Key Research Areas

Six projects commencing in 2017-18 are investigating how plants challenged by environmental change and herbivore attack (above- and belowground) could benefit from plant silicon.
African Beetles
"Stingless bees as effective managed pollinators for Australian horticulture" aims to explore opportunities to protect native bees and honeybees by better understanding which ones contribute to different crops' pollination, and to develop ways to better provide pollinating insects with the right food sources to thrive under different crops and in different seasons.
Pollinator 150
The Which Plant Where, When and Why Database project is a program of research that will result in a new database tool to ensure that landscape plantings can account for current and future climate scenarios to grow Australian urban greenspace in coming decades. Backed by a five-year research program, this tool will enable plant selectors to select plants with the features they need tested under the climatic conditions they will live with in coming decades.
Greening Cities 150

Within the PAstures and Climate Extreme (PACE) research program, researchers will be testing combinations of plant species, rainfall additions or exclusions (drought), warming from infra-red heat lamps and the performance of pasture systems under future predicted climate scenarios.

Warming MLA 150
The next phase of this project running from August 2017 to August 2018 is to take the results to audiences around Australia.

This will include workshops and events in six cities/regions and production of a technical guide document that can help tree selectors make better decisions about tree quality based on data from the field surveys conducted in the first phase of the project.

Container 150
Dr. Kristine Crous has been awarded an ARC DECRA to investigate how rainforest trees will cope with climate warming. This project focuses on how rainforest species in Australia will respond to climate variability via linking the acclimation potential of species at the warmest edge of their distribution to climate, in order to inform future distribution ranges and species resiliency.
Rainforest 150
A/Prof Sathaa A Sathasivan and Professor Brajesh Singh from the Global Centre for Land-Based Innovation is working to improve our ability to disinfect the drinking water supplies of more than seven million Australians in a new ARC Linkage project, "Smart Management of Disinfectant in Chloraminated Water Supplies".
Water Pipe 150
Dr Uffe Nielsen and Professor Brajesh Singh are investigating how past rainfall variability influences the plant, invertebrate and microbial communities of Australia's extensive dryland ecosystems and their responses to altered rainfall regimes in a new Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project.
Dr Ben Moore is leading a new ARC Linkage project to investigate how the microbial communities inside koalas' digestive systems influence the health and wellbeing of koalas particularly after koalas are moved into new areas.
Koala 150
Yellow Canopy Syndrome is a condition affecting sugarcane crops in Queensland. Symptoms are broad and non-specific and include yellowing, poor yields and low productivity. The cause is not known and researchers from HIE have been asked to investigate this condition by using advanced genomics, molecular and sequencing technologies.
Yellow Cane 110
Professor Brajesh Singh and Dr Catriona Macdonald are leading a new project with CRC CARE to develop a framework for using biological methods such as bacteria and fungi to efficiently remediate and decontaiminate soils using advanced molecular, bioinformatics and genomics techniques.
Contamination 150
The project is an international collaboration supported through funding from the Australian Government's Australian Biological Resources Study National Taxonomy Research Grant Program and will explore ambrosia beetle and associated microbial diversity to identify critical pests and pathogenic fungi and bacteria...
Ambrosia Beetle 110
Many plants form complex relationships around their roots with fungi which form mutually beneficial partnerships between the plants and the fungi. This project seeks to determine the levels of benefits for plants from these partnerships which may have implications for future plant and crop productivity.
Arbuscular Mycorrhizae
This study involves a pioneering field experiment to test the effects of elevated CO2, providing the first strong evidence on how water savings induced by increased CO2 alter the abundance of grasses and shrubs (promote "woody thickening", in other words) and affect woodlands flammability.
EucFACE Shrub And Grass Growth
The projected average Australian climate warming of 3°C by 2070 represents a shift in climate equivalent to moving 900 km from Sydney to Brisbane. As forest trees cannot migrate fast enough to avoid these unprecedented increases in temperature, the resiliency of Australian forests to climate warming will depend on their capacity to physiologically adjust to higher temperatures.
Hawkesbury Forest With Chambers
Grasses are relatively tolerant of above-ground herbivory but usually also fight back using a variety of mechanisms, including toughness, toxicity and bodyguards. This project will investigate whether grasses respond in the same way when attacked belowground. It will consider these three types of defence mechanisms across a range of grasses to identify the underlying reasons for the different root defensive strategies employed.
African Beetles
Many eucalypts form associations with different and diverse groups of fungi, a trait shared by only a few significant tree species. We don't fully understand the benefits that eucalypt trees derive from these associations. We will explain the basis for the diversity of fungi involved and determine whether trees will make greater demands of their 'partners' in future climates.
Arbuscular Mycorrhizae
Carsonella has one of the smallest known bacterial genomes, characterised by gene loss and a lack of key genes for bacterial function. The research team will test the hypotheses that Carsonella has experienced genetic meltdown resulting in psyllids as "unfaithful" partners, that then repeatedly replace Carsonella with other secondary symbionts and become more receptive to bacteria that are harmful to plants.
Psyllids On Eucalypt Leaf
