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Mervyn Shepherd

BSc(Hons)(Qld), PhD(UQ)

Senior Research Fellow

Faculty of Science and Engineering

02 6620 3412
[email protected]
T409, Lismore
Mervyn Shepherd


Orchid ID



Dr Mervyn Shepherd is a forest geneticist with 26 years’ post-doctoral experience researching and breeding subtropical timber (Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Pinus, and Araucaria spp) and industrial (Melaleuca alternifolia) species.

He attained a BSc (Hons 1st) (1992) in Botany and a PhD (1998) specialising in forest molecular genetics from the University of Queensland. He has held positions as a research fellow and senior research fellow at Southern Cross University since 1996, participating and leading research within the CRC for Forestry, and Sustainable Production Forestry from 1997 till 2017, including the coordination of an international effort to sequence the spotted gum genome published in 2021. Since July 2017, he has led the Tea Tree breeding program based at SCU and attaining over $3 million in funding, including for a CRC-Project to develop new low methyl eugenol lines and more efficient clonal propagation systems for tea tree. During his career he has authored more than 70 peer reviewed journal publications, supervised training of more than a dozen postgraduates, and taught in undergraduate courses in genetics, molecular genetics and bioinformatics since 2016.


Dr Shepherd's research involves the assessment of morphological, anatomical or chemical difference in tree populations, and relating this with genetic variation at the DNA sequence level. Genes and genomic segments underlying important ecological or economic traits in trees are identified, and models that describe the mode of inheritance are developed. These studies provide insight into how trees have adapted to past natural and anthropogenic change, and how they may respond to selective forces in the future. This research helps us to grow more productive and resilient plantations, and better manage and conserve native forests. The research is used by geneticists, tree breeders, ecologists, natural resource managers and policy makers, concerned with the productivity, health and sustainable use of forest resources, and the communities that depend on them.

Establishing the genetic basis of variation in characters for product quality and the productivity of tea tree oil production, has been a major research interest since 2010. This has involved the survey of natural populations of this recently domesticated tree, and growing different sources in common garden experiments to establish the degree and basis of genetic determination of adaptive difference. This pre-breeding research is providing genetic materials and know-how that will be useful for devising more efficient strategies and practises for breeding tea tree, and for the development of cultivars with increased pest or drought tolerance, or that produce oil with greater market acceptance through improvements to oil quality.


Dr Shepherd has contributed to undergraduate teaching in Genetics, Molecular Genetics and Bioinformatics at SCU since 2015.

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