casey gibson
Casey Gibson
PhD Candidate
Field of Research: 
Alpine botany, climate change ecology, refugia, phenology
Contact details:

Level 5 East
Biological Sciences South (E26)
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Snow, frost, and climate change: assessing the potential for tolerance and migration to refugia in Australia’s alpine flora

The main objective of my research project is to determine the sensitivities and resilience of Australia’s alpine plants to some of the effects of climate change likely to occur in alpine ecosystems. Investigating how the standing vegetation responds to loss of snow cover will allow me to determine whether plants will shift their phenology following reduced winter snowfalls and earlier spring snowmelt. Changing snow dynamics will likely expose alpine plants to more severe late winter and spring frosts. If plants are shifting their flowering phenology, their delicate reproductive structures may be damaged or killed by frost events. I will examine floral frost sensitivity in the field and laboratory, and determine if frost damage influences regeneration strategies in alpine plants. Damage to flowers and fruits is likely to have important population-scale consequences, as the reduction in mobile propagules ultimately limits potential dispersal events. While broad scale trait analyses indicate that maximum dispersal capacity is generally restricted in alpine plants, long distance dispersal events, although rare, are likely to be of high ecological importance. I will investigate whether there is an asymmetry in upslope and downslope seed dispersal, and determine the capacity of migration into potential warm-period mountain microrefugial sites such as granite tors and mesic cold-air pooling valleys.

Twitter: @gumnut_case

Instagram: hello_littlesprings

Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Susanna Venn (Deakin)

One of my study species, Gentianella muelleriana subsp. alpestris (Mueller's snow-gentian) with native bee pollinators.