Michelle Waycott

Professor Michelle Waycott

HBS Womersley Chair in Systematic Botany

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences


I have a joint position based at The University of Adelaide where I also act as the Head of the State Herbarium of South Australia (AD) as Chief Botanist. The herbarium is part of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium in the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources of South Australia. Through the herbarium I have a responsability to support and enhance our understanding of the flora of South Australia with a particular emphasis on systematics and taxonomy. In my broader role I am interested in the study of plant evolution. Particularly interesting is the way plants adapt to stressful of difficult environments including marine plants, desert plants and plants with specialised adaptations such as specific pollinators.

My research is often at the interface between systematics and taxonomy, population genetics, evolutionary biology, ecology, basic biology and molecular genetics. I believe strongly that research should have useful outcomes for the future-both as applied action supporting better management of our natural resources, as well as foundational pure basic research that might lead to innovative, inspirational and sometimes even serendipitous outcomes.

My research includes a focus on the systematics of plants (especially seagrasses and related groups, monocots, sandalwood, Solanum and other arid groups). In addition, I study native plant species concepts and how to evaluate them for more effective management and the evolution of the Australian Flora. Recently, my group has progressed the ways that an application of molecular markers can be used to detect speciation or recent hybrid formation in natural populations. This is particularly important where hybrids are priming between introduced and native species leading to the loss of local distinctiveness of populations of native species.

I also lead and contribute to a diverse range of research including:
• Estuarine, marine and coastal plant communities
–Population dynamics (population genetics, reproductive biology, connectivity and spatial and temporal variability) including carbon sequestration (‘blue carbon’)
–Documenting and analysis of trends in long-term ecosystem change - in particular for coastal plant communities (e.g. seagrasses)
–Risks and threats to coastal and marine ecosystems
–Climate change and drivers of ecosystem change (e.g. water quality)
–Coastal ecosystem ecological function including threatened plant species
–Research supporting marine parks management
• Applied science for management
–Science for use in policy development and community awareness
–Biodiversity and human health
–Knowledge management for decision making
–Evidence based decision making
–Science integration and communication
• Plant systematics, taxonomy and evolutionary biology
–New species descriptions
–Evolution of the Australian flora
–Management of biological collections based institutions
–Molecular systematics
–Applications of molecular tools in foundational botanical sciences esp. taxonomy, evolutionary and ecological genetics

I work hard to encourage research activities on the flora through student research projects, by supporting Herbarium staff to conduct research in their areas of interest and by facilitating access to the herbarium for other researcher and student use.

I also act as a strategic advisor within the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources on a wide range of natural resource management issues. I currently have research activities underway that aim to inform management of threatened species, restoration and to identify knowledge gaps for seagrasses and seagrass ecosystems in South Australia and Australia-wide.

I contribute to teaching in the School of Biological Sciences in the Evolutionary Biology and Marine Biology and Botany programs and take on honours, masters and PhD students as a supervisor.

I am a core member of the:
Environment Institute
Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity
Australian Bioactive Compounds Centre
Advanced DNA Identification and Forensics Facility
And I am an Affiliate of the Centre for Conservation Science and Technology

I currently am Chair of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria

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  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 Co-Supervisor Systematics and evolution of conifers Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Raees Khan
    2018 Principal Supervisor Ecosystem services for valuing marine and coastal habitats Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Samuel Gould Gaylard
    2017 Principal Supervisor Biographical and Phylogeographic relationships of south Australian Flora Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Francis Jason Nge
    2017 Co-Supervisor Environmental Health in a Changing Environment: Emerging Drivers of Health Outcomes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Craig Anthony Liddicoat
    2017 Principal Supervisor Blue Carbo Sequestration Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Nicole Rianne Foster
    2016 Principal Supervisor Understanding the key factors required for the establishment and persistence of reintroduced plant popuationa Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Rebecca Ann Dillon
    2016 Co-Supervisor New insights into the evolutionary history of Nothofagus (Nothofagaceae) from molecular systematics and palynotaxonomy Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Yelarney Kim Beer
    2014 Co-Supervisor Coevolution of Cephalotus and Badisis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Nick Kalfas
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2014 - 2015 Co-Supervisor New approaches to explore the past and present diversity of Australian sandalwood species -- from palaeobotany to next generation sequencing. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Ms Patricia Fuentes-Cross
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  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2015 - ongoing Associate Editor Australian Systematic Botany CSIRO
    2007 - ongoing Associate Editor Marine Ecology
    2007 - ongoing Editor Swainsona Australia
    2007 - ongoing Editor Flora of South Australia (5th edn) Australia
  • Position: HBS Womersley Chair in Systematic Botany
  • Phone: 7229416
  • Email: michelle.waycott@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 8222 9457
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Benham Laboratories, floor 1
  • Room: 1 06
  • Org Unit: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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