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!

Barry Brook wins prestigious Scopus award.

Professor Barry Brook Professor Barry Brook, one of our leaders at the Environment Institute has won the Life Sciences category of the 2013 Scopus Young Researcher Awards.

The Scopus award recognizes researchers under the age of 40 for their output, impact and contribution to their field. Recently, Barry’s work has focused on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Not only has Barry authored over 240 papers, he is in the top 0.1% of cited scientists in environmental and ecology research in the past decade and has attracted more than $18M in funding.

On top of producing all this work, Barry is dedicated to science communication and outreach. His blog Brave New Climate has received over 3.5 million hits since it started in 2008.

“Impact matters, and citations of publications are a vital metric for measuring effectiveness of a scientist. It’s great to be recognised by the Scopus Young Researchers Award 2013 as being someone whose work is being used and built upon by the world’s research community,” says Barry

“For me to be awarded the Life Sciences prize communicates clearly to potential future research stars — from aspiring high-school kids to postgraduate science students — that ecology and conservation biology is an exciting and high-impact discipline where you can make a real difference. It’s a great area in which to work.

“I always try to ensure that my research findings have the highest likelihood of reaching a wide audience. My view is that whether your goal as a scientist is to inform and fascinate the general public, or to change on-ground management practices and influence policy, quality publications and good communication are key.”

Below Barry explains some of his research and its impact with Professor Corey Bradshaw.

The second industrial transformation of Australian landscapes.

Australian Rural Landscape - Flickr/dioshotspot

Australian Rural Landscape – Flickr/dioshotspot

Inarguably colonisation and industry have changed Australia’s environment since the first fleet set foot on NSW in the late 18th Century. This first industrial age was built on natural capital, driven by the need to populate and establish, with unprecedented changes to the natural environment.  In some cases we have exceeded environmental and resource limits, a scenario echoing across the world.

A new paper, co- authored by Wayne Meyer from the Environment Institute suggests we are moving through a second industrial transformation of Australian landscapes. Wayne and his co authors examine six emerging economies driving change in the Australian landscape; water, carbon, food, energy, amenity and mining.

These emerging economies could result in positive or negative transformations of Australia and the paper delves into some of partnerships and decisions we face as a nation to ensure a positive outcome. This includes forming new partnerships between government, science, the private sector and communities, supported by renegotiated institutional settings and governance. Science has a pivotal role in getting the information we need to make these deicisions and supporting effective strategies for positive change.

The paper is wide ranging in its scope, looking at local impacts and communities to generation- and nation-wide changes in how the country manages economies, environments and society. Overarching is the need to adapt to climate change and the global changes it will force in the absence of immediate and deep cuts to carbon emissions. The authors provide  potential pathways to move forward, citing the need for vision and the power it provides towards solving these complex multidisciplinary problems.

The full paper is accessible here.

Brett A Bryan, Wayne S Meyer, C Andrew Campbell, Graham P Harris, Ted Lefroy, Greg Lyle, Paul Martin, Josie McLean, Kelvin Montagu, Lauren A Rickards, David M Summers, Richard Thackway, Sam Wells, Mike Young, “The second industrial transformation of Australian landscapes”, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Available online 24 June 2013, ISSN 1877-3435,

ACEBB/EELS/EI Seminar Series podcasts available

The Environment Institute, the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and the Ecology, Evolution and Landscape Science academic group in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences hold a regular seminar series during semester.

The series includes seminars with invited high-profile speakers from across the Institute’s subject areas, including marine and climate science, energy, evolutionary biology, ecology and biodiversity, and ancient DNA.

In the series so far:

3 May: A New World Down Under: biodiversity and evolution of subterranean animals from the Australian arid zone (m4a download)
Speaker: Professor Steven Cooper

30 May: Next generation amplicon sequencing to characterise fossil, faecal, food and forensic samples (m4a download)
Speaker: Dr Mike Bunce

14 June: Origins of the southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot: ecological and macroevolutionary perspectives  (m4a download)
Speaker: Dr Marcel Cardillo

Seminars are held regularly and presentations will be added to the ACEBB/EELS/EI Seminar Series webpage.

Dr Marcel Cardillo – Australian Biodiversity Seminar Today

Marcel CardilloEcology, Evolution and Landscape Sciences, The Environment Institute and the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity present Dr Marcel Cardillo, ARC QEII Fellow and Associate Professor of Evolution and Biodiversity, Australian National University, on Friday 14 June 2013.

The presentation is titled ‘Origins of the southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot: ecological and macroevolutionary perspectives’.

When: Friday 14 June
Time: 12pm – 1pm
Where: Benham G25, North Terrace Campus, The University of Adelaide (map)
Cost: Free

All welcome!

Research Interests

Dr Cardillo works on a range of questions in community ecology, macroecology, macroevolution and conservation biology, mostly using a comparative or modelling approach. Most of his research has a phylogenetic perspective. Phylogenies can reveal more than just evolutionary relationships: they also carry information on ecological and evolutionary processes, and can be a powerful tool for analysing comparative data.

