Dr Melinda Waterman

Dr Melinda Waterman (melindaw@uow.edu.au)
School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health
University of Wollongong

Who am I?

I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia. As an early career biotechnologist, I examine the protective mechanisms and chemical signatures of moss species that live in temperate and Antarctic regions. In particular, my interests include moss physiology, radiocarbon dating and what moss stable isotopes can tell us about their climate. My current project uses mosses as biological indicators for environmental change which is especially valuable in remote locations such as Antarctica.

How does my research relate to Antarctica?

Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) dominate the terrestrial flora of the Antarctic continent and show high resilience to a variety of physiologically extreme climates including elevated levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, freezing temperatures, limited water availability and desiccating strong winds.

Moss and liverwort species living in these biologically damaging conditions have employed efficient protective mechanisms to survive. The production of particular metabolites such as UV-absorbing compounds, sugars, hormones and carotenoids are involved in many of these mechanisms.

Mosses may help us to describe past environmental conditions in polar regions and Antarctic study sites where environmental data is lacking. We have shown that certain preserved metabolites and isotopes stored by bryophytes have the ability to record past climates, such as water and UV radiation. Some of the secondary metabolites are unknown and are potentially unique. We have also collected long shoots of Antarctic moss that were living for more than one hundred years. Investigating the identities and roles of metabolites in the protection of moss species in Antarctica is essential to understanding their ability and capacity to behave as biological proxies, especially in remote locations.

Melinda in the laboratory holding one of the Antarctic moss cores to be analysedMelinda in the laboratory holding one of the Antarctic moss cores to be analysed

Who are my collaborators?

I work with people from several disciplines around the world. I closely work with Professor Sharon Robinson (UOW, Australia), Dr Quan Hua (ANSTO, Australia), Dr Diana King (UOW) and Georgia Watson (UOW) as well as others from the Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future program, and supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students. My other collaborators are on various moss related and broader projects: Professor Barry Osmond (Australian National University), Dr Rebecca Miller (Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne), Terraluma group (University of Tasmania), Professor Gustavo E. Zúñiga (Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Chile), Dr Angélica Casanova-Katny (Temuco Catholic University, Chile) and Professor Claudia Furlan (University of São Paulo, Brazil).

Other blogs/webpages

UOW Scholars page for Melinda

‘The amazing Antarctic moss’ article – Australian Academy of Science

A presentation on my Antarctic work for the Hawkesbury Library Service