Life On The Job


Life on the Job

Restoration Ecologist - Dr. Adam Cross BSc PhD (W.Aust)

Portrait
Dr Adam Cross holding a sample of the rare carnivorous plant, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, in the Kimberley.

Introduction

Dr Adam Cross is a Research Fellow at the Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University. He has worked as a Restoration Ecologist since completing a Ph.D. in Botany at the University of Western Australia in 2014, engaging in multidisciplinary research with numerous collaborators to understand the ecological limitations of hostile mine wastes to the establishment of native plant communities. The primary focus of this research to date has been the rehabilitation of tailings, the fine-particulate residue wastes of ore processing. Other research interests include community ecology, seed biology, the conservation and ecology of freshwater aquatic ecosystems and carnivorous plants.

Adam is an ecologist with a strong research background and a passion for the natural world. He has authored nearly 60 scientific papers, books and book chapters, and has studied plants and ecosystems on every continent except Antarctica. His current studies focus on the ecological restoration of degraded landscapes, with research interests also including carnivorous plants and the drivers of community resilience to environmental change. His work focuses primarily on how the ecology of species and communities reflect and respond to changes in environmental factors such as soils and climate, with a strong research background in seed biology and plant community ecology.

A recipient of the Research Fellowship in Restoration Ecology at Curtin University, Adam is Science Director for global restoration organisation the EcoHealth Network, and Restoration Manager for Gelganyem Limited, an indigenous trust aspiring to return ecologically and culturally resilient landscapes to the Traditional Owners of the East Kimberley region in Western Australia.

Dr Adam Cross is a supervisor at Curtin University's ARC Centre for Mining Restoration, a university lecturer and researcher, and the world authority on the carnivorous plant species Aldrovanda vesiculosa and Cephalotus follicularis.

Adam has pursued a love of carnivorous plants since the age of six, and is an internationally-renowned authority on their ecology and conservation. His passion for their preservation has led to involvement in the conservation assessment and listing of over 250 species for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and he has published two monographs on iconic threatened species (Aldrovanda vesiculosa and Cephalotus follicularis). He also has strong research interests in seed biology, community ecology and phytosociology, freshwater aquatic ecosystems, and conservation biology.

Adam has presented at numerous conferences around the world, and brings science into the public discussion through publication of popular science articles, involvement in community conservation groups Cambridge Coastcare Inc. and Project Numbat Inc., and regular presentations for local wildflower and naturalist societies. He has a passion for teaching, and coordinates and lectures a third-year restoration ecology unit at Curtin University.


What is a Carnivorous Plant?


Pimpernel Sundew
Drosera glanduligera, Pimpernel Sundew

Carnivorous plants are predatory flowering plants that kill animals in order to derive nutrition from their bodies. They share three attributes that operate together and separate them from other plants.

Carnivorous plants:

  • Capture and kill prey

  • Have a mechanism to facilitate digestion of the prey

  • Derive a significant benefit from nutrients assimilated from the prey

To put it in more human terms, carnivorous plants eat things like insects, spiders, crustaceans and other small soil and water-living invertebrates and protozoans, lizards, mice, rats, and other small vertebrates. Carnivorous plants pull off this trick using specialized leaves that act as traps. Many traps lure prey with bright colors, extra-floral nectaries, guide hairs, and/or leaf extensions. Once caught and killed, the prey is digested by the plant and/or partner organisms. The plant then absorbs the nutrients made available from the corpse. Most carnivorous plants will grow without consuming prey but they grow much faster and reproduce much better with nutrients derived from their prey.

Common to all carnivorous plants is a lack of nutriment in the environments in which they live. Through time, these plants have evolved the ability to trap prey and extract the nutrients they need to sustain growth and reproductive function and as a result, five different trapping mechanisms have evolved:

  • the pitfall

  • the sticky “flypaper”

  • the bladder trap

  • the corkscrew trap

  • the snap trap (Source: The Conversation)

 

Education

Adam received his PhD in Botany from the University of Western Australia (2011 - 2014).

Adam obtained is BSc with First Class Honours in Conservation Biology from University of Western Australia 2007 - 2011

He went to Shenton College where he was Dux of School, Biology, in 2005 & 2006.

Experiences & Opportunities

Since completing his PhD Adam has worked as a Restoration Ecologist, developing methods to improve the establishment of native plant communities on ecologically challenging materials such as mine tailings. Adam has undertaken site research in collaboration with many of Australia's biggest mining companies, and in particular has been the principal researcher on a restoration research project with Karara Mining Limited for the last five years. His research provides practical, achievable and cost-effective restoration solutions, and is assisting industry to meet and exceed their regulatory closure commitments.

