Identify your student project opportunity at QAAFI to suit your interests and contact the relevant project supervisor to discuss your role.

Soils, nutrition and weeds

Explore the range of the currently available student project opportunities in soils, nutrition and weeds. These projects will suit MSc (course work) and Honours students.

Germination ecology of summer weeds of the northern region of Australia project

Suitable for MSc (course work)/Honours students

Weeds cost the Australian grains industry a staggering $3.3 billion annually in control measures and yield loss. Although herbicides achieve satisfactory weed control, relying solely on herbicides for weed management can cause rapid evolution of resistant weed types and thereby jeopardise the initial success by herbicides. Thorough understanding on germination ecology of weeds are necessary to frame appropriate non-chemical and agronomic weed management options. Very limited information is available on the germination ecology of key summer weeds of the northern region of Australia, which makes it difficult to predict the environmental conditions that favour germination and seedling emergence. The aims of this research project are to determine the effects of environmental factors (temperature, light, salt stress, heat stress, water stress, burial depth) on germination and emergence of these weed species.

Location: Gatton
Contact supervisors: Dr Bhagirath Chauhan (b.chauhan@uq.edu.au) and Sudheesh Manalil (s.manalil@uq.edu.au)

 

Evaluation of herbicidal properties of plant extracts on major grass and broad leaf weeds project

Suitable for MSc (course work)/Honours students

Intensive use of herbicides is a major reason for the rapid evolution of herbicide resistance in many weeds. Therefore, a sustainable weed management strategy should integrate non-chemical herbicide options along with herbicides. There are reports that water extracts of certain plant residues would suppress weeds due to their allelopathy potential. The aim of this project is to examine the growth suppressive effect of allelochemicals on weeds and major crops in pot studies.

Location: Gatton
Contact supervisors: Dr Bhagirath Chauhan (b.chauhan@uq.edu.au) and Sudheesh Manalil (s.manalil@uq.edu.au)

 

Effect of environmental factors on herbicide efficacy project

Suitable for MSc (course work)/Honours students

An efficacious herbicide programme would reduce multiple herbicide applications, thereby reduce the herbicide selection pressure and resistance evolution. In addition, there would be less environmental pollution and additional economic benefits. Operational and environmental factors are crucial in deciding the level of herbicide efficacy and the level of weed control. Research indicated that temperature and light could affect the herbicide efficacy of many post-emergent herbicides. Therefore, this project would explore and identify the effect of temperature, light, and soil moisture on the efficacy of commonly used herbicides on both the susceptible and resistant weeds.

Location: Gatton
Contact supervisors: Dr Bhagirath Chauhan (b.chauhan@uq.edu.au) and Sudheesh Manalil (s.manalil@uq.edu.au)


Evaluating the weed seed sterilising effects of herbicides project

Suitable for MSc (course work)/Honours students

Post-emergent herbicides are applied during different growth phases of crop and weeds. The efficacy of these herbicides would depend on the growth stage of the weed plant. Although there would be some growth reduction in overgrown weed plants following herbicide selection, many plants may set seeds following herbicide selection. There are reports that some post-emergent herbicides have the potential to sterilise these seeds following herbicide selection. As a result, even though seeds would enrich soil seedbanks, the seeds may not be viable. Therefore, herbicides will be examined for the seed sterilising effects of weeds seeds. The dormancy and viability of these weeds will be tested.

Location: Gatton
Contact supervisors: Dr Bhagirath Chauhan (b.chauhan@uq.edu.au) and Sudheesh Manalil (s.manalil@uq.edu.au)


Weeds' response to crop interference and/or water stress project

Suitable for MSc (course work)/Honours students

How weeds respond to crop competition in terms of resource allocation? How different biotypes respond?
Do we need to increase N with crop plant density?
Water limitation is common in the northern region cropping systems. In these conditions, crops suffer but several weeds thrive.
How weeds (key winter/summer) respond to water stress and/or nutrients?

Location: Gatton
Contact supervisors: Dr Bhagirath Chauhan (b.chauhan@uq.edu.au) and Sudheesh Manalil (s.manalil@uq.edu.au)

 

Farming systems

Explore the range of the currently available student project opportunities in farming systems. These projects will suit MSc (course work) students.

 

The use of drone and sensing technologies in sorghum – weed interactions research

Suitable for MSc (course work) students

Crop weed interaction research requires the collection of multiple crop and weed samples over large areas during the cycle of the crop, this is a labour intensive and costly exercise. Developing fast and cost effective UAV sensing platforms to scout weed problems in large fields can help target weed control interventions, reduce costs and increase yields. This project will use drone and sensing technologies to collect and analyse detail crop reflectance information and derive relationships between reflectance indices and crop and weed properties e.g. biomass, leaf area, density.
 
