About

I am interested in the ecological interactions between fungi, plants and animals. This broad interest incorporates mycology, botany, taxonomy, molecular biology, conservation biology and plant pathology, with a special focus on tropical ecosystems.

Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 2014 - Daniel McAlpine Medal for outstanding early career research in mycology
Publications

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
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ResearchOnline@JCU stores 15+ research outputs authored by Dr Sandra Abell from 2006 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

WV Scott Charitable Trust - Research Grant

Interactions among fungi, ants, and the ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii

Indicative Funding
$21,000
Summary
Myrmecodia beccarii is a vulnerable endemic ant-plant of far north Queensland. This ant-plant provides ants with housing in specialised tunnels and chambers. Fungi were discovered in these chambers almost 40 years ago but their identity and functional roles have never been determined. I will explore the ecological interactions among fungi, ants and M. beccarrii to establish and define this tripartite mutualism. To do this, I will conduct field work to determine the distribution of fungal species within M.beccarii and field/greenhouse experiments to investigate the interactions and functional roles of fungi. The results will be used to inform the conservation of M. beccarri.
Investigators
Melinda Greenfield, Sandra Abell, Lori Lach, Joe Holtum, Brad Congdon and Leho Tedersoo (College of Science & Engineering and University of Tartu)
Keywords
Myrmecodia beccarii (Rubiaceae); Ant-plants; Philidris cordata (Formicidae); Fungi

Department of the Environment and Energy - Caring for our Country - Target Area Grant

Bettongia tropica population status, viability and impacts of fire

Indicative Funding
$262,579 over 4 years (administered by World Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia)
Summary
Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica) populations are in decline across its range due to loss of habitat, food source availability, competition, predation, and altered fire and grazing regimes. Landscape-scale surveys across lB. tropica's range in the Wet Tropics bioregion have not been conducted for 17 years. This Caring for Our Country funded project will estimate the current populationstatus in far north Queensland, using new remote sensing technologies (including camera traps and the molecular analysis of oorts*), and address multiple threats in delivering recovery actions, and for the survival of the Northern Bettong.
Investigators
Christine Hof, Darren Grover, Sandra Abell, L Joseph and Lana Little in collaboration with Tegan Whitehead, Susan Nuske, Jessica Koleck and Stephanie Todd (World Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia, College of Science & Engineering, Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service)
Keywords
Bettongia tropica (Potoroidae); Population; Fire; oorts; Impacts; resources

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Phylogeny and Biogeography of Australian Garcinia (Clusiaceae)

Indicative Funding
$3,643
Summary
Australia is a part of Gondwanaland which is also rich in plant diversity. One of the most common plant groups in Gondwanan region is Clusioid clade including Podostemaceae, Hypericaceae, Calophyllaceae, Clusiaceae and Bonnetiaceae. A recent study of Clusioid biogeography (Ruhfel et al, 2016) recommended to focus on some groups to elucidate their biogeographic history including Calophyllum, Clusiaceae, Garcinieae, Mammea, Podostemoideae, and Vismieae. In this project, I will examine Garcinieae as the case study focusing on Australian Garcinia. All 12 spp. of Australian Garcinia will be taken into the study along with 63 spp. of Garcinia from other tropical regions worldwide. The analysis will use plastid genes marker matK and ndhF performed by Sanger sequencing. The outcomes will contribute new information of Australian Garcinia biogeography.
Investigators
Rismita Sari, Sandra Abell, Darren Crayn, Paul Gadek and Natalie Dillon (College of Science & Engineering, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry)
Keywords
Garcinia; Clusiaceae; Phylogeny; Australia; MatK; ndhF

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Camera trap occupancy modelling and population estimation of the endangered northern bettong (Bettongia tropica) in the Lamb Range.