In Australia, climate change is predicted to generate increasing temperatures and shifting rain patterns, leading to more intense droughts in some areas. Drought related mortality of woody plants has the potential to effect large scale changes in our ecosystem structure and productivity. In this project we aim to provide detailed information on the limits of Australian vegetation's resilience to drought and how this is likely to be altered by climate change.
Cumberland Plain Woodland
This project is the first in the world to examine the impacts of predicted changes in the frequency and amounts of rainfall on the interactions between grasslands and the root herbivores that feed on them, particularly under predicted future rainfall scenarios. Scientists predict that there will be major effects on grassland ecosystems caused by the combined effects of increased soil water deficits and root herbivory that in turn increases plants' sensitivity to such droughts.
This project will study the relationship between microbial diversity, soil function and ecosystem stability and the role diversity plays in the resilience of microbial communities to disturbance. Indigenous microflora will be studied and soil samples from selected sites will be collected, sieved and the microbial community extracted.
Diverse Soil Types
This project will assess the extent to which golf courses can act as biodiverse carbon stores within the HNC area. We consider that biodiverse carbon stores require the optimisation of carbon storage potential in a biologically diverse, multi-layered landscape supporting a wide range of species.
ABC Golf 110
This project will explain the characteristics and genetic diversity of the Grey Box. An assessment of natural enemies of the psyllid, such as parasitic wasps and fungi and predatory arthropods, will help to develop novel management strategies for psyllid outbreaks on eucalypts.
Psyllid Affected Trees
Current measures to test tree species for suitability to different climatic and growing conditions are expensive and limiting, relying on labour-intensive methods that have little commercial benefit. Through this five-year research project, the intention is to develop new methods and tools to rapidly identify tree lines that show a positive response to elevated CO2.
SIEF 110
This project is designed to find out how different soil types, nutrients and microbes interact with carbon in the soil to impact grain system productivity. The project assesses how the soil microbial environment affects carbon sequestration and turnover and how best we can manage the available inputs to sustainably drive effective use of the soil carbon resource.
Soil sample wells where the different colours show varying biological activity
This project will use the Institute's eucalypt forest Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (EucFACE) facility which has been established with Australian Government funding and international support. The study is the first-ever opportunity for highly accurate water balance measurements in a native forest exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2.
The research team will employ a trait-based approach, designed to quantify the contribution of trait diversity to ecosystem services, to understand these interactions during nodulation and the resulting effects on nitrogen fixation. The outcomes of this research program will provide an understanding of the functional consequences of microbial diversity.
Soybean Root Nodules
There is an urgent need to move beyond the individual planting of container stock at restoration sites which is labour intensive and costly, and instead use direct seeding methods to populate sites. This project is working towards this goal by providing knowledge of Seed Production methods and how seed mixes can be reintroduced to sites through restoration.
Seed restoration - choosing the best mix of seeds to fit local ecosystems and promote genetic diversity
This project will utilise the eucalypt forest Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (EucFACE) facility which has been constructed from Australian government infrastructure funds. This project will undertake a comprehensive study of the relationships between carbon assimilation, carbohydrate accumulation and growth in the context of low phosphorus pools.
This project will contribute to improved farming system and management programs by advancing the knowledge of cotton growth and agronomy leading to better crop productivity with the capacity to recover from extreme weather events under current and future changing climate conditions. It will also help maintain industry profitability and sustainability, and support growers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Cotton Field
This study will focus on an obvious gap in our knowledge of how the perceived risk of predation influences the behaviour and metabolic physiology of prey species. The researchers will study small mammals living in outdoor enclosures and measure their behaviour and energy levels on a daily basis when exposed to different levels of food intake, shelter, and perceived predation risk.
Small Mammal
One of the leading hypotheses for a cause of ageing is oxidative stress. In this project we aim to manipulate the pace of key life-history traits such as growth rate, body temperature, metabolism and reproductive effort, and measure changes in an exciting new biomarker of chronic oxidate stress
DNA Helix
Dr Brendan Choat is working to understand how repeated drying and heat-related events affect tree survival and death by exploring the way that trees use water under drought and rewatered conditions. There are large differences in drought survival between coniferous plants like pines and cypresses, and flowering plants such as eucalypts and rainforest species.
Gas emboli in flowering plant
Marri timber is increasingly used for household furniture, because of its honey colour and distinctive vein structure. Their project will use a novel experimental "transcriptomic" approach to unravel the mechanisms involved in plant responses to future warmer and extreme temperatures. Dr Rymer’s research aims to determine the relative importance of adaptation (trait shifts by genotype) and plasticity (trait shifts by environment) for plants to persist in the face of rapidly changing climatic conditions.
Marri - Corymbia calophylla