Showcasing the research done by students associated with the Museum...

Each year our Research and Collections staff supervise over 40 students undertaking research at national and international universities. Our annual student forum provides an opportunity for these students to present the results of their work to the wider Museum community.

"The forum illustrates the depth and diversity of topics explored here and how students utilise our unique expertise and collections," says Dr Mark Eldridge, Senior Research Scientist. "It also helps us to continue strong collaborative links with universities and to assist in the development of the next generation of researchers."

To the students at this year's forum, here's looking at you...

Hannah Lloyd (PhD student, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney)
AM Supervisor: Pat Hutchings
How do habitat-forming species promote biodiversity on intertidal rocky shores?
"The conservation of marine biodiversity is contingent on the development of robust management strategies for coastal ecosystems. As managing biodiversity is extremely complex, ecological tools such as habitat-forming species (e.g. trees, seaweeds, mussel beds) are increasingly being advocated as conservation management tools, because they are important determinants of biodiversity. This project aims to determine how habitat-forming species facilitate the biodiversity of intertidal invertebrates across multiple spatial scales, informing the development of adaptive management strategies for protecting marine intertidal biodiversity under predicted future climate change conditions."

Kylie Dixon (PhD student, School of Environment, University of Technology, Sydney)
AM Supervisor: Pat Hutchings
Investigating the potential unique polychaete assemblages of soft coral habitat in the Port Stephens estuary, NSW, Australia.
"A proposed 'no anchor zone' in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, New South Wales, Australia is being investigated to protect a newly discovered 800m stretch of unique soft coral habitat from anchor damage. Soft corals often comprise a large portion of living animal cover in benthic communities however very little is known on the benthic communities that inhabit this environment. In order to determine the potentially unique structure of the benthic assemblage of this habitat we tested whether polychaete assemblages differed among 6 putative habitats in the marine park compared to the soft coral sites."

Greta Frankham (Ph.D. student, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne)
AM Supervisor: Mark Eldridge
The long and the short of it; historic and contemporary genetic structure of an endangered Australian marsupial, the long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus).
"Potoroos are important keystone species in Australian coastal forest environments, but all three recognised species are endangered. My study aims to investigate genetic diversity within the most widespread species; the long-nosed potoroo, as well as resolve relationships between it and the long-footed potoroo and Gilbert’s potoroo. Having robust genetic information about these species will give conservation managers the information needed to effectively manage these species to maintain diversity and long term persistence."

Lakshmi Sunderasan (2nd year BSc student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney)
AM Supervisor: Jodi Rowley
Tadpoles to the rescue? Do tadpoles hold the key to delineating species boundaries in the Asian frog genus Leptobrachium (Anura: Megophryidae)?
"Eastern Spadefoot toads (genus Leptobrachium) from Southeast Asia are very similar in appearance and often genetic differences aren’t apparent, making it difficult to sort out one species from another. I looked at how tadpole morphology could help, by examining oral formulas, colouration and patterns, and how these differed among species. I found that tadpole morphology can help separate out some species of Eastern Spadefoot toad, with our results also discovering that two currently recognised toad species are actually likely to be the same species."

Michele Greenfield (BSc student, University of New England)
AM Supervisor: Dave Britton & Andrew Mitchell
A phylogenetic analysis of the genus Anestia Meyrick, 1886 (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae: Lithosiinae).
"Anestia is an endemic moth found in Australia, that has not been fully investigated since it was first described in 1886. There are currently two species, A. semiochrea (Butler, 1886) and Anestia ombrophanes Meyrick, 1886. Anestia semiochrea is known from eastern localities ranging from Queensland to Victoria, whilst A. ombrophanes occupies a broader range, occurring in Western Australia and into Victoria. Female moths are completely wingless, and therefore this inability to fly, may lead to differences between the isolated populations. To evaluate the taxonomic status of the genus, a combination of morphological and molecular analysis was undertaken."

Sally Potter (PhD, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide)
AM Supervisor: Mark Eldridge
Phylogeography of the brachyotis group of rock-wallabies identifies biogeographical barriers in northern Australia and regions to focus conservation management.
"My research focussed on a group of rock-wallabies from northern Australia that are not well understood. There is limited understanding about the evolutionary history of northern Australia and its fauna. Utilising genetic techniques, I was able to assess the genetic diversity within three rock-wallaby species and identify key barriers in the past which have shaped the biodiversity of the region."

Lexie Walker (Ph.D. student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland)
AM Supervisor: Pat Hutchings
The Polydora-complex (Polychaeta: Spionidae) of the tropical Australian coastline.
"I like to look at worms. You can learn a lot about human behaviour and society by taking the time to observe simple animals. Valuing and understanding diversity, in everything, seems vital."

Jacqueline Nguyen (School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales)
AM Supervisor: Walter Boles
Phylogeny and evolution of the fossil and modern songbirds of Australasia.
"My PhD research is on the evolution of living and fossil passerine birds of Australia. I am using skeletal features to work out the evolutionary relationships among groups of living passerines. I am also studying fossil passerines from Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland, which are up to 25 million years old."