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, Val Williams (1937-2004). Applications are sought firstly from Honours students and also from Masters or PhD students undertaking research at universities in the Sydney region.
The project must contribute to the knowledge of the ecology, conservation or propagation of native plants in the Sydney and surrounding regions.
The Scholarship, valued at $2 000 this year, attracted three applicants, a mix of honours and PhD students, from two universities.
Desi Quintans at the University of Western Sydney. Supervisors: Prof James Cook and Dr Paul Rymer, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.
His scholarship topic is: Genetic contamination of the Moreton Bay Fig: does extensive planting threaten to swamp native populations?
Desi is pictured with a Morton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) and has supplied some personal notes:
“I am 26 years old and doing a year-long Honours research project. Although I majored in Microbiology, doing DNA- and RNA-related work with plants and insects has always been a lot more enjoyable for me. I was a pastry chef before I was a science student, so you can imagine how exciting it is for me to be spending my working hours outdoors, enjoying the scenery this country has to offer, seeing the sun for a change.
I'm really interested in the diversity of forms that plants exhibit, and how wonderful it is that plants look the way they do, and what sorts of adaptations went into that. My Honours project is happily related to this area of interest: We are comparing three Eastern Australian populations of Moreton Bay figs (in South-eastern Queensland, the Sydney Basin, and Lord Howe Island) at a genotypic level to figure out how similar they are, how different, how related. No one else has studied the population genetics of this native Australian fig species before.
Of course we also have to wonder how human cultivation of plants changes things, and the Valette Williams Scholarship has allowed us to expand the project to include not only natural-growing Moreton Bay figs but also human-planted ones. Many Moreton Bay figs were planted in Sydney and New South Wales during the 1800s, so I am particularly interested in seeing what has happened to the Sydney Basin population's gene pool after being flooded with trees of uncertain origin.”
Best wishes go to the recipient, Desi Quintans, for success in his studies and we look forward to learning of the outcomes of his endeavours in the 2015 speakers program.