Did You Know?

1 May 2019 - New critically endangered carnivorous plants discovered

Centre for Mine Site Restoration [CMSR] researchers have discovered a new population of a critically endangered aquatic carnivorous plant in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley, following a 10-year search of the region.

During a recent botanical expedition to the northern Kimberley, several thousand ‘aquatic venus flytrap’ plants, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, were found growing in a billabong on Theda Station, located east of the Mitchell Plateau, supported by Dunkeld Pastoral.

Dr Adam Cross and Honours student Thilo Krueger, from the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration in Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, have each spent almost a decade searching swamps and billabongs throughout northern Australia for the critically endangered species and other carnivorous plants.

Dr Cross, who wrote a book about the plant in 2012, said the discovery of a new population in WA’s remote Kimberley region was a dream come true.

Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Aldrovanda vesiculosa

“When I first saw it, I thought it was just another common species that has similar whorls of leaves, but when I got closer and saw the traps at the end of the leaves, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Dr Cross said.

“This is the first time this species has been found in the Kimberley for more than 20 years. The only other known population from Western Australia is more than 2,000 kilometres away near Esperance in the State’s south, where a small population of only a few dozen plants was discovered in 2007.

“This new location in the remote northern Kimberley is one of the largest populations ever discovered in Australia, in an area where habitat is still relatively pristine. This discovery gives us hope that northern Australia is still a stronghold for the species in the face of its continuing global decline.”

Captivated by the uniqueness of the species, he based his honours project around the plant in 2009 and even published a book about the flytrap in 2012.

Mr Krueger, who has moved from Germany to study at Curtin University in Western Australia, said he was ecstatic the pair’s decade-long search had resulted in a new discovery.

“Adam was just looking at me with this look of complete amazement and I immediately knew he had found something very, very exciting,” Mr Krueger said.

“Although it was once widespread around the world, it is now considered critically endangered. Habitat loss and changes to water quality have seen the species become extinct in up to 30 countries, so the fact that we have found several thousand plants in Western Australia is significant.” The only other population known in Western Australia consists of a few dozen plants and is located in Esperance, 2000 kilometres away from the station where the pair came across the hotspot.

The species produces unique underwater snapping traps to capture and digest small insect prey, which explains its description as an ‘aquatic venus flytrap’.

A critically endangered species, Aldrovanda vesiculosa is currently only located in less than 20 known locations spread across four continents.

Aldrovanda Eating Mosquitoes
https://youtu.be/55Gtfw5aPnk


Traditionally reproducing through seeds, Dr Cross said, the species had slowly moved towards asexually reproducing through cloning, a form of reproduction which explained the existence of flytrap hotspots in such isolated parts of the planet.

According to Dr Cross, the plants ended up mixing with bird feed and being transported across the world by water birds, which then created flytrap population hotspots in isolated parts of the globe.

However, with a decline in wetlands and water birds around the world, he believed the plant was lacking the medium to move around.

In a bid to test whether flytrap populations were travelling across the globe, Dr Cross said the team at Curtin University were planning to undertake a genetic study to test whether the Kimberley population was genetically similar to those in other parts of Australia or if, instead, it was related to those in Japan and Southeast Asia.

"We are looking at a genetic study to test whether this population represents some evidence that the species are moving across the planet," he said.

Whether they are or not, Dr Cross said the research highlighted the importance of Australia as a biodiversity hotspot.

"We all understand that Australia is an incredible place for biodiversity and the Kimberley is one of the most biodiverse places in Australia," he said.

(Source: ARC-CMSR; Image: Wikipedia)

This incredible carnivore, known for trapping aquatic prey between jaw-like lobes that dramatically snap shut when triggered, is related to the famous Venus Flytrap and employs one of the fastest movement responses known in the plant kingdom.

Not only arthropods are caught in its deadly jaws, but even small vertebrates including tadpoles and fish fry.

(Source: Cross Section Ecological)
Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Aldrovanda vesiculosa is an aquatic carnivore very closely related to the Venus flytrap and Drosera sundews.
This plant traps planktonic crustaceans
.
(Source: Carnivorous Plants)


Professional roles and associations

Consulting Editor, Plant and Soil (Springer)

Guest Associate Editor, Frontiers (Frontiers Media)

Guest Editor, Drones (MDPI)

Editor, Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia (RSWA)

President, Project Numbat Inc.

Committee Member, Cambridge Coastcare Inc.

Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner, Society for Ecological Restoration

Associate Member, Closure Planning Practitioners Association

Member, Society for Ecological Restoration (Australasian Branch)

Member, International Network for Seed-based Restoration

Specialist Assessor and Member, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Carnivorous Plant Specialist Group

Member, IUCN SSC Freshwater Plant Specialist Group

 

Links

Dr Adam Cross' website: Cross Section Ecological

Website
Gardening Australia 22 March 2019 [6m]

ABC
Australian Institute of Policy and Science [AIPS] - Tall Poppies Award

AIPS
The Conversation 26 July 2019

The Conversation
The Conversation 19 July 2019

The Conversation


 
Books  
Cephalotus, the Albany Pitcher Plant

Cephalotus follicularis
Aldrovanda, The Waterwheel Plant

Aldrovanda

YouTube: TAKE 2 with Adam Cross: Saving the environment with STEM
https://youtu.be/Xxp8c3q8qAg

 

Awards

2020 - Adam was one of four Curtin University researchers to receive a prestigious Western Australia 2020 Young Tall Poppy Science Award.

2019 - Dr. Adam Cross awarded the 'Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year' at the Premier’s Science Awards


CMSR Research Fellow Dr. Adam Cross was awarded the 'Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year' at the Premier’s Science Awards! The award is wonderful recognition of Adam’s work in restoration and shines the spotlight on the importance and significance of restoration research projects in globally.

“Dr Cross is already an internationally renowned expert on carnivorous plants and his research is working to rehabilitate mining landscapes into health ecosystems, offering Australia’s mining industry evidence-based outcomes to meet their regulatory requirements on landforms.” Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran said the annual awards showcased the impressive leadership and achievements of WA’s science community.

“The Premier’s Science Awards celebrate research and engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and I am delighted that Curtin researchers continue to be recognised among the State’s finest contributors to the field,” Professor Moran said. “Professor Bland and Dr Cross are making their mark on the world stage, inspiring the next generation of scientists to consider the exciting opportunities a career in STEM can offer.”

The Premier’s Science Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of the Western Australian science community during National Science Week.
The awards cover all fields of science, including natural, medical, applied and technological science, engineering and mathematics. (Source: ARC)

A young Perth ecologist and carnivorous plant expert working to restore billions of years' worth of evolution in WA's desolate mine-scapes was awarded early career scientist of the year with a $10,000 prize at the prestigious Premier's science awards.

2019 - Recognition, Top Five Media Communicators for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Curtin University Research and Engagement Awards

2019 - Finalist, STEM Early Career Researcher, Curtin University Research and Engagement Awards

2018 - Finalist, Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year, Western Australian Premier's Science Awards

2018 - Winner, Fresh Science Western Australia

2014 - Winner, Perth Zoo Prize for Conservation Research

2006 - Dux of School, Biology, Shenton College, Shenton Park, Perth

2005 - Dux of School, Biology, Shenton College, Shenton Park, Perth

 


Activities 

Carnivorous Plants: Research Game of Snakes & Ladders

PrimaryPrimary  MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

 

1. In groups of 3 - 4 students, you are to read and watch the following items. Write down as many facts and figures as you can as you will be writing up 20 questions [and their answers].

 

The Conversation 6 June 2013 Read

The Conversation

4 DEADLY Carnivorous Plants Video
https://youtu.be/aladpRIVdRI

 

The Conversation 26 July 2019 Read

The Conversation

The Conversation 19 July 2019 Read

The Conversation

 

2. You are going to create a game of Snakes n Ladders. For the complete instructions, go here.

You are to convert the old game of Snakes and Ladders into a new and exciting game based on the knowledge of Carnivorous Plants. The game will still have die and played by FOUR people but with a difference - you also need to know a lot about Carnivorous Plants!

3. Create your own Snakes and Ladders grid with 100 squares [10 x 10] - ONE grid/four players.

Look at the following example to get an idea of the number of Snakes and Ladders usually put onto the game. Be as creative as possible with your drawings of your snakes [or you might want to use Carnivorous Plants instead - as long as you can see easily the top and bottom of the plant].

As you can see from the following examples there are differences in the number and size of both the snakes and ladders. It is up to you to create your own unique game.

Snakes & Ladders

 

4. Rules:

Each person throws two die to advance along the board but....

You can avoid slipping down the snake if you know the answer to one question about Carnivorous Plants and you can go up the ladder if you know the answer to two questions about these plants. Otherwise you are to stay where you are until the next throw and a new lot of questions.

You can use virtual dice by going to https://freeonlinedice.com/

5. Create your list of 20 questions about Carnivorous Plants. In turn, ask your question of the next person in your group and play the game until one person gets to the end or finish of the board game.

