Kiwi scoops award for World Herbivory Project

Former Victoria University lecturer Dr Angela Moles has picked up a L’Oréal Australia Women in Science fellowship for her work on the massive World Herbivory Project, which gathered information on thousands of plant and seed species in 75 locations around the world.

Dr Moles, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, is lead scientist for the research project and is available for interviews. (see contact details and a copy of the research below).

The first part of her findings from the two-year long field project (paper available at have already been published last year in journals including Science and PNAS and showed that 92 per cent of vines across the world are left handed – they twist anti-clockwise no matter where they reside.

Dr Moles compiled information on the seeds of 12,669 species which revealed that tropical seeds, on average, are 300 times bigger than the seeds of species found in temperate forests much further north. She also collected height information for 22,000 plant species.

How plants make a living

The scientists involved in the project now plan to use the extensive field research as the base data for computer software models that may enable better predictions to be made about how ecosystems will respond to global warming.

Dr Moles explains: “The idea that interactions between organisms are more intense in the tropics underpins much thinking about tropical ecology, global patterns in plant and animal traits, and latitudinal gradients in biodiversity.”

Dr Angela Moles completed her BSc (Hons) at Victoria University in 1997 and returned to lecture at the university in 2006, leaving for Australia again in September 2007. She plans to use the fellowship, valued at A$20,000 to investigate strategies plants use to avoid being eaten.

You can contact Dr Angela Moles for interviews this afternoon and tomorrow at:

Office: +61 2 9385-8302

mobile: +61 415 774 299


To speak to other ecologists contact the Science Media Centre on 04 499 5476 or