper involving Environment Institute members Greg Guerin and Andrew Lowe has recently been published in the Journal of Austral Ecology.

Greg Guerin

The paper titled ‘Multi-species distribution modelling highlights the Adelaide Geosyncline, South Australia, as an important continental-scale arid-zone refugium‘ investigates the discussion surrounding the mainland portion of the Adelaide Geosyncline as an important arid-zone climate refugium for Australia.

Download the paper to read about their findings

National SHaRED system to protect lifetime of research

Environmental scientists right across Australia will have access to a ground breaking system for storing and publishing all-important data collected in the field thanks to a new online tool being developed by University of Adelaide scientists.

“This project is aimed at safeguarding many lifetimes of vital information collected about Australian ecosystems,” says Professor Andrew Lowe from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, who is associate science director of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) at the University.

“In the course of their careers, ecologists produce huge volumes of data for research, and after publishing their work they often store the data on their own personal computers for many years.

“There are many risks associated with this that could lead to the data being lost forever. This includes the rapid turnover of computer technology, data corruption, or computer damage or theft.

“A national system that allows scientists across Australia to store their work safely and securely and to receive acknowledgement when it’s used by other scientists will be of great benefit to ecological research,” Professor Lowe says.

The $800,000 project is the first of its kind in the ecology world and will result in a new eResearch tool called Submission, Harmonisation and Retrieval of Ecological Data (SHaRED). The tool will encourage scientists to store – and share – their data in a common and secure repository.

SHaRED is being developed by scientists from TERN’s Eco-informatics Facility, based at the University of Adelaide.

“SHaRED will benefit ecosystem scientists and revolutionise the way they manage and share their research data,” Professor Lowe says.

Professor Tim Clancy, Director of TERN, says: “SHaRED will be a major step forward, ultimately delivering huge amounts of previously unavailable scientific data to support ecosystem science, education and management.

“It will help to strengthen research networks and scientific collaborations by providing information about other researchers and their scientific endeavours, stimulating increased communication and partnerships,” Professor Clancy says.

TERN Eco-informatics Facility is proud to be in partnership with the NeCTAR project to create a unique opportunity to develop ecological e-research tools to create new science and build diverse research collaborations. The project is funded through a partnership with the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR), an Australian Government project conducted as part of the Super Science initiative and funded by the Educational Investment Fund.

Research Tuesdays: Life strikes back – Video now available

Environment Institute member Professor Andrew Lowe presented the latest Research Tuesdays seminar held by the University of Adelaide on Tuesday 8th May.

The seminar was titled ‘Life strikes back – How the explosion of knowledge in genomics is enhancing our ability to conserve species’ and explored the positive story unfolding in the field of biodiversity genomics.

Video footage of the presentation is now available to view on the University of Adelaide’s Research Tuesdays website.



Research Tuesdays – Life strikes back

The next installment in the University of Adelaide’s Research Tuesdays series involves Environment Institute member Professor Andrew Lowe.

Professor Andrew Lowe

The seminar, titled ‘Life Strikes Back – How the explosion of knowledge in genomics is enhancing our ability to conserve species’ will explore the positive story unfolding  in the field of biodiversity genomics. Andy Lowe will explain how we now have unparalleled access to information on the genomes of species, and how it’s revolutionising our ability to conserve life.

When: Tuesday 8th May, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Where: Napier 102, The University of Adelaide

Admission to this public seminar is free, however registration is essential.

For more information and to register online visit the Research Tuesdays website.