Indicative Funding
$3,500
Summary
I aim to determine bettong occupancy and population density across and between the known Lamb Range sub-populations using camera traps. This area is the last known stronghold of B. tropica and it is essential for their conservation that we have a detailed understanding of their occurrence across this area as well as factors that might be influencing their density. I will also simultaneously validate camera trapping methods as an alternative to cage trapping by comparing the two datasets to allow accurate and economical ongoing monitoring of this endangered species.
Investigators
Stephanie Todd, Sandra Abell and Jessica Koleck (College of Science & Engineering and World Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia)
Keywords
Bettongia tropica (Potoroidae); Lamb Range; Camera Trapping; Occupancy modelling; Non-invasive survey techniques; Endangered small mammal

Department of the Environment and Energy - Australian Biological Resources Study - Student Travel Bursary

Phylogeny and Biogeography of Garcinia (Clusiaceae)

Indicative Funding
$750
Summary
This study was undertaken to uncover the relationship of Australian Garcinia with other Garcinia species from different regions in the world. The majority of Australian Garcinia occur in the wet tropical region of North Queensland with a high level of endemicity. Using a combination of molecular and morphological data this study found a group of Australian Garcinia that are more closely related to New Guinean species while another clade had closer affinities to Asian species. The outcomes contribute important information to the systematics of Garcinia and a greater understanding of the biogeography of Australian plant diversity.
Investigators
Rismita Sari, Sandra Abell, Darren Crayn, Paul Gadek and Natalie Dillon (College of Science & Engineering, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry)
Keywords
Garcinia; Clusiaceae; Phylogeny; Australia; Wet Tropics; Queensland

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Interactions among fungi, ants, and the ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii

Indicative Funding
$3,000
Summary
Myrmecodia beccarii is a vulnerable endemic ant-plant of far north Queensland. This ant-plant provides ants with housing in specialised tunnels and chambers. Fungi were discovered in these chambers almost 40 years ago but their identity and functional roles have never been determined. I will explore the ecological interactions among fungi, ants and M. beccarrii to establish and define this tripartite mutualism. To do this, I will conduct field work to determine the distribution of fungal species within M.beccarii and field/greenhouse experiments to investigate the interactions and functional roles of fungi. The results will be used to inform the conservation of M. beccarri.
Investigators
Melinda Greenfield, Sandra Abell, Lori Lach and Joe Holtum (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Myrmecodia beccarii (Rubiaceae); Ant-plants; Fungi; Philidris cordata (Formicidae)

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Analysis on the Variation of Australian Garcinia using Diversity Array Technology

Indicative Funding
$1,200
Summary
Garcinia (Clusiaceae) is one of the common genera in the tropics, including Australia. The Plant List records 611 species but includes synonyms (The Plant List, 2015). This genus comprises approximately 271 species (Stevens, 2007) but might reach up to 500 spp. (Jones, 1980). A global revision of Garcinia is not yet available and the total number of the species is still unknown. However, the Australian Garcinia has recently been revised resulting in 12 known species of Garcinia that can be found in this region (Cooper, 2013). The distribution of Garcinia in Australia is from the Torres Strait Island to the Kirrama Range, including the entire Wet Tropics bioregion. This grant will support the finding of new information for the Australian Garcinia. The DArT analysis is a new technique applied to Garcinia which will increase and support the previous data that used only one region of the nuclear DNA. This information will give a better understanding of the molecular variation of the Australian Garcinia and help resolve the phylogenetic differences between closely related taxa that otherwise would not be possible.
Investigators
Rismita Sari, Sandra Abell, Darren Crayn, Paul Gadek and Natalie Dillon (College of Science & Engineering, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry)
Keywords
Clusiaceae; Garcinia; Phylogeny; Australia; Wet Tropics; Queensland

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Interactions among fungi, ants, and the ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii.

