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As part of alpine OZTEX group, my research work primarily set at Bogong High Plains, Victoria, has given me an opportunity to enjoy and explore dynamic nature of the alpine ecosystem. My study focuses on two hitherto little-known, native Australian alpine lepidopteran species, namely, Lomera caespitosae, Oke (commonly named alpine case moth; Family: Psychidae) and Oncopera alpina, Tindale (commonly named alpine grass grub; Family: Hepialidae). Known to be dominant herbivores of alpine snow grass (Poa spp.) they often have been blamed for sporadic occurrence of snow grass damages in the Australian alps. My work not only involves an understanding of the plant-insect relationships to uncover possible role of moths in grass deaths but also examine any contributory effect of climatic factors in the disruptive processes. I am using ecological niche modelling techniques to predict moth distribution at different altitudes in current and future climate scenario and their genetic basis by developing species-specific molecular markers, which might help to shed some light on future expectancy of such damages. To complete the study I am looking at after-effects of such damages exclusively affecting Poa spp., by documenting vegetation succession in the affected areas.
“Population genetics of two alpine lepidopteran herbivores and their role in the sporadic grass deaths on Bogong High Plains, Victoria”
Awards / Achievements:
Genetics Research Award 2009