The Valette Williams Scholarship in Botany is sponsored by the North Shore Group of the Australian Plants Society. The Scholarship honours the memory of our former esteemed member, Valette Williams (1937-2004) and is now in its third year. Applications were sought from Honours, Masters or PhD students undertaking research at universities from the greater Sydney region.
The project must contribute to the knowledge of the ecology, conservation or propagation of native plants in the Sydney and surrounding regions.
Our Selection Committee, chaired by Alex Robertson and including Hugh Jones and Tony Evans, reviewed all applications in March and unanimously recommended that the $3000 available in 2011 be shared equally between Nathan Emery and Tanya Bangel. Many thanks to the Committee and congratulations to Nathan and Tanya. The Committee’s report supporting the selections provides information about the winners and their projects and is detailed as follows:
Nathan Emery - PhD student (first year) University of Sydney
Topic- Whether the growth habit of Actinotus helianthi (flannel flowers) from various areas is a function of local genetics and/or its environs.
Nathan gained a BSc (Biodiversity & Conservation) 2006-8 Macquarie University and a BSc Hons 1 in 2009, University of Sydney, on seed dormancy and viability in flannel flowers. He has three publications. His Honours and PhD project are part of the long-standing and continuing collaboration on flannel flowers by botanists at the University of Sydney and the Australian Botanic Garden, Mt Annan. The natural range of flannel flowers extends over three-quarters of NSW and into Queensland. The species is notorious as a garden plant difficult to keep alive, which is why more research is needed.
Nathan aims to discover whether differences in populations of flannel flowers are a consequence of particular genetics in a given area and/or the local environment. Seeds collected from 23 regions, including 6 from the Sydney basin, will be bred in large, statistically significant numbers, and compared for growth success and habit. That will contribute to the general knowledge of the ecology, conservation and propagation of this popular native plant. There are significant horticultural commercial prospects.
Tanya Bangel - BSc Honours student, University of Western Sydney
Topic - Why the distribution of Micromyrtus minutiflora is so restricted.
Tanya gained a BSc in Environmental Management 2008-10, University of Western Sydney.
Micromyrtus minutiflora (no common name) is a smaller version of the really widespread (NSW, Vic, SA) Micromyrtus ciliata (Fringed Heath-myrtle) but, unlike the latter, occurs only in a few places on the Cumberland Plain. For this reason it is rare and endangered. The project includes detailed mapping of the exact distribution of the species, and then chemical analyses of plants and soil from particular sites as a start to an understanding of the overall ecology; for example, whether particular soils have physical or chemical properties that are responsible for the rarity, or if the plant has very specific trace element requirements, etc.
This research on a local Sydney species has conservation significance because so little is known about it.
The success of the scholarship in attracting worthy applicants results from the efforts of the scholarship convenors Tony Evans and Fred Langshaw – they are to be congratulated on the outcome.
We look forward to hearing from Nathan and Tanya about their projects, at a Friday night monthly meeting of the Group and to publishing their reports in the Blandfordia newsletter. In the meantime we provide some action photographs of Nathan and Tanya getting on with their research.