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Guest Speakers

Professor Hans Lambers

Topic: Why are yarri (Eucalyptus patens) and karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) forests ‘cool spots’ in our ‘biodiversity hotspot’?

Dr. Laura Skates

Topic: Beauty & Horror: The Wonders of Australia’s Carnivorous Plants

Thilo Krueger

Topic: Utricularia

Why are yarri (Eucalyptus patens) and

karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) forests ‘cool spots’

in our ‘biodiversity hotspot’?

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Professor Hans Lambers

Kwongan heathlands are characterised by a tremendous biodiversity, with greatest biodiversity on the poorest soils. That megadiversity is maintained by a balance of, on one hand, species such as Proteaceae that are highly effective at acquiring phosphorus from nutrient-poor soils, but poorly defended against native pathogens such as oomycetes (water moulds such as native Phytophthora species, related to the pathogen responsible for dieback, but not nearly as harmful), and, on the other hand, species that are ineffective at taking up phosphorus from poor soils, but well-defended against oomycete pathogens, thanks to mycorrhizal symbiotic fungi. These fungi colonise plant root systems and enhance nutrient uptake when nutrients are more available than on our sandplains.  


Within our Southwest Biodiversity Hotspot, we also have ‘cool spots’ such as yarri and karri forests, not because these mycorrhizal eucalypts grow on rich soils, but because these trees have evolved traits somewhat similar to phosphorus-efficient Proteaceae. They are both efficient at acquiring phosphorus from nutrient-poor soils and defended against oomycete pathogens because they are mycorrhizal. We have yet to discover how common that trait is among eucalypts, but already know that it is by no means universal and that many eucalypts that grow on the sandplains among kwongan plants do not have that trait.

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Dr. Laura Skates

Beauty & Horror:

The Wonders of Australia’s Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants are a fascinating and diverse group, well known for their extraordinary trapping leaves capable of capturing and digesting animal prey. Their unusual nutritional strategy has long been a source of fascination and inspiration, from the elegant experiments of Charles Darwin and Mary Treat, to incredible botanical artworks and monstrous myths of people-eating plants in popular culture. The captivating ecology of carnivorous plants goes beyond just a predator-prey relationship between the plants and their dinner, with many other interesting adaptations for their nutrition, pollination, and survival. Here in Western Australia, we are lucky to be home to the world’s greatest diversity of carnivorous plants, including the sticky-leaved sundews (Drosera) and rainbow plants (Byblis), the suction-trapping bladderworts (Utricularia), aquatic Venus flytrap (Aldrovanda), and Albany pitcher plant (Cephalotus). Join botanist Dr Laura Skates to learn more about these amazing plants, from their incredible ecology to their cultural history, as well as a few stories from her PhD research exploring just how hungry these carnivorous plants are. 



Dr Laura Skates is a botanist, artist, and science communicator from Perth, Western Australia. In her research, Laura is fascinated by how plants interact with the world, and how people interact with plants. She recently completed her PhD on the nutrition and ecology of carnivorous plants, where she had the opportunity to do fieldwork in both the Southwest and Kimberley regions of WA, and to complete her stable isotope research at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. Laura now works as an environmental science communicator and researcher, where she enjoys listening, learning, and helping to share the stories of people and plants. When not working, she enjoys spending time in nature, reading, baking, and making plant-inspired art. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @floraskates


I was born on a farm in the Netherlands, finished my PhD in 1979, and wasappointed Professor of Ecophysiology at Utrecht University (1985). In 1998, I migrated to Australia, where I was appointed Professor of Plant Biology/Ecology at the University of Western Australia. There, I studied mineral nutrition of Australian native species and crop plants, seeking to discover how some Australian plants acquire phosphorus from depauperate soil and use it very efficiently. In 2006, I established the Kwongan Foundation.

I have published >550 refereed articles, and feature on current Highly Cited lists of Clarivate, which feature the top 1% authors in their field. In 2003 I was elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2012 to the Australian Academy of Science. I received Honorary Professorships from China Agricultural University (2002), Chinese Academy of Sciences (Research Centre for Eco- Environmental Sciences, Beijing) (2004), Shenyang Agricultural University (2018), and Jiangxi Agricultural University, Nanchang, China. (2019). I was appointed as Distinguished Professor at the National Academy of Agriculture Green Development at China Agricultural University in 2018.

I received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Society of Root Research (2018) and the John Oldham Conservation Employee Award from the Conservation Council of Western Australia (2019). 



Thilo Krueger

Thilo's presentation will provide an overview of his research on the carnivorous plant genus Utricularia, which is known for its unique suction traps that capture prey animals in a fraction of a second. As part of his PhD project, he sampled some of these traps and used a new DNA metabarcoding method to determine what animals these plants eat. Some preliminary results of this work, which was conducted in collaboration with the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (ETNTAC), will be presented. The presentation will also include many pictures of the nine species found in the Esperance area as well as information on how to identify them."


Thilo Krueger is a PhD student at Curtin University (Perth, Western Australia) researching carnivorous plants. He is particularly interested in their ecology, taxonomy and conservation, primarily studying them by field research throughout Western Australia. Currently, he is researching plant-animal interactions such as prey spectra and pollinators, describing new species, and doing assessments of the conservation status of potentially threatened species.

This presentations are free but spaces limited. Please book your spot and don't miss out.

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