Indicative Funding
$3,993
Summary
Myrmecodia beccarii is a vulnerable endemic ant-plant of far north Queensland. This ant-plant provides ants with housing in specialised tunnels and chambers. Fungi were discovered in these chambers over 30 years ago but their identity and functional roles have never been determined. I will explore the ecological interactions between fungi, ants and M. beccarii to establish and define this tripartitie mutualism. To do this, I will conduct field work to determine the distribution of fungal species within M. beccarii and field/greenhouse experiments to investigate the interactions and functional roles of fungi. The results will be used to inform the conservation of M. beccarii.
Investigators
Melinda Greenfield, Sandra Abell, Lori Lach and Joe Holtum (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Myrmecodia beccarii; Ant-plants; Fungi; Philidris cordata

Department of the Environment and Energy - Australian Biological Resources Study - Postdoctoral Fellowship

Systematic catalogue of arthropod infecting fungi in the genus Cordyceps sensu lato (Hypocreales, Ascomycota) and related genera, from Australian rainforests

Indicative Funding
$135,000 over 3 years
Summary
Fungi that infect insects are common in tropical regions of Australia. Despite their abundance, they have never been taxonomically studied in Australia. Recent collections from Australian rainforests have revealed a diversity (over 150) of unclassified taxa on ants, flies, scale insects and spiders. This project will focus on the genera Akanthomyces, Cordyceps, Gibellula, Hirsutella, Hypocrella, Ophiocordyceps, and Torrubiella. A systematic revision and Lucid guide to at least 40 Australian species will be produced. This project will contribute to a better understanding of the health of insect communities and the identity of potential biological control agents of insect pests.
Investigators
Sandra Abell and R Shivas in collaboration with Elizabeth Aitken (College of Science & Engineering, The University of Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry)
Keywords
Entomopathogen; Cordyceps fungi; Systematics; Biocontrol; Taxonomy; Evolution

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Phylogeny and Biogeography of Australian Garcinia (Clusiaceae)

Indicative Funding
$3,300
Summary
This project will analyse the affinity of close related taxa within Garcinia in Australia. The analysis will use the platform of DArT? Analysis established by DArT? Company, Canberra. The DNA samples will be prepared in high quality and quantity templates to allow the restriction enzyme recognises and cuts the restriction sites in the whole genome. The restriction sites will be analysed using DArT? protocol and software which the in final result will produce DArT? sequence analysis. This final result will show the affinity of the taxa which can also be used to analyse how the genetic varieties occur such as the shape of the fruits, the colour of the flowers and other minute morphological characters.
Investigators
Rismita Sari, Sandra Abell, Darren Crayn, Natalie Dillon and Paul Gadek (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Garcinia; Clusianeae; Phylogeny; Mangosteen; Biogeography; Septogarcinia sumbawaensis

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection - Contract Research

Determining the Significance of the Northern Bettong's Dispersal Role in Ecosystem Function

Indicative Funding
$10,000
Summary
Bettongia tropica is a disperser of truffles which are ectomycorrhizal fungi, an important functional group of fungi that form mutualistic associations with many woodland trees (e.g. Eucalyptus). Bettongia tropica is likely to be very important in maintaining this fungal-plant relationship and overall ecosystem functioning, making their conservation a top priority. However, the extent to which B. tropica performs a unique ectomycorrhizal dispersal role remains unverified. This project aims to determine 1) how far B. tropica disperse truffle spores, and 2) the size of their foraging area and the diversity of fungi that they find and consume within that area.
Investigators
Sandra Abell, Tegan Whitehead, Susan Nuske and Ashley Bunce (College of Science & Engineering and Department of Environment and Heritage (SA))
Keywords
Bettongia tropica (Potoroidae); GPS Collars; Behaviour; Ectomycorrhiza; Dispersal; Fungi
Supervision

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

Current
  • Biodiversity and Phylogeography of Mountain-top fungi (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Population genetics and non-invasive population estimation of the endangered northern bettong, Bettongia tropica (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • An Assessment of Monotypic Genus Septogarcinia Kosterm., Australian Garcinia, Hybridization, Biogeography and Evolution in Garcinia (Clusiaceae) (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Interactions Among Fungi, Ants, and the Ant-plant Myrmecodia beccarii (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Microhabitat Use and Movement Patterns of the Endangered Northern Bettong: Influence of Resource Availability and predator Density. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
Completed
  • The Importance of Declining Mammalian Fungal Specialists for Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Dispersal (2017, PhD , Primary Advisor)
Collaboration

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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