Warming climates are having substantial impacts on plant and animal communities worldwide. Ecologists commonly state that species will have to migrate uphill or poleward in order to remain in their current climate niche.

However, it’s not always easy to predict what the real-world impacts of climate change will be. For instance, earlier snowmelt can lead to alpine plants being exposed to colder temperatures in a warming environment.

As cold air flows downhill, moving uphill is not always the best way for alpine plants to stay cool. Understanding how the unique (and threatened) Australian alpine flora is responding to climate change is a pressing challenge.


During the project: “Are Australian Alpine Plants on the Move?” you’ll compile historic distribution data from the published literature and from the Atlas of Living Australia, and gather new data through fieldwork in the Snowy Mountains.

You’ll find out how 50-100 Australian alpine species have changed their elevational range over the last ~ 70 years. Are they moving uphill? Downhill? Or standing still?

If there is time, you can also explore whether we can use traits or taxonomy to predict which species are at greatest risk for the future.

Student benefits

The Big Ecology Lab is a friendly, productive group who love to work together. We have lab discussion groups, weekly student-supervisor meetings and are active participants in university life. We also have a lab policy of celebrating victories with prizes, publications and completions.

All 15 of Professor Moles’ previous honours students received first-class honours, and their current positions include:

  • PhD study.
  • Team Leader in plant biosecurity at AQIS.
  • Wildlife Photographer.
  • Lab Technician at 4 Pines Brewing Company.
  • Ecological Consultant.
  • Environment Advisor at BMA.

Of course, you’ll also gain skills in experimental design, data analysis, writing and science communication. This project will give you valuable expertise in an important environmental issue. You’ll also work at the Australian PlantBank at Mount Annan – which means that you’ll use some amazing facilities and make contacts with lovely people who employ Plant Ecologists.

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Prof Angela Moles.

T: +61 2 9385 8302