Ellen Gunn

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Ellen Gunn

PhD Candidate

Room 269 , Life Science Building

Provenance Choice in Native Forest Management

Forest tree species are expected to be negatively affected by climate change as unprecedented selective pressures cause an increase in local extinction events. My PhD project will examine the influence of seed source (provenance) choice on the performance and resilience of eucalypt forest revegetation by generating new knowledge on the genetic basis of climate adaptation in the ash eucalypts (Eucalyptus obliqua, E. delegatensis, E. regnans).

Signals of adaptation will be detected at three genetic levels. At the individual-level, differences in gene expression through epigenetic modifications following a climate stress event will be examined using a controlled glasshouse experiment and an integrated DNA-methylation and metabolomics approach. At the population-level, changes in allele frequency of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) along climatic gradients will be uncovered using a genome-environment association analysis to identify regions and underlying gene families putatively associated with climate adaptation. At the species-level, parallel responses of the ash eucalypts to climate will be examined through a joint phenotype-genotype approach to understand the extent to which climate adaptation can be predicted and extrapolated to other species. The performance of seed will then be experimentally tested using field trials to determine early establishment transfer functions.

This project will contribute to our understanding of forest tree adaptations and their vulnerability to future climate stress, and provide an evidence-based framework for seed-sourcing to promote resilient forest revegetation in the face of climate change, thus improving the management of forest resources globally.

You can connect with Ellen on LinkedIn.

View more on Miss Ellen Gunn in WARP

Fields of Research

  • Molecular evolution (310510)

Research Objectives

  • Rehabilitation or conservation of marine environments (180507)

Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants


Total funding



To move or not to move, that is the climate change question: understanding climate adaptation to inform management options (2022 - 2026)$54,405
Climate is a major agent of selection which defines and limits the distribution of species and shapes morphological variation amongst populations. However, climate change is causing unprecedented selective pressure, resulting in maladaptation and a reduction in populationfitness. Already, range‐wide dieback has been reported in many of Australia's unique flora species, including the iconic eucalypts. Eucalypts are a foundation species in Australian woodland and forest ecosystems, providing essential habitat and food resources for dependant plants and animals. Using the ash eucalypts (Eucalyptus regnans [mountain ash], E. delegatensis [alpine ash], E. obliqua [messymate stringybark]) as a model, this project will: identify the major historical climatic drives of adaptation to evaluate the capacity of eucalypts to tolerate future climates (Aim 1), and determine the extent of population susceptibility to water limitations to elucidate the limits of plasticity to future climate stress (Aim 2). Results will benefit the conservation of eucalypt gene pools, assess the need for assisted migration of vulnerable populations to favourable climate habitats, and informstrategies to build resilience in restored populations to maintain biodiverse ecosystems.
Australian Flora Foundation ($54,405)
Malcolm Reed (Large) Grant
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Harrison P; O'Reilly-Wapstra JM; Gunn E
2022 - 2026
Ecomarine P. vivipara Population Genetics (2021)$29,244
Determine levels of genetic diversity in samples of the endangered sea star P. vivipara to aid in species conservation strategies.
Pitt & Sherry (Operations) Pty Ltd ($29,244)
Contract Research
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Smolenski AJ; Gunn E; Burridge CP