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Katherine Taylor

profile_taylor_thumbKatherine Taylor
PhD student

Topic: a detailed study of Mycosphaerella cryptica and Mycosphaerella nubilosa in Eastern and Western Australia.

Murdoch University

The eucalypt fungal diseases Mycosphaerella cryptica and M. nubilosa are two of the most important leaf pathogens in Australia and New Zealand affecting plantation productivity. Although they are found all over Australia, there are differences between the patterns of infection in Western Australia (WA) and the eastern states. Severe leaf loss caused by Mycosphaerella is common in the eastern states but rarely found in WA plantations, for example.

My project aims are to determine whether these differences are due to:

  • different environmental factors (i.e. amount and frequency of rainfall or humidity),
  • growth factors of the host species (i.e. relationship between the timing of new growth and rainfall events), or
  • variations in pathogen populations (i.e. strains of Mycosphaerella varying in their preference for particular hosts, levels of pathogenicity, or optimal humidity and rainfall conditions).

The differences between disease severity could be a result of one or more of these factors.

To answer some of these questions the population genetics of the two Mycosphaerella species will be studied. Spore trapping, environmental triggers for spore release and epidemics will also be examined.

I have always had a great interest in the natural environment of WA and was taught a great deal by my granny (who is a botanist) my granddad (who is also a scientist) and my father (who is an environmental engineer) but, like most people out of high-school, I had very little idea of what I would like to achieve with my life. Basing my choice on what interests me, I decided upon a degree in biological and environmental science, which later included molecular biology as it was obvious how important this is in many aspects of science. I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do with this degree until I completed a Environmental Plant Physiology and Pathology course with Associate Professor Giles Hardy and Dr Treena Burgess of Murdoch University, developing an interest in fungi and in particular, fungal diseases of plants during a small project on some Ophiostoma species found in WA. This led to another small project identifying fungi found on Acacia mangium and an Honours project investigating Botryosphaeria species occurring as endophytes in tuart woodlands. Treena, Giles and Dr Paul Barber then introduced me to a project on Mycosphaerella, which I did not know a great deal about, but what I did know interested me and I saw an opportunity to increase my skills. After the project and some funding had been organised within Murdoch University, the CRC for Forestry became interested and decided to add considerably to the funding of the project. This has been particularly advantageous, giving me contacts and information that I would not otherwise have been exposed to.

My supervisors are Dr Treena Burgess, Associate Professor Giles Hardy and Dr Paul Barber of Biological Sciences, Murdoch University, and Dr Caroline Mohammed (Ensis).

My project is funded by Murdoch University, and CRC for Forestry Research: Projects One (Managing and Monitoring for Growth and Health) and Four (Trees in the Landscape: Biodiversity).

To browse other PhD projects available with the CRC for Forestry, click here.