Dr Carsten Kulheim is a Postdoctoral Fellow at ANU. He is investigating a range of questions about the genetics and evolution of the plants that define our iconic native bush – the eucalypts (Myrtaceae).
As Carsten explains “On no other continent does a single group of plants dominate the landscape as eucalypts do in Australia.”
Eucalypts have a collection of unique traits that all play a role in this dominance. These include high levels of heat and drought tolerance (isoprene emissions), the ability to quickly resprout after fires (epicormic strands) and excellent strategies to defend themselves against herbivores (extraordinarily high levels and diversity of plant secondary metabolites).
Carsten is interested in the genetic basis of these chemical defences against herbivores. He is also working on the molecular genetics for traits that will improve the production of essential oil in economically important eucalypts and tea trees. He is also looking for genetic markers for resistance to the newly described fungus Myrtle Rust which is a serious pathogen and a potentially devastating threat to Australia’s ecosystems and oil, bush food and nursery industries.
Carsten is also working on the evolution of eucalypts through phylogenetic studies and the sequencing the Eucalyptus genome, which will help to understand how the unique traits of eucalypts are structured.