Karen Bell

Dr, BBiotech Flin ., DPhil Qld

  • The University of Western Australia (M084), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus

Personal profile


Dr Bell is a Research Officer in the Weed Research Unit of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), based in Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute. She joined the DPI in 2022 to conduct research on environmental DNA of weeds. Prior to that, she was a lecturer in plant ecology at the University of Western Australia, joint appointment with CSIRO Health & Biosecurity from 2016-2021. She completed her PhD at the University of Queensland in entomology. Through subsequent postdoctoral positions, her research interests diverged into plant-insect interactions, plant ecology, and