Life is dependent on plants! As the only living organisms able to make their own food, these primary producers are vital to the world’s ecosystem. From food, medicines and clothing through to the air we breathe, we could not exist without them.
In the Plant Science major you will gain comprehensive knowledge of plant biology, from cells and molecules to evolution and the environment. You will explore fundamental and interesting issues such as: how plants respond to climate change, the diversity of marine organisms and ecosystems, plant conservation and natural resources, plant cell biology, genomics and proteomics, as well as the evolution and ecology of Australian flora.
A major in Plant Science can open up employment or research careers in areas requiring a solid understanding of plants and their environments. You can pursue a career in many fields including:
- Conservation and wildlife studies
- Food technology
- Forensic science
- Resource management.
Subjects you could take in this major
This subject deals with how plants function in relation to changing physical environments and is designed for students interested in plant biology and physiology, including those seeking majors in plant science, agricultural science, landscape management, and environmental science. The practical work includes a six-week research project on topics selected by students and run in small groups of 2-3.
Topics to be covered will include:
- coping with environmental extremes and stress;
- water use and drought tolerance;
- plant defence and plant-animal interactions;
- nutrient cycling and nutrient-use efficiency;
- hyperaccumulation of toxic metals and phytoremediation.
This subject is structured around the fieldwork excursion in early February and covers the basic skills that are required to undertake a field-based botanical activity such as a flora survey or an environmental impact assessment, or to proceed to research in a field-based botanical discipline. Topics to be covered include:
taxonomy of the Australian flora;
field identification of major families and genera of plants;
collection and preservation of plant specimens; mounting and cataloguing specimens; curatorial skills; nomenclature;
techniques for description and classification of vegetation; structural types, floristic associations, measures of abundance (cover, density, basal area, biomass), sampling techniques (quadrats, line transects, plotless methods), sampling scale and species-area relationships, profile diagrams, life-form spectra;
(An enrolment quota of 30 students applies to this subject)
This subject will introduce students to the biology of marine and estuarine plants (seaweeds, seagrasses and phytoplankton). Fieldwork focuses on the identification, diversity and ecology of Australia's unique marine flora. Topics to be covered include:
- biodiversity and evolution
- structure, life history and classification
- distribution and ecology
- human impacts and commercial uses
- gain, spread and loss of photosynthesis in protists
- role of phytoplankton in the marine environment
This subject will introduce the general principles and modern methods of plant evolutionary biology: how to discover the phylogeny (relationships) of organisms using both morphological characters and molecular (DNA) data; how to use this information to improve the classification systems of plants; how to study aspects of evolution, coevolution and historical biogeography; and how to integrate information from living and fossil plants to discover the past and date evolutionary events. Examples of the diversity and evolution of Australian plants - both fossil and living forms - will be used throughout this subject. Topics will include:
- discovering plant relationships phylogenetic systematics;
- evolution of vascular plants, especially flowering plants;
- fossil history of land plants;
- historical biogeography and evolution of Australian flora.
This subject will focus on processes that are unique to plants as well as current techniques for their investigation and manipulation in biotechnology, including genetic engineering and plant transformation. The subject includes study of the responses of plants to biotic and abiotic stress; cell wall biosynthesis, carbon dioxide fixation and concentrating mechanisms; cell-cell recognition; nutrient uptake and processing; and the organisation of the genome in plants and its modification by biotechnology.
An individual program of supervised research in which the student designs a research project, in consultation with the supervisor, carries out and presents the results of the project. Detailed requirements are to be negotiated with the supervisor and the Science Research Project Coordinator(s).
Each student will receive feedback on their progress through ongoing consultation with their supervisor.
This subject provides a detailed knowledge of vegetation structure and natural values of Victorian plant communities and their assessment, including environmental limiting factors, threats due to land use, development and fragmentation, and management issues related to environmental impact assessment and conservation of native vegetation. The subject will be based around short excursions to examine different vegetation types in the Melbourne region, and a series of special lectures by scientists, managers and consultants from both the government and private sectors. Topics will include:
ecology and natural history of Victorian plant communities;
environmental impacts and vegetation assessment;
conservation and management issues (e.g. revegetation, rare species, faunal habitat, weed invasions);
biodiversity legislation and government agencies;
consulting services and client focus.