Researcher

Professor Angela Moles

My Expertise

Rapid evolution, Introduced species, Responses of Australian plants to climate change, Seed ecology, Plant-animal interactions, Enemy release and biocontrol, Global patterns in plant ecology

Fields of Research (FoR)

Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Biogeography, Invasive SpeciesEcology, Ecological Impacts of Climate Change

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Biography

I lead the Big Ecology Lab, in the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. My primary research goal is to quantify the ecological strategies employed by plant species in different environments, and to better understand the selective processes underlying global patterns in ecological strategy.

I am also Director of the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre.


My Qualifications

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I lead the Big Ecology Lab, in the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. My primary research goal is to quantify the ecological strategies employed by plant species in different environments, and to better understand the selective processes underlying global patterns in ecological strategy.

I am also Director of the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre.


My Qualifications

  • Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education (learning and teaching), Macquarie University, 2006
  • PhD in Ecology, Macquarie University, 2004
  • BSc(hons), majoring in Botany and Ecology, Victoria University of Wellington, 1997

My Awards

2021: Royal Society of New South Wales Poggendorff Lectureship.

2021: Nancy Millis Medal for Women in Science (from the Australian Academy of Science)

2020: UNSW Sydney Outstanding Research Supervisor Award (from the Arc Postgraduate Council)

2018: Australian Ecology Research Award (awarded by the Ecological Society of Australia)

2017: Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence - for contributions to student learning

2017: Shortlisted for the AFR Emerging Leader Award

2017: Became a fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales

2014: Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence - Postgraduate Research Supervision

2013: Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

2012: NSW science and engineering award for Excellence in Biological Sciences (Plant, Agriculture and Environment)

2011: Australian Museum Eureka Award for Outstanding Young Researcher

2011: Included in The (Sydney) Magazine list of the 100 most influential people in NSW

2010: Edgeworth David Medal, Royal Society of New South Wales (awarded to a scientist under the age of 35 for work contributing to the advancement of Australian science)

2009: JG Russell Award (awarded to one QEII fellow each year by the Australian Academy of Science)

2008: NSW Tall Poppy Award (awarded by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science for outstanding scientific research and communication)

2008: L’Oreal/UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship


My Research Activities

My Research Goals

  • To quantify global scale patterns in ecology
  • To find out how Australian species are responding to climate change
  • To study the ecology and evolution of introduced species
  • To understand how interactions with animals, soil and the abiotic environment shape the ways plants grow and reproduce

My students and I use a combination of field work and synthesis of data from the literature to quantify large scale patterns in ecology. We use controlled glasshouse conditions to study rapid evolution in introduced species, and we use herbarium, seed bank and museum specimens to study plants and animals from the past. We collaborate with ecologists from all around the world, and with researchers from a range of other disciplines including geography, climate science, and statistics.


My Research Supervision


Areas of supervision

Plant ecology, invasion biology, plant-animal interactions, biogeography, rapid evolution, species' responses to climate change.

I would love to talk to potential PhD students who are interested in working on projects in large scale ecology, or who have exciting ideas of their own, but I am not qualified to supervise physiology or genetics.


Currently supervising

Karen Zeng (PhD)

When do plant species experience enemy release: data synthesis.

Frederick Dadzie (PhD)

Can native microorganisms be used to restore degraded ecosystems and improve the establishment of vulnerable plant species?

Xuemeng Mu (PhD)

How do Australian alpine plant species respond to extended heatwaves?

Giancarlo Chiarenza (PhD)

Global patterns in plant-soil interactions.

Zoe Xirocostas (PhD)

When do plant species experience enemy release: a field study?

Joe Atkinson (joint PhD)

Quantitative assessment of restoration effectiveness in Australia

Frederick Dadzie (joint PhD)

Do soil microbes improve seedling recruitment in restoration sites?

Alex Sentinella (PhD)

Using seed germination temperatures to ask which parts of the world are most at risk under climate change.

Rosa Earle (hons)

Understanding how disturbances affect plant invasion.

 

STUDENTS WHO HAVE COMPLETED THEIR DEGREES

Student (degree)

Start year

Graduation year

Research topic

PhD

Susan Everingham

2017

2021

How much have Australian plants changed in response to climate change?

Claire Brandenburger

2012 (half time)

2019

Are introduced plants in the process of becoming new Australian species?

Floret Meredith  

2013

2017

Are plants on islands less-well defended against herbivores than their mainland counterparts?