The project will involve field experimentation at Gatton Research Station, and desktop data analysis. 
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Daniel Rodriguez (d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au), James McLean (j.mclean2@uq.edu.au), Dr Bhagirath Chauhan (b.chauhan@uq.edu.au)
Start date: Immediately

Benefits and trade offs from early planting sorghum and maize

Suitable for MSc (course work) students

Early planting is being considered a an option for farmers to reduce the likelihood of heat stress damage during critical stages of crop development around flowering. However the  comparative capacity of maize and sorghum hybrids to (i) establish and yield at lower than optimal soil temperatures, (ii) withstand the effects of frost, or (iii) benefits from a longer growing season and avoidance of heat stress, is not well understood. This project will aim to answer those questions using a replicated on-farm trial with multiple planting times and maize and sorghum hybrids of contrasting cold tolerance. 
 
The project involves on farm experimentation and desktop data analysis. The project is based at Gatton Campus.
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Daniel Rodriguez (d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au), James McLean (j.mclean2@uq.edu.au), Dr Joe Eyre (j.eyre@uq.edu.au), Peter deVoil (p.devoil@uq.edu.au)
Start date: Immediately

Tactical agronomy for uniculm and low tillering sorghum hybrids in rainfed cropping

Suitable for MSc (course work) students

Low tillering hybrids are considered to be better adapted to low rainfall environments; though they are also expected to yield, when planted at high populations in high yielding or irrigated sites. This project will quantify the role of low tillering and uniculm hybrids across three contrasting environments in Queensland, a rainfed cropping site in the Darling Downs, a rainfed and hot environment from Central Queensland, and a cool and high yielding environment from the Southern Eastern Downs.
 
The project involves on farm experimentation and desktop data analysis. The project is based at Gatton Campus.
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Daniel Rodriguez (d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au), James McLean (j.mclean2@uq.edu.au), Dr Joe Eyre (j.eyre@uq.edu.au), Peter deVoil (p.devoil@uq.edu.au)
Start date: Immediately

 

Grain crop physiology and modelling

Explore the range of the currently available student project opportunities in grain crop physiology and modelling. These projects will suit Honours students.

Characterising wheat populations selected for adaptive root traits for water-stressed environments

Suitable for Honours students

The student will learn skills in field crops research, plant physiology, new field phenotyping techniques and data analysis.

Temperatures have increased and in-crop rainfall decreased over recent decades in many parts of the Australian wheat cropping region. With these trends set to continue or intensify, improving crop adaptation in the face of climate change is particularly urgent in this, already drought-prone, cropping region.  Importantly, improved performance under water-limitation must be achieved while retaining yield potential during more favourable seasons.  
Where rain-fed wheat production is dependent on stored soil moisture, optimisation of root architecture to maximise soil moisture extraction from deep in the soil, late in the season, is important to increase crop productivity. Seminal root angle and root number of seedlings are considered as proxy traits for early selection of deep and narrow root systems, which can allow increased deep soil water extraction. 

Recently, a new high-throughput phenotyping method has been developed to screen high numbers of lines (Richard et al. 2015. Plant Methods 11:13). This method has been used to select populations with either narrow or wide seminal roots.  We would predict that the genotypes selected for narrow root angle should have a narrower overall root system with more roots at depth and extract more soil moisture from depth.  This should lead to improved yield and affect other drought adaptive traits such as green leaf area retention (stay-green).

The populations selected for either narrow or wide roots will be sown in the field in 2017 to test their performance and to measure agronomic traits such as stay-green to determine whether the narrow root types have superior adaptation to water-stress environments.

There is an exciting opportunity for an honours student to participate in this experiment.

Location: UQ Gatton campus/Toowoomba

Contact supervisors: Dr Jack Christopher (j.christopher@uq.edu.au; tel: +61 7 45291413), Dr Karine Chenu (k.chenu1@uq.edu.au; tel: +61 7 4688 1357)

Prior to applying: If you are interested in this project, please contact the project supervisors  to discuss the project.

Agricultural nanotechnology

Explore the range of the currently available student project opportunities in agricultural nanotechnology. These projects will suit Honours, MSc or PhD students.

Optimisation of a tissue-culture pipeline for commercial avocado propagation 

Suitable for Honours, or MSc or PhD applying for own scholarship.

