Thomas Davies grant recipients to study octopus brains, Antarctic krill and more

November 30, 2021
Thomas Davies Research Grant recipient Dr Zoe Doubleday in the field. Photo credit: Ben McPherson.

The Thomas Davies Research Grant for Marine, Soil and Plant Biology for 2022 has been awarded.

The grant is funded through a generous philanthropic bequest to the Academy from the estate of the late Thomas Lewis Davies. The fund offers annual research grants of up to $20,000 each to early- and mid-career researchers in the fields of marine, soil and plant biology.

From left: Dr Tatiana Soares da Costa, Dr Orpheus Butler and Dr Zoe Doubleday. Photos: supplied.

The nine recipients are:

Dr Tatiana Soares da Costa, La Trobe University: Using supercomputers in the search for herbicides that inhibit amino acid production in plants

“The funding will allow me to examine a novel weed management strategy to help conserve plant biodiversity and enhance the productivity and quality of crops.”

Dr Orpheus Butler, University of Sydney: Uncovering the key biological role of molybdenum in soil formation

“This research will deepen our knowledge of molybdenum biogeochemistry and has real potential to transform our understanding of the coupled processes of soil formation and ecosystem development.”

Dr Zoe Doubleday, University of South Australia: How will climate change affect the brain functioning of octopuses?

“My collaborators and I can discover something entirely new about the natural world that could not only benefit marine life, but benefit society in a way we don’t even yet realise.”

From left: Dr Niloofar Karimian, Dr Akane Uesugi and Dr Linda Armbrecht (Photo credit: Lee Stevens). Other photos supplied.

Dr Niloofar Karimian, Southern Cross University: Arsenic and antimony co-behaviour in soil under a changing climate – resolving interactions between microbiology and mineralogy

“[My research] combines microbiology, mineralogy and geochemistry to examine how soil waterlogging across a range of temperature conditions, as predicted under climate change scenarios, drives shifts in microbiological community composition and activity.”

Dr Akane Uesugi, RMIT University: Experimental tests of driver-passenger hypotheses – effects of weeds, fire, and soil microbes on native plant restoration

“My project looks at the interactive effects of fire and weed invasion on native vegetation restoration, incorporating interactions between both above- and below-ground processes. This project will also inform effective management strategies for restoring native habitats.”

Dr Linda Armbrecht, University of Adelaide: Probing ancient Antarctic krill populations

“This will allow me to explore an entirely new avenue of Antarctic biological research. The aim of this study is to develop molecular genetic probes that will capture Antarctic krill sequences in ancient DNA extracts from deep seafloor sediments … tracking their presence, and possibly evolution, over thousands of years!”

From left: Dr Michael Haydon,Dr Laura Ryan and Dr Benjamin Schwessinger (Photo credit: Sharyn Wragg). Other photos supplied.

Dr Michael Haydon, University of Melbourne: Time for growth – integrating metabolic signals in the plant circadian clock

“We will explore how plants use their energy status to tell time and adjust growth according to the time of day. These processes are critical for all photosynthetic organisms and we hope our discoveries can lead to gains in crop performance.”

Dr Laura Ryan, University of Newcastle: The rainbow connection – the importance of substrate colour on biodiversity in urbanised intertidal zones

“By understanding how and why the colour of marine built structures influences the ecological communities they support, this award will help to improve ‘eco’ engineering solutions that benefit both humans and nature.”

Dr Benjamin Schwessinger, Australian National University: Deciphering the genomes and genetics of Australian orchid mycorrhizas from the Tulasnella and Serendipita genera

“This award will really enable me to establish novel research directions in my lab on orchid mycorrhizal fungi with multiple nuclei within a single cell that are important to species conservation and pose a myriad of fundamental biological questions.”

Applications for the 2023 Thomas Davies Research Grant for Marine, Soil and Plant Biology will open in early 2022.

© 2023 Australian Academy of Science