Si-Chong Chen

2012

2016

Seed dispersal and seed size

Jacinta Green

2014*

2016

Chemical defence against fouling in seaweeds

Rhiannon Dalrymple

2011

2015

The latitudinal gradient in colour in birds, plants and butterflies

Habacuc Flores  

2010

2013

Understanding introduced species in Australia

Ray Blick

2009

2012

Disentangling an entangled bank: using network theory to understand interactions in plant communities

Fiona Thomson

2009*

2011

Investigating seed dispersal at local (Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Australia) and larger scales.

Laura Warman  

2007

2011

Vegetation patterns and refugia of the wet tropics in Australia

Masters

Joanna Buswell

2007

2009

Rapid evolution in introduced species in New Zealand and Australia.

Floor Soudijn

2008

2009

Offspring size/number trade-offs in Echinoderms and Malacostraca.

Honours

Sebastian Schwartz

2020

2021

Where and why do plants have domatia?

Lillian Zhang

2020

2020

Are Australian rainforest species moving interstate in response to climate change?

Ashika Jagdish

2020

2020

Biogeographic patterns in photoperiod sensitivity in the Australian flora

Jennifer Auld

2019

2020

Are Australian alpine species moving uphill in response to climate change?

Zoe Xirocostas

2018

2018

Does the sex with the shorter chromosome die earlier?

Karen Zeng

2017

2018

Are photoperiod sensitive species slower to respond to climate change?

Neil Ross  

2017

2017

How did the spinifex get its hole? A test of whether ring formation in Triodia is caused by soil pathogens

Coen Romalis

2017

2017

Development of reproductive isolation between introduced species and their source population (F2 generation)

Meena Sritharan

2016

2017

Have Australian Alpine plants changed morphology in response to climate change?

Casey Gibson

2016

2016

Development of reproductive isolation between introduced species and their source population (F1 generation)

Susan Everingham  

2016

2016

Invasion of novel, anthropogenic habitats by native species.

Martin Kim

2015

2015

Herbivory through time and space on introduced species

Stephanie Creer

2014

2015

Herbivores, pollinators, wind and soil fertility: Selection pressures driving the evolution of Arctotheca populifolia

Timothy Hitchcock

2013

2013

The latitudinal gradient in plant longevity

Thomas Meredith

2013

2013

Are primary producers on land better defended than their marine counterparts?

Marianne Tindall

2012

2012

Latitudinal gradients in plant physical defences

Rhiannon Dalrymple  

2010

2011

Rapid evolution in clonal introduced species in Australia.

Ellen Couchman

2010

2010

Morphological change in invading starlings in Australia

Karen Bartle  

2009

2010

Rapid evolution of dispersal morphology at the range edge of Senecio madagascariensis.

Paul Chachelle  

2008

2008

Why the land is green and the sea is blue.

 

Advice for prospective students

The Big Ecology Lab is a very collaborative group, with really wide-ranging interests. As a student in the Big Ecology lab, you’re expected to get involved with as many things as possible. For instance, you might attend a weekly discussion group, present work at conferences, help your labmates out (with fieldwork, figuring out the answers to difficult questions, and with moral support), do some undergrad teaching, go to seminars, talk science with other staff/students in the department, and come out for beer sometimes. This all takes up time; but it's this sort of stuff that makes being a grad student fun.

If you are a PhD or MSc student, I think it is best if you can come up with your own research topic (after all, you’re going to be thinking about this topic a lot for the next 2-4 years – it might as well be something you really care about). However, I will work with you to make sure that you end up with something that’s going to be achievable, scientifically sound AND interesting. I’m open to a wide range of project topics. BSc(hons) students – I realise you might not have a clear idea of what you want to work on yet, and that’s perfectly ok. I will be really happy to talk about your ideas for research; but if you can’t come up with anything, I do have a list of project ideas that I think will be both manageable and interesting.

The single most important thing you should do while choosing a supervisor is to talk to their past/present students and ask what it’s like in their lab. Come and talk to us all.


My Engagement

 

I am on the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Panel

I am an active participant in Scientists in Schools.

I regularly give public talks (e.g. Sydney Science Festival; Nerd Nite; Linnean Society of NSW, TEDxSydney)


My Teaching

 

BIOS3061: Plant Ecology (Course coordinator)

BIOS2051: Plant Biology

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Location

Temporary office: Biological Sciences Building (D26, 4th floor east), Room 401e
Lab: Samuels 121

Videos

My talk at 2012 TEDxSydney - about how introduced species are evolving, and whether we will eventually accept them as new native species.
Grand challenge lecture at QUT in 2014
Video made when I received a L'Oreal for Women in Science Fellowship in 2008
Our Relationship with Weeds: Angela Moles at TEDxSydney
Grand Challenge Lecture at QUT, 2014
Angela Moles, L'ORÉAL fellow 2008
Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year 2013