USC researcher works on DNA at Smithsonian

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USC researcher works on DNA at Smithsonian


Published on 27 February 2013

27 February 2013

A University of the Sunshine Coast scientist has returned from a fellowship at the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution in America where she worked on creating a DNA barcoded library for South-East Queensland rainforest plants.

USC Senior Lecturer in Vegetation and Plant Ecology Dr Alison Shapcott was one of four recipients across the state to receive a 2011-12 Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship.

Dr Shapcott received funding of $28,000 through the Queensland Government-Smithsonian collaboration to spend 26 weeks at the world’s largest museum and research complex in Washington DC, finishing in December.

She worked with Dr John Kress at the National Museum of Natural History, studying laboratory and analysis methodologies. Dr Kress is Director of the Smithsonian’s Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet.

“My project responds to the increasing need for reliable plant identification in fields such as quarantine, forensics and environmental impact assessments,” Dr Shapcott said.

“DNA barcoding is a method where unknown samples can be compared against a library of known plant DNA barcodes to confirm a species identity.”

She said the project would assist biodiversity assessments of rainforests.

Dr Shapcott has been researching the population genetics and ecology of rainforest plants since 1985. She has worked in rainforest communities across Australia from Tasmania to Cape Tribulation and the Northern Territory, and to Brunei and Madagascar.

The Fellowship was accepted on her behalf at the 2012 Science and Innovation Celebration late last year in Brisbane, when Dr Shapcott was in Washington DC. The awards were presented by Queensland Chief Scientist Dr Geoff Garrett.

The Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship Program started 11 years ago to give Queenslanders the opportunity to research with leading scientists, educators and museum professionals.

Julie Schomberg

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