Research project:

Using evolutionary trees to predict medicinal utility in Australian plants

Co-supervisor: Dr Anne Gaskett (University of Auckland)

Plants form the basis of most traditional medicines and a quarter of modern pharmaceuticals and yet only a small proportion of plants have been screened for medicinal activity. In my honours project, I will be attempting to identify systematic means of narrowing the focus onto a subset of Australian plants more likely to be therapeutically beneficial. Based on the idea that medicinal utility is evolutionary conserved, I’ll be constructing a phylogeny of Australian plants and looking for phylogenetic clustering of those with medicinal utility to hopefully allow prediction of lineages where medicinal utility is more likely to occur. I’ll also be exploring whether there are any ecological predictors of medicinal utility in Australian plants. I’ll be looking to see if there are any links between particular habitats or climates that are more likely to contain Australian plants which are therapeutically beneficial.

Q & A:

Describe yourself in three words or less

Conscientious, Cheerful, Thoughtful


What is your earliest memory?

My strongest earliest memories are of going camping on the beach with my family and exploring rock pools for sea creatures.


What (or who) inspired your interest in biology?

I’ve always had a keen interest in animals and plants since I was young, probably from spending a lot of time exploring the beach on my dad’s surfing trips, which naturally lead to favouring biology in school and through to uni.


What was your favourite book as a child?

The Twits by Roald Dahl


Name your three favourite films

Clueless, Jurassic Park, The Fifth Element


Cheese or chocolate?



Who would play you in a film about your life?

Brie Larson


Which three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Nigella Lawson, Kylie Minogue, David Attenborough


What is your fancy dress costume of choice?

Wednesday Addams


What would your super power be?

Definitely teleporting.


What TV programme best describes your personality?

15 minute meals with Jamie Oliver


If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would it be?

It would be amazing to see some of the extinct Australian megafauna. I’ll go for Diprotodon.