 

 

Little Shop of Horrors - "Feed Me Seymour" to "Save Me Seymour"

MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

 

1. In the Little Shop of Horrors, the carnivorous plant, Audrey II, needs to have human blood to survive. Here is the song where Audrey asks Seymour to feed him. Look and listen to the lyrics from this video.

Little Shop of Horrors - Feed Me Video
https://youtu.be/GLjook1I0V4

 

OR

Little Shop of Horrors - Australian production
https://youtu.be/b5rA_8u0b38

 

2. Lyrics of "Feed Me Seymour"

[SEYMOUR]
Sudden changes surround me
Lady Luck came and found me
Thanks a million for making the magic you do

Thanks to you, sweet petunia
Mushnik's taken a junior
And someday when I own this whole shop
I'll remember I owe it to you

(spoken)
Who cares if I've been on the anemic side these past few weeks? So what if I've had a few dizzy spells?
A little light-headedness?
It's been worth it, old pal
Twoey, I'm a little hungry. I'm gonna go down to Schmendrick's and get a bite to eat
I'll see ya later

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Feed me

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
I beg your pardon?

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Feed me!

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
Tuey! Tuey! You talked! You opened your... trap, your thing, and you said-

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Feed me, Krelborn, feed me now!

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
I'll run down to the market and pick up some nice chopped sirloin

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Must be blood

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
Tuey, that's disgusting

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Must be fresh!

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
I don't wanna hear this!

[AUDREY II]
Feed me
Feed me
Feed me [SEYMOUR, spoken]
Does it have to be human?
Does it have to be mine?
Where am I s'posed to get it?

[AUDREY II]
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
That's right, boy!
You can do it!
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
'Cause if you feed me, Seymour
I can grow up big and strong

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
You eat blood, Audrey II, let's face it
How am I supposed to keep on feeding you, kill people?

[AUDREY II, spoken]
I'll make it worth your while

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
Look, you're a plant an inanimate object

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Does this look inanimate to you, punk?
If I can talk and I can move
Who says I can't do anything I want

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
Like, what?

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Like deliver, pal
Like see you get everything your sickly, greasy heart desires!

(sung)
Would you like a Cadillac car?
Or a guest shot on Jack Paar?
How about a date with Hedy Lamarr?
You gonna git it


Would you like to be a big wheel
Dinin' out for every meal?
I'm the plant that can make it all real
You gonna git it

I'm your genie, I'm your friend
I'm your willing slave
Take a chance, just feed me and
You know the kinda eats
The kinda red hot treats
The kinda sticky licky sweets
I crave

Come on, Seymour, don't be a putz
Trust me and your life will surely rival King Tut's
Show a little 'nitiative, work up some guts
And you'll git it

[SEYMOUR]
I don't know
I don't know
I have so
So many strong reservations
Should I go
And perform mutilations? [AUDREY II]
Come on, boy
Lighten up
Tell it to the marines
Cut the crap and bring on the meat!
My, my my
Uh huh? Heh, heh, heh
[AUDREY II, spoken]
Now let me see here, hmm...

(sung)
Think about a room at the Ritz
Wrapped in velvet, covered in glitz
A little nookie gonna clean up your zits
And you'll git it

[SEYMOUR]
Gee, I'd like a Harley machine
Toolin' around like I was James Dean [AUDREY II, spoken]
Now you're talkin'!
Yeah!
[SEYMOUR]
Makin' all the guys on the corner turn green!

[AUDREY II]
You gon' git it
If you wanna be profound
Then you really gotta justify
Take a breath and look around
A lot of folks deserve to die

[SEYMOUR, spoken]
Wait a minute, wait a minute!
That's not a very nice thing to say
I don't know anyone who deserves to be chopped up
And fed to a hungry plant

[AUDREY II, spoken]
Hmm... Sure ya do...

3. In a group of 3 - 4 students, you are to use the same tune but change the lyrics to "Save Me Seymour" in particular reference to Aldrovanda vesiculosa - the aquatic Venus Flytrap or the Cephalotus, the Albany Pitcher Plant. Each of these plants has been studied by Dr Adam Cross in detail.

You are to create one verse and one chorus only.

The Conversation

The Conversation
The Conversation

The Conversation

4. As a class, see if you can meld all your verses together and select the most appropriate chorus.

 

 

 

Did You Know?

Dr Adam Cross works with another Famous Australian featured in On the Job - Prof. Kingsley Dixon

Kingsley Dixon


Read all about Professor Dixon here

 

 

Material sourced from
ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration [Awards; ]
AIPS

WA Today [5 May 2019; 14 August 2019; ]
Cross Section Ecological [Biography;]

 

 

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