Matt Barrett

by Matthew Barrett

I’m a Research Scientist with Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Western Australia, also an Adjunct at the University of Western Australia and Research Associate at the Western Australian Herbarium.

I started out with a passion for reptiles, lacewings, fungi and plants of the Kimberley region where I grew up, and eventually meandered (via chemistry and engineering degrees) into a PhD on population genetics of wax flowers (Chamelaucium) in south-west WA. Since then I have worked on population genetics and reproductive ecology of rare plants (Lepidosperma and Darwinia), and phylogenetic systematics of major Australian plant lineages - Chamelaucium-Darwinia-Verticordia group (Myrtaceae), Lepidosperma (Cyperaceae), Aphelia, Centrolepis and Gaimardia (Centrolepidaceae/Restionaceae), Lazarum and Typhonium (Araceae), Eriachne and Micraira (Poaceae subfamily Micrairoideae), tropical Boronia (Rutaceae), Solanum (Solanaceae), and many genera of tropical fungi. In my 'spare time’ I do the most important job of all, describing new species of plants and fungi (> 60 spp. so far with many more to come). Many of these new species have come from extensive surveys of sandstone pavements in the Kimberley, an overlooked complex of communities containing numerous short-range endemic taxa.

Most recently I have run an extensive ARC-funded project on Triodia hummock grasses (‘spinifex'), one of the dominant arid and semi-arid plant groups of the Australian outback. The Triodia project has investigated the phylogenomic relationships and biogeography of both the genus and several species complexes, and resulted in the discovery of numerous new species - papers in progress will almost double the number of species in the genus (to at least 120 species), making Triodia the largest grass genus in Australia. I have also intensively surveyed polyploidy in Triodia, uncovering the existence of many geographically-separated polyploid ‘races’ in the Pilbara, with substantial implications for the seed collection industry. Benjamin Anderson, a recently-completed PhD student associated with this project, has produced an excellent series of papers on the Triodia basedowii complex, ultimately recognising 8 new species and providing significant insights into diversification in this characteristic arid-zone species-complex (taxonomic paper just accepted in Aust. Syst. Bot.). A Lucid key for identification of Pilbara Triodia is in development, and will hopefully eventually be expanded to cover the whole genus.