A key goal in ecology today is to understand how native plant species will respond to climate change. Increased levels of CO2 can have a strong effect on plant function, and in natural ecosystems this can affect the way species grow, compete and persist.

Numerous studies of agricultural species have shown that increased CO2 levels can reduce protein content of seeds; however, little work has been done to assess the impact on seeds of native species. The project: “How Does Rising CO2 Affect Seeds & Seedling Performance?” is essential for predicting how plants will persist in the future.


In this project, you’ll investigate whether increased maternal CO2 levels during seed development affects subsequent seed offspring protein content, and their germination and seedling performance. Does increased CO2 have a positive, negative of neutral effect on native species?

To test this hypothesis, you’ll establish experiments using Hakea (Proteaceae) seeds produced under different CO2 regimes. This test will help you to discover how seedlings grow under manipulated CO2 and temperature conditions.

The project will be carried out in collaboration with researchers at Western Sydney University, conducting some experiments here at UNSW and others in the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment’s controlled climate greenhouses.

Student benefits

You’ll join a growing lab group focused on plant ecology, fire and conservation biology. You’ll also gain a solid grounding in experimental design, lab and field skills, analysis and writing. During weekly discussions with your supervisor and the broader lab group, you’ll develop communication skills.

Many of our projects are connected to industry partners, including the NSW Office of Environment and the Heritage and Botanic Gardens (Mt Annan and ANBG Canberra). For those thinking of employment down the track, there’s an opportunity to see how research is connected to these institutions and conservation in general.

Our industry links have proven valuable in the past, with all previous honours students from the lab moving on to rewarding positions, including two current PhD candidates (at UNSW and Curtin), one Senior Scientist at OEH, one Environmental Consultant, one studying to be a science teacher and one Sustainability Coordinator.

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Dr Mark Ooi

T: +61 2 9385 2066