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Our team

Learn more about our diverse, dynamic team and their research interests.

Research Scientists

Dr Jonathan Anderson
Team leader: Rhizoctonia Resistant Crops.
Jonathan uses genomics and genetics to improve the resistance of crops plants to soil-borne necrotrophic pathogens. He also investigates the biology of fungal pathogens to design strategies to reduce susceptibility of crop plants where traditional resistance breeding is not possible. His main focus is on Rhizoctonia bare patch disease of cereals and legumes. Google Scholar: mD70cjcAAAAJ Researcher ID: A-7244-2008 ORCID: 0000-0002-4783-5393
Dr Rhonda Foley
Senior research scientist. Rhonda is a plant molecular biologist who is currently involved in identifying new genetic material in wheat to provide resistance against economically important fungal pathogens.  Rhonda is also involved in strategies to improve lupin in a bid to make this crop a dominant figure in agriculture sustainability, feed and food. ResearcherID: G-6716-2012
Dr Lingling Gao
Team Leader: Genetic Solutions to Crop Pests. Lingling’s research focuses on using molecular biology, genomics and genetics approaches to study plant resistance against insect pests with focus on sap-sucking insects. She is also exploring the next generation exogenous RNAi technology for the control of insect pest and novel genetic resources for the control of root lesion nematodes in cereal crops. ResearcherID: A-1432-2010
  Dr Donald Gardiner
Team leader: Pathogenomics. Donald’s team focuses on molecular mechanisms of virulence of Fusarium species of fungi that infect cereal crops. These pathogens are particularly nasty as they produce toxins during infection that contaminate food and feed products. By understanding virulence mechanisms we hope to be able to understand processes of host susceptibility better to ultimately inform design of crop protection strategies. Google Scholar: pkJfWvQAAAAJ Researcher ID: A-1297-2010
Dr Gagan Garg
Experimental scientist.
Gagan is working on large scale genomic studies ranging from plant pathogens to complex crop systems. He is exploring genomic data to investigate the genetic diversity of complex plant systems. He also studies the plant pathogen interactions and mechanisms used by the pathogens to cause disease and manipulate the hosts’ responses. Google Scholar: 0FoDjjIAAAAJ Researcher ID: A-8248-2015
Dr Lars Kamphuis
Research scientist. Lars has an interest in legume genomics and disease resistance. He is developing genomic tools for chickpea and lupin crop improvement and is using genetic and genomic approaches to enhance resistance to sap-sucking insects and diseases in canola and pulses. Lars holds a joint position (50:50) between CSIRO and Curtin University. He joined Curtin University in November 2016 as a Program Leader in the Centre for Crop and Disease Management. Google Scholar: reGu3xEAAAAJ Researcher ID: B-5360-2011 ORCID: 0000-0002-9042-0513
  Dr Kemal Kazan
Group leader: Protection from Pathogens & Pests. Kemal is a group leader in CSIRO Agriculture and Food and an honorary professor at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) of the University of Queensland. He holds a PhD from Washington State University USA and has been working on the genetics of host-plant interactions for nearly thirty years. Since 1994, Dr Kazan has been a research scientist in CSIRO, working on plant defence signalling and host resistance against necrotrophic fungal pathogens. Dr Kazan was also a project leader during the terms of the two Cooperative Research Centres; CRC for Tropical Plant Pathology and CRC Tropical Plant Protection of the University of Queensland. He has published more than 100 research and review papers in international journals and is a Highly Cited Researcher in Plant and Animal Sciences.  Google Scholar: rnwaEtcAAAAJ Researcher ID: B-8032-2008 ORCID: 0000-0002-5169-8934
Dr Chunji Liu
Senior Principal Research scientist. Chunji received his PhD in wheat genome mapping from the University of Cambridge, which was followed by a postdoc working on various millet species at the John Innes Centre, UK. He joined CSIRO in 1993. His current research activities are mainly on disease resistance and genome structures and evolution.Researcher ID: B-5243-2009
Dr Karam Singh
Cluster Leader. Karam is interested in both fundamental and applied science, and how these can benefit Australian agriculture. He has made a number of pioneering contributions to the analysis of plant gene regulation.  He has also developed major research programs on plant responses to pests (aphids) and pathogens (soil-borne necrotrophic fungi), and crop genomics with a focus on legumes (lupins and chickpea).  Karam’s research has an excellent international profile as demonstrated by his group’s participation in major international research consortia such as those coordinated by the EU and NSF. Karam holds a joint position (50:50) between CSIRO and Curtin University. He joined Curtin University in October 2016 as Co-Director of the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM), a joint venture between Curtin and the Grains Research and Development Cooperation (GRDC). Researcher ID: C-3235-2012
Dr Louise Thatcher
Team Leader: Crop Biologics. Louise’s research focuses  on genetic strategies for crop disease resistance and biologicals-based strategies for crop protection and improving yield. This encompasses:
– Biological control of crop diseases through beneficial soil microbes and endophytes, and the bioactive compounds they produce.
– Omics-based platforms for microbial natural product discovery.
– Break crop pre-breeding for improved disease resistance and agronomic traits.
– Biologic-crop interactome studies and applying this knowledge to develop new crop protection strategies.Louise received her BSc and PhD in microbiology and plant molecular biology from the University of Western Australia, followed by two Postdoctoral Fellowships (2007-2013) within CSIRO Plant Industry focusing on pathogenicity mechanisms of Fusarium wilt members, host resistance and the roles of jasmonate signalling. Google Scholar: vKv-7vkAAAAJ Researcher ID: A-1302-2010 ORCID: 0000-0001-7622-6610

Post-doctoral fellows and students

Katharina Belt
Post-doctoral fellow. Katharina obtained her Bachelor and Master in Germany at the University of Hanover where her research was focused on plant mitochondrial metabolism and the composition of the electron transport chain. She then went on to Perth to undertake her PhD studies at UWA with a focus of plant mitochondrial stress response and stress signalling. She obtained her PhD in the beginning of 2018 and shortly after joined CSIRO as a postdoctoral fellow in the Molecular Plant Pathology and Crop Genomics Laboratory based in Perth​. She now works on the development of microbe assisted crop protection technologies. Researcher ID: C-3311-2018 ORCID: 0000-0002-5496-4732
Max Corral
Post-doctoral fellow. Max completed his M.Sc. in Plant Biology at the University of Otago in 2013 where he looked at the effect of White clover mosaic virus on oxidative stress and antioxidant responses in clover. He subsequently moved to Perth in 2014 to start his PhD at the University of Western Australia in Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a focus on herbicidal antimalarial compounds and their effects in Arabidopsis thaliana, which he completed in 2018. He joined CSIRO Agriculture and Food as a Postdoctoral Fellow in January 2018 where he is part of the Molecular Plant Pathology and Crop Genomics Lab. His research focuses on plant-pathogen interactions by investigating novel RNA-based technologies and delivery systems for the control of fungal disease in economically-important crops. Researcher ID: C-3303-2018 ORCID: 0000-0001-6125-1047
Estefania Poropat
Masters student. Estefania obtained her B.Sc. in Biotechnology in Argentina. She is currently undertaking a master degree in Agricultural Science at the University of Western Australia, sponsored by the Argentinean government. Her research project focuses on delivery strategies of wax-degrading Actinobacteria and its bioactive compounds to agricultural soil for the mitigation of water repellence constraints. The project also explores the impact of the inoculation on native soil microbial communities (bacteria and fungi) by high-throughput sequencing. The research in being co-supervised and conducted both at UWA and CSIRO.
Dr Silke Jacques
Post-doctoral fellow. Silke obtained her Masters and PhD at Ghent University in Belgium, where she adapted gel-free proteomics technologies used in cancer disease models and applied these to plants under oxidative stress. Afterwards, she was appointed as a Junior Professor at the Ghent University Global Campus in Songdo, South-Korea. Here, she taught Virology and was responsible for the practical courses of Microbiology for the Bachelors in Bioscience Engineering and was involved in the start-up of a functional research lab, focusing on marine bioactives to stimulate plant growth. Finally, she joined CSIRO as an OCE-postdoctoral fellow in the Molecular Plant Pathology and Crop Genomics Laboratory in Perth. This postdoc revolves around plant-pathogen interactions, more specifically between legumes and aphids. She mainly develops reverse genetics methodologies focusing both on the plant and aphid side of the interaction to identify key genes and pathways responsible for aphid resistance. Google Scholar: 99e51FsAAAAJ
Dr Brendan Kidd
Post-doctoral fellow. Brendan completed his PhD at CSIRO and the University of Queensland in 2011 where he studied subunits of the plant transcriptional co-activator complex called Mediator and investigated their involvement in regulating plant defense. He continued this work at the University of Queensland with an ARC Discovery Project on the Plant Mediator complex before joining the CSIRO Breakthrough Genetic Technologies lab in Perth as an OCE postdoctoral fellow in 2014. In this project Brendan identified plant defense signalling pathways in Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula that are responsible for resistance to adapted and non-adapted Rhizoctonia solani isolates. Brendan was awarded a CSIRO Future Science Platform Synthetic Biology Fellowship in 2017 to develop novel transcriptional regulators and synthetic logic gates for more precise control of gene expression in plants. This project is a collaboration between CSIRO and Prof. Ryan Lister’s lab at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Western Australia. Google Scholar: rEjHFiUAAAAJ
  Dylan Moss

PhD student. Dylan’s research interests revolve around plant synthetic biology, focussing on large-scale genome editing and chromosome manipulation. He is currently investing his efforts in the haploid bryophyte Physcomitrella patens, as it presents a highly promising system for targeted genetic engineering. In particular, his work is aimed at artificially recreating key chromosomal elements in order to expand the current platform for synthetic approaches in plant biology. Dylan is based in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and interaction with the Perth “Protection from Pathogens and Pests” group is helped by a CSIRO SynBio PhD top-up scholarship.

Dr Jana Sperschneider
Post-doctoral fellow. Jana completed a M.Sc. in Computer Science with a focus on Bioinformatics at the University of Freiburg, Germany. In 2008, she commenced a Ph.D. at the University of Western Australia in which she developed novel methods for the computational prediction of non-coding RNA structure. In 2012, Jana joined CSIRO as an OCE Postdoctoral Fellow to work on plant pathogenomics. She works closely with Jen Taylor and Peter Dodds as well as the CSIRO Plant Pathology and Crop Genomics group in Perth. Her current research interests are the computational prediction of effectors and their localization using machine learning, comparative pathogenomics and host-pathogen coevolution. She has a strong interest in the relationships between molecule structure and function as well as the role of non-coding RNA in host-pathogen interactions. Jana has released several software tools for effector prediction using machine learning as well as for RNA structure prediction. Google Scholar: NoNZc0MAAAAJ
Candy Taylor
PhD student


Technical support

Hayley Casarotto
Research assistant

Natalie Fletcher
Research assistant

Nick Pain
Research assistant


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