Endangered species: could better tracking methods reduce vulnerability or extinction?

Palau landscape

Palau. Image by LuxTonnerre, licensed under Creative Commons.

Guest blogger botanist Craig Costion has written an article on endangered species on Biodiversity Revolution‘s blog which describes a new approach to developing the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) classification for potentially endangered species for which no demographic information is available.

The term ‘endangered species’ refers to species which fall under the IUCN’s Red List, a complete list of all endangered mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-building corals, cycads and conifers, but only a small percentage of all species of reptiles, fishes, and selected groups of plants and invertebrates have been classified.

Currently the IUCN classifies a species or habitat as ‘vulnerable’ if it has suffered a 30% decline ‘over 3 generations or within 100 years’. The author believes it is important to classify the remaining species to include ‘information on the history of habitat modification and destruction extending over and beyond 100 years’ to obtain a greater understanding of species vulnerability.

The full findings and methods are available in the post entitled Endangered Species by Craig Costion.

How vulnerable are plant species to climate change?

bottlebrushIn a study conducted using the native shrub Needle Bottlebrush, Environment Institute member Prof Andrew Lowe (and others) explore the vulnerability of plant species in the face of climate change in their paper Combining population genetics, species distribution modelling and field assessments to understand a species vulnerability to climate change.


The aims of this research were ‘to evaluate ‘the risk posed by climate change on C. teretifolius (Needle Bottlebrush), and identify populations for conservation based on high genetic diversity and predicted persistence of habitat’ by using a number of approaches including field assessments, using data from field assessments, population genetics, species distribution modelling and spatial analysis.

The authors find that ‘temperature and rainfall distribution as a result of contemporary climate change are expected to impose serious challenges on many plant species’, but other factors can have effects on plant populations such as species geographic location and human intervention.

The full findings are in the journal Austral Ecology.

Call for presentations – Lake Eyre Basin Biennial Conference

LEB Conference Sept 2013The 6th Biennial Lake Eyre Basin Conference is to be held from 17-19 September 2013 with the theme Basin Voice: shared understanding and action for a sustainable LEB future and the Ministerial Forum is calling for presentations at the event.

The call is open for oral and poster presentations to address the conference theme and subject areas:

  • Naturally variable flow in rivers, floodplains, and waterholes
  • Water resources management
  • Regional NRM and adaptive management challenges
  • Biodiversity values, unique flora and fauna, and threatened species
  • Cultural strength and culturally significant sites
  • Invasive pests and weeds
  • Extractive resource industry impacts and management
  • Total grazing pressure
  • Tourism impacts and management

Submissions are due by Tuesday 30 April 2013 to Emma Ross.

Further information relating to document preparation and submission is available in the following documents:
LEB 2013 Conference Presentation Submission Form
LEB 2013 Conference Call for Presentations

Information about the Conference can be found on the LEB Conference website.

Biodiversity Brief Issue 1 out now!

Conserving biodiversity and dealing with the effects of climate change are two of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, while entire ecosystems are collapsing due to biodiversity loss or the inability of species to cope with a changing climate.

But there are actions that can be taken to ameliorate these effects, and Professor Andy Lowe, Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity, and his team,  intend to highlight the issues and discuss possible remediation through the quarterly publication of ‘Biodiversity Brief’.

biobriefThe first issue of Biodiversity Brief is now available to read. This edition focuses on biodiversity adaptation to climate change.
In this issue:

  • Adapt, Migrate or die.
  • The new genomics and modeling technologies
  • Science, policy, action!
  • The end of civilisation!

You can view the e-magazine online here, or download a pdf of the Biodiversity brief from the Biodiversity Revolution Blog.

New Paper – At Limits of Life: Multidisciplinary Insights Reveal Environmental Constraints on Biotic Diversity in Continental Antarctica

A new paper written by Environment Institute member Mark Stevens (also SA Museum), Catarina Magalhaes (University of Porto), S. Craig Cary (University of Waikato & University of Delaware), Becky Ball (Arizona State University), Bryan Storey (University of Canterbury), Diana Hall (Colorado State University), Roman Turk (University of Salzburg) and Ulrike Ruprecht (University of Salzburg) has recently been published in the journal PLoS One.

The area where the research was conducted. (Photo by Mark Stevens)

The paper, titled ‘At Limits of Life: Multidisciplinary Insights Reveal Environmental Constraints on Biotic Diversity in Continental Antarctica,’ furthers our knowledge about why life exists in such an inhospitable location. The study revealed that spatial heterogeneity (a mix of concentrations of multiple species filling its area) and past geological history is fundamental to understanding why certain life exists in Antarctica and where they are found.

Read the paper to find out more.

Read Mark Stevens guest blog post on Biodiversity Revolution to find out what he had to say about the paper.