Honours student to uncover Alpine mosses

Honours student to uncover Alpine mosses

22 Jan 2009

Vicki McCartney, a mature-age student studying environmental management and ecology at the Albury-Wodonga campus of La Trobe, will commence her fourth-year Honours study during January.

Vickii with Alpine MossesVickis research project will focus on alpine Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), particularly those that form part of the alpine peat lands or bogs located above the tree line within the north-eastern Alps.

"I had such a great experience returning to study at the Albury-Wodonga campus that I was very motivated to continue on with Honours and I am very pleased that I have been accepted into the Honours program at the Department of Environmental Management and Ecology (DEME)," said Vicki.

"One of the things that inspired me to do my Honours year was my very positive industry placement experience last year in August. All DEME students need to do at least 160 hours of industry placement in their third year."

"I spent four weeks at the CSIRO Australian National Herbarium and the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra. The Herbarium has an extensive collection of both Australian and overseas flora specimens. One of the most exciting specimens that I saw, was a specimen collected by Robert Brown on 11th January 1802, in Lucky Bay, east of Esperance Bay in Western Australia. The plant Verticordia brownie was a type (original) specimen collected on Matthew Flinders circumnavigation of Australia 1801 1803. For someone who is plant orientated this was a pretty overwhelming moment!!"

"Whilst working at the Botanic Gardens, I also had the opportunity to study Bryophytes, in particular liverworts and hornworts. I was able to learn how to harvest hornworts to dry as specimens for future DNA testing and also had the incredible experience of collecting spores from hornworts for growing on in a sterile laboratory environment.  This experience with Bryophytes motivated me to explore the options to further my studies in that field."

Dr Phil Suter, Head of the Department of Environmental Management and Ecology, will be Vickis main supervisor.

"It is great that Vicki has an interest in this area, as there is little known about alpine bryophytes. They are complex and unique organisms that obviously play a key role within the headwaters of our freshwater systems," said Dr Suter.

"We need to know much more about such things as their ecology, their genetic diversity and their response to drought and climate change. Vicki will have a great opportunity next week to join in with a gathering of alpine ecologists at Falls Creek. She will be able to meet with Dr David Meagher of Melbourne University, a leading expert on alpine Bryophytes, and the ensuing discussions and collaborations will help to determine the specific focus of her research project."

For further details, contact Dr Phil Suter on (02) 6024 9889.

To arrange an interview or for further information, please contact:
Name Reinhard Beissbarth
La Trobe University Albury-Wodonga
Phone 02 6024 9874
Email r.beissbarth@latrobe.edu.au




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