Ray Wills at Kings Park & Botanic Garden

Contact Details


    Kings Park & Botanic Garden,
    West Perth WA 6005, Australia.

Between 1996 and 2001, I was Senior Ecologist with Kings Park & Botanic Garden in the Plant Science Division. I directed and conducted research to provide information for the ecologically-based management of urban bushland managed by Kings Park.

I led a team of researchers in ecology, including postgraduate students, to work with the Kings Park & Botanic Garden. My work included close collaboration with researchers from universities (eg. Botany and Geography, UWA), government private industry.

While I was at Kings Park, I was seconded as Senior Planning Officer within the Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority (BGPA) to the Bold Park office to complete the Bold Park Environmental Management Plan 2000-2005 and prepare an implementation plan for the Bold Park EMP. The EMP aims to ensure safe enjoyable access for all users without compromising conservation objectives, and to provide visible improvements to bushland condition over the life of the plan

In developing the implementation plan, I have prepared strategies to deliver the major objectives in the Bold Park EMP, including preparing the business plan for the allocation of resources required for implementation of the EMP, and developing key measures of outcomes delivered by management. The plan also includes logistical requirements of seed collection, greenstock production, site preparation, planting, weed control, and feral animal control; and research requirements.


  • Jodi Mansell-Fletcher and Ray pictured left after finishing the plan at some considerable time after midnight.

    Photo by Mark Webb who was there too!

Jodi Mansell-Fletcher and Ray Wills

Potential research opportunities for students at Kings Park & Botanic Garden

There are many opportunites for research at Kings Park - see the list below, and if you are interested in conducting or participating in research to help Kings Park manage its bushland, contact the Kings Park.

Demography of selected native species

Fire results in "biomass reduction" - the removal of both dead and living plants (and animals) from ecosystems, and clearly signals significant ecological changes. While Australian ecosystems can regenerate after fire, too-frequent fire is likely to impact on the health of ecosystems in Kings Park & Botanic Garden. These projects would map the patterns of abundance of selected species and assess the vulnerability to allow the prioritisation of management and intervention for fire protection. Spatial analysis would make use of the comprehensive fire records and and could explore hyperspectral imagery available for Kings Park.

Owing to the long history of disturbance and alienation of bushland, Kings Park bushland has a severe weed problem. Of the 465 species of plants recorded from the bushland, 175 species are not native to the area. Environmental weeds compete with native plants for light, nutrients, water, and often displace them, especially in disturbed sites. Changes to native plant communities by weed infestations consequently affect animal habitats. They can also harbour pests and diseases.

A range of projects are proposed to examine the distribution and abundance of endemic and introduced species of plants, or species (or groups) of animals reliant on habitat created by particular plant species (eg as a result of development of a particular type of leaf-litter, or particular habitat structure).

Weed species such as:

It would also be valuable to assess the impact of control measures on biota.


Plant reproductive strategies



Root nodules

Weed Biology

Environmental weeds compete with native plants for light, nutrients, water, and often displace them, especially in disturbed sites. Changes to native plant communities by weed infestations consequently affect animal habitats. A range of projects aimed at understanding the patterns of recruitment in various weed species.

Seed Biology

Feral animals


Rats are a problem as omnivores (eating plants and small animals), plus not a desirable park tenant. Feral rats, predominantly Black Rat, Rattus rattus on the scarp and wider bushland, and some Ship Rat, R norvegicus, close to the Swan River are probably significant feral predators on native animals, especially the restricted scarp snail Bothriembryon indutus.

Sampling conducted in 1996 showed a large number of feral rats present in the bushland on the scarp with a 70% trap night success. A research program to understand the demographics of the rat populations and rat food sources is crucial to putting in place measures for their control.

Honey Bees

The environmental implications associated with the presence of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) from commercial and non-commercial hives are not yet fully understood, and the potential for adverse effects on the conservation values of the bushland may be significant. Projects on feral honey bees could examine visits to flora of Kings Park bushland, and nest sites of feral honey bees in Kings Park & Botanic Garden.

Restoration projects

Soil compaction on earth tracks

Social research

Demographics of usage - who are Kings Park & Botanic Garden visitors?

About the lab

The Historical perspective (this written in 1998 - now out of date of course!!)

Kings Park & Botanic Garden (KP&BG) is an interesting place in every sense of the word.

As an organisation it must deal with a diversity of issues which belies its size - a pot-pourri of social, horticultural and conservation issues are dealt with by the Visitor Services, Living Collections, Natural Heritage, Plant Science and Corporate Services Divisions respectively. While the names of the Divisions offer a fair indication of their key functions, there is considerable overlap and an excellent synergy between the groups which makes for a stimulating work place.

As a location, there are not many cities on the planet that can offer a mixture of a reasonable climate, marvellous views of the city and surrounds, an area of great historical significance for Aboriginal, colonial and contemporary cultural heritage, a delightful garden, as well as a significant piece of WA bushland, all of which contributes to (if I can borrow the words of the geographer, George Seddon) a "sense of place". Not surprisingly, it is the most popular destination for tourists in Western Australia. Enough of the post-card...

From an ecologists point of view, the KP&BG has relevance for a number of reasons. Kings Park is one of the oldest legislated reserves (first gazetted in 1896) of natural vegetation in the world, and is perhaps evidence of an early perception of the need for conservation in Western Australia. It is, I believe, the second largest urban bushland remnant in the world, and retains much of its original plant cover. But, it is also the most isolated bushland remnant within the Perth metropolitan region, and has suffered from weed invasion, frequent fire, and other disturbances which has resulted over time in the loss of important plant and animal species.

The Plant Science Division (referred to by all in KP&BG by the elswhere rarely-used colloquial of "the lab" ;-) is headed up by its Director, Dr Kingsley Dixon. Kingsley has been at KP&BG for over 17 years, and in that time has brought together a large research team investigating many aspects of plant biology including micropropogation, genetics, seed biology, and - well lots of stuff. There are six other permanent staff members (Eric Bunn, Bob Dixon, Siegy Kraus, Keran Keys and myself), plus a number of temporary staff (including Dr Tissa Senaratna, Dr Ian McLean, Dr Vi Saffer), more than 30 Honours, Masters and PhD students, and a whole lot of volunteers (including work experience people) involved in a whole lot of projects!

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Created: April 15, 1996

Last updated: January 25, 2004

This page has been visited times since 6 January 2006.