Clonal propagation of genetically identical plantlets is intrinsic to the production and propagation of elite genotypes of horticultural and woody species including avocado. However, the horticultural and forestry industries can lose millions of dollars every year due to lack of elite rootstock cultivars. The Mitter lab has developed a working pipeline for clonal avocado propagation in tissue culture, as a viable solution to this problem. This project aims to take this project forward to real-world outcomes, by translating our current tissue culture pipeline to new industry-relevant rootstock cultivars. There may also be opportunity to profile molecular and histological factors involved with shoot and root induction. The student will work closely with other members of the Mitter laboratory and with industry partners to aim to develop a viable commercial system for avocado propagation. It is expected that the student will learn valuable techniques in project design, plant tissue-culture/in vitro techniques, plant molecular, histological and physiological work (including hormonal response assays, microscopy, RNA extractions and qRTPCR).

Location: Mitter Laboratory, QAAFI Centre for Plant Science, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, UQ St Lucia campus, Brisbane
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Neena Mitter (n. mitter@uq.edu.au) and Dr Alice Hayward (a.hayward @uq.edu.au)

Cryopreservation of avocado

Suitable for Honours, or MSc or PhD applying for own scholarship

Avocado (Persea Americana Mill) is a high value horticultural crop for Queensland. Currently, avocado genetic resources are maintained in the form of field repositories at great cost and risk of natural disasters, pest and diseases. Cryopreservation is the long-term storage of live tissues at ultra-low temperatures, and offers a necessary, complimentary method that is safe, cost-effective and long-term. This project will further develop our cryopreservation protocol for avocado, and translate this to a number of Persea spp cultivars/diverse germplasm. The student will work closely with collaborators in California, USA, and will have opportunity to work in California for a part of their project. The student may also have opportunity to undertake some next-generation molecular work in order to help elucidate Persea evolution and diversity with the goal to inform cryopreservation priorities. This project could be transformational for genetic preservation of avocado and other important tree species. 

Location: Mitter Laboratory, QAAFI Centre for Plant Science, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, UQ St Lucia campus, Brisbane. In collaboration with The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens, California, USA.
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Neena Mitter (n. mitter@uq.edu.au) and Dr Alice Hayward (a.hayward @uq.edu.au)

Application of BioClay to viruses of importance to the Australian horticultural industries

Suitable for Honours, or MSc or PhD applying for own scholarship

Viral infection in economically important food and fibre crops is a major concern to Australian horticultural industries due to crop loses, yield-reductions and unmarketable fruit. The Mitter lab has developed ‘BioClay’, a world leading spray-on RNAi delivery platform that is able to protect plants from viral infection. This project aims to further explore the utility of the BioClay platform against viruses of economic importance to the Australian horticultural industry. This project will result in real-world outcomes, by translating and expanding our current virus targeting range to an industry-ready, world leading crop protection technology. It is expected that the student will learn valuable techniques and strong skills in experimental design, molecular biology (cloning, PCR, qRT-PCR, sequencing, RNA/DNA extractions), plant virology, plant-virus interaction, bioinformatics, material science and the application of RNAi to crop protection. There may also be opportunity to delineate fundamental molecular factors involved in plant RNAi induction mechanisms. The student will work closely with other members of the Mitter laboratory and industry partners to produce high value science and develop a highly productive research career. 

Location: Mitter Laboratory, QAAFI Centre for Plant Science, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, UQ St Lucia campus, Brisbane
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Neena Mitter (n.mitter@uq.edu.au) and Dr Karl Robinson (k.robinson2@uq.edu.au)

Application of BioClay to insect of importance to the Australian horticultural industries. 

Suitable for Honours, or MSc or PhD applying for own scholarship

Insects cause significant physical damage to plants and are primarily responsible for the transmission of viruses that results in significant economic losses every year due to crop losses, yield-reductions and unmarketable fruit in Australian agricultural industries. In this project we aim to further explore the utility of our world leading RNAi delivery platform ‘BioClay’, to protect plants from vector mediated viral infection and insect feeding induced damage. This project will result in real-world outcomes, by translating and expanding on our current virus and insect target range to an industry-ready, world leading crop protection technology. It is expected that the student will learn valuable techniques and strong skills in experimental design, molecular biology (cloning, PCR, qRTPCR, sequencing, RNA/DNA extractions), plant virology, plant-virus and virus-insect interactions, bioinformatics, material science and the application of RNAi in crop protection. There may also be opportunity to delineate fundamental molecular factors involved in plant/insect RNAi induction mechanisms. The student will work closely with other members of the Mitter laboratory and industry partners to develop high value scientific outcomes and a highly productive research career.

Location: Mitter Laboratory, QAAFI, CPS, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, UQ St Lucia campus. 
Contact supervisors: A/Prof. Neena Mitter (n.mitter@uq.edu.au) and Dr Karl Robinson (k.robinson2@uq.edu.au)
 

Grain crop improvement

Explore the range of the currently available student project opportunities in grain crop improvement. These projects will suit Honours students.

