Ensuring our research informs on-ground conservation and restoration: ReCER team retreat 2023

The ReCER team gathered at the Crommelin Field Station at Pearl Beach in May to ponder how to ensure our research continues to best inform the restoration and conservation of resilient ecosystems.

ReCER Team photo May 2023
Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience (ReCER) staff at a team retreat in May 2023. Clockwise from top left: Samantha Yap, Maurizio Rossetto, Richard Dimon, Marlien van der Merwe, Jason Bragg, Manuela Cascini, Patrick Fahey, Monica Fahey, Saphira Bloom-Quinn, Tricia Hogbin, Eilish McMaster, Mira Jordan, and Karina Guo.
What can we do for genetics?

Maurizio Rossetto launched the retreat by suggesting the team “ask not what genetics can do for you, but what you can do for genetics”.

He was referring to our ongoing development of genomic workflow processes (or Knowledge Infrastructure, as Maurizio likes to call it). These innovative workflows have helped to shift genomics into a new phase where it is feasible to collect useful genomic information for a vast number of plant species of interest to threatened flora conservation practitioners and ecological restoration practitioners. We’ve moved beyond collecting genomic information species-by-species and now work on thousands of samples for tens of species at a time across regions (e.g. Big Scrub Rainforest Conservancy Science Saving Rainforests) and ecological communities (e.g. Cumberland Plain Woodland). 

A man standing by storage shelves holding a plastic container containing numerous envelopes.
Richard Dimon with some of the 10,000 individually barcoded plant samples collected by ReCER for the for the Science Saving Rainforests Project. Photo credit: Renee Borrow, Big Scrub Rainforest Conservancy
Genomic tools 

Jason Bragg next gave an overview of the techniques used by ReCER and reviewed their suitability for restoration genomics, conservation genomics, phylogeography and phylogenetics. He then outlined some of the opportunities offered by other methods as they become more cost-effective (e.g., short and long read whole genome resequencing) and some of the challenges associated with data management and analyses of large, multispecies workflows. 

Examples of application of whole genome resequencing:

Designing representative seedbanks and seed production areas 

Using genomic research to help guide the establishment and maintenance of seedbanks and seed production areas (SPAs) was the next topic covered. Marlien van der Merwe outlined how genetic provenance information, like that provided by Restore and Renew, can be used to establish and monitor genetically representative seedbanks and SPAs and ultimately help increase the availability of appropriate provenance seed for native vegetation restoration. 

Two women, one with a bag and the other with a clipboard standing among native shrubs.
ReCER has partnered with Murray Local Land Services to assess the genetic representativeness of their seed production areas. Marlien van der Merwe (ReCER) and Tash Lappin (Murray LLS) collecting samples for genetic analysis.
And so much more…

Other topics covered over the two-day retreat included: how to inform policy and guidelines, and how we can better pitch our research outcomes to practitioners. 

The retreat was followed by a field trip where new staff practiced using the AIBS Field collection app, a key component of ReCER’s genomic workflow process, that enables the team to process thousands of samples each month

When evolutionary ecologists go on retreat. Topics of conversation at the #ReCER 2023 team retreat: #genomictools, SPA design #conservationgenomics #restorationgenomics & #SciComm

A group of women in bushland collecting leaf samples in envelopes.
Using the AIBS Field collection app to manage metadata of leaf samples collected for genetic analysis

Tricia Hogbin

Restoration Genomics Outreach Coordinator



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