An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

Dr Marie Keatley answers your questions

March 2014

Dr Marie Keatley in the field

Marie is a plant ecologist with a focus on phenology.  This means she is interested in studying the different life stages of plants, such as flowering and fruiting, and finding out how these stages influence one another as well as how climate and other factors affect them. Dr Keatley is based at the Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne. 

She is also interested in applying different statistical methods to determine trends and patterns in phenological data, such as the date of first flowering each year, and analysing their correlation with climate.

Additionally, Marie is interested in finding and using historical, long–term phenological data from Australia. This includes information on why the records were collected and how they can be used to inform current management of Australia’s biodiversity.

Marie has been involved in ClimateWatch from the very beginning. If you have a question about the life cycles of plants, and how climate change may influence them, ask Dr Keatley here.



Species selection

Amber asks:

Why the silver banksia is a good indicator species? Is it being [drought] tolerant a reason?

Marie answered:

Some general guidelines were used when selecting species. They were not always met, but in general each ClimateWatch plant should have the following features:

  1. The plants should be well known and thus easily identified/recognized.
  2. They should have a broad distribution in the region
  3. As a consequence of the above they occur across a gradient of abiotic [non-living factors that affect an ecosystem, like temperature or soil composition] or biotic [living components that affect an ecosystem, such as other plants and animals] conditions.
  4. They should be safe to observe
  5. They should be able to engage citizen scientists
  6. The different phases should be easy to distinguish

In relation to Banksia marginata, it is also planted quite widely in people’s garden. Drought tolerance wasn't one of the  points for consideration, but this might be worth thinking about in the future.