Understanding the genetics of roots to improve drought adaptation of wheat and barley

Suitable for Honours students

Modern crop varieties are subject to unprecedented climatic fluctuations, particularly in the frequency and severity of drought. A genetic predisposition for deep rooting can enable the plant to access more stored soil moisture during the grain-filling period. However, knowledge about the genetic controls of root growth habit in wheat and barley is limited.

This project will involve experiments investigating root growth behavior for a series of wheat and barley genotypes performed under controlled conditions at St Lucia, plus data collection for above-ground water-use traits from field experiments located at Warwick and Toowoomba. 
Outcomes from this project will assist plant breeders to assemble wheat and barley varieties that are better adapted to drought and will represent a step toward customization of root systems that are tailored for local environments. We anticipate this will stabilize crop yields across years despite fluctuations in rainfall. 

The student will gain hands-on experience in crop physiology, plant breeding and genetics, and will join a diverse lab comprising 17 members who collectively speak 13 languages. 

Location: Hartley Teakle Building, St Lucia campus, Brisbane
Contact supervisor: Dr Lee Hickey, l.hickey@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 4805

2017 QAAFI Winter Research Scholarship (WRS) projects

Explore the range of the currently available vacation research scholarship projects on offer with QAAFI and contact the potential supervisor directly (see Staff Directory tab on our Contact page here https://qaafi.uq.edu.au/contact). If they are interested, you need to get their supervisor support evidence (learn how to here - https://qaafi.uq.edu.au/scholarships-awards) before applying via online form through UQ Winter Research Program (see https://employability.uq.edu.au/research).

The risk of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in honey

Field of science: Animal science
Suitable for students with laboratory experience or a background in chemistry, 3-4 year students (UQ enrolled students only).
Project duration: 4-6 weeks

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are natural carcinogens present in approximately 3 percent of flowering plants. Internationally it has been reported that such toxins can be found in honey due to transfer of pollen and nectar by bees. This project will utilise liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) technology to investigate the presence of such alkaloids in Queensland honey samples.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: 
Scholars will gain experience in sample preparation and extraction for LCMS analysis of market survey honey samples. They will gain experience in data analysis of LC-MS/MS results.

Location: Health and Food Sciences Precinct, Coopers Plains, Brisbane

Contact supervisor: 
A/Prof. Mary Fletcher, Principal Research Fellow, ph: 07 344 32479, mary.fletcher@uq.edu.au, or
Dr Natasha Hungerford, Senior Research Assistant, ph: 07 344 32473, n.hungerford@uq.edu.au
 

Assessment of indospicine in cattle tissue

Field of science: Animal science
Suitable for students with lab experience or background in chemistry; 3-4 year students preferably (UQ enrolled students only)
Project duration: 4-6 weeks

Indospicine is a natural toxin which is found in Indigofera plant species. These plants predominantly grow in arid areas of Western Australia where cattle is grazing. The main objectives of the proposed research project are  assessing and evaluating indospicine concentrations in cattle tissue  samples (meat and liver) from Western Australian farms by using state-of-the-art analytical methods such as UHPLC-MS.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:
The scholar may gain LC-MS experience as well as experience in sample preparation techniques and data evaluation

Contact supervisor: Dr Gabriele Netzel, ph: 07 344 32480, g.netzel@uq.edu.au

 

Beat the heat in maize and sorghum

Field of science: Plant science
Suitable for students with background in agronomy, farming systems, and an inclination for the use of simulation modelling tools. 
Project duration: 6 weeks

Avoidance of the overlap between heat events and susceptible phenophases in maize and sorghum is the main strategy farmers have to reduce losses due to heat stress and dry spells around flowering. Some of the questions this project will answer include:

  • How early is early to sow sorghum and maize; 
  • What are the benefits and trade offs of sowing “super” early on cold & wet soils;
  • Are there benefits from the competition on spring weeds of a super early crop;
  • What are the implications on subsequent crops e.g. More efficient fallows? Increased cropping intensity?; Farm profits and risks?
  • How soil fertility needs to be managed in cold soils?;
  • What is the risk of frosts damage during vegetative stages in sorghum and maize?; and
  • How early planting changes the heat and water stress environments in maize and sorghum?.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:
The student is expected to select one or two of the questions above. Given the short of the appointment, modelling work using APSIM and APSFarm (www.apsim.info) will be encouraged.
Students will learn how to use APSIM and APSFarm to derive simulation data and prepare project reports, and present seminars.

Location: Toowoomba or Gatton UQ Campuses
Contact supervisor: A/Prof. Daniel Rodriguez