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Dr Karen Bell

Lecturer, University Of Western Australia, CSIRO Joint Appointment


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I completed my PhD at the University of Queensland in entomology. Through subsequent postdoctoral positions at Western Kentucky University, CSIRO, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and Emory University, my research interests have diverged into plant-insect interactions and plant ecology. I hold a joint appointment between the University of Western Australia and CSIRO Land & Water. My current research uses methods from population genetics, phylogeography, and DNA barcoding to investigate questions in invasion biology, community ecology and plant-insect interactions.

Key Research

  • Tracing the geographic history of invasive species using population genetics, and collaborating with researchers in human geography, seeking to understand not only where a species came from and when, but also why the species was introduced. This data will be applied to management of invasive species.

  • Examining potential ancient human-mediated species dispersal into and around Australia. Ancient anthropogenic change is often not considered in studies on biogeography and community ecology in places like Australia where ancient humans were thought to have limited impact on the environment. Taking into consideration a broader view of ecological history could help with the management of ecosystems under anthropogenic change.

  • Developing methods in DNA metabarcoding (the genetic identification of species in mixtures) for the species-level identification of pollen. Pollen DNA metabarcoding has applications in pollination ecology, allergen monitoring, and forensics, and I am also interested in developing these applications, and looking for new applications of this technology.


A complete publication list is available via Google Scholar, Research Gate or ORCID.

Selected recent publications:

  • Bell, K.L., Fowler, J., Burgess, K.S., Dobbs, E.K., Gruenewald, D., Lawley, B., Morozumi, C., and Brosi, B.J. (2017) Applying pollen DNA metabarcoding to the study of plant-pollinator interactions. Applications in Plant Sciences, 5(6): 1600124

  • Bell, K.L., Rangan, H., Fernandes, M.M., Kull, C.A., and Murphy, D.J. (2017) Chance long-distance or human-mediated dispersal? How Acacia s.l. farnesiana attained its pan-tropical distribution. Royal Society Open Science, 4: 170105

  • Bell, K.L., De Vere, N., Keller, A., Richardson, R., Gous, A., Burgess, K.S., and Brosi, B.J. (2016). Pollen DNA barcoding: current applications and future prospects. Genome, 59: 629-640.

  • Bell, K.L., Rangan, H., Kull, C.A., and Murphy, D.J. (2015). The history of introduction of the African baobab (Adansonia digitata, Malvaceae: Bombacoideae) in the Indian subcontinent. Royal Society Open Science, 2: 150370.

  • Rangan, H., Bell, K.L., Baum, D., Fowler, R., McConvell, P., Saunders, T., Spronck, S., Kull, C.A., and Murphy, D.J. (2015). New genetic and linguistic analyses show humans shaped baobab evolution in Australia over thousands of years. PLoS One, 10(4): e0119758

  • Bell, K.L., Rangan, H., Fowler, R., Kull, C.A., Pettigrew, J.D., Vickers, C.E. and Murphy, D.J. (2014). Genetic diversity and biogeography of the boab Adansonia gregorii (Malvaceae: Bombacoideae). Australian Journal of Botany, 62(2): 164-174.

Academic Qualifications

  • 2004

    University of Queensland

  • 1997

    B Biotech (Hons)
    Flinders University

Professional Experiences

  • 2014-2016

    Postdoctoral Fellow
    Emory Unversity

  • 2010-2013

    Postdoctoral Fellow
    Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

  • 2007-2010

    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • 2005-2007

    Postdoctoral Research Associate
    Western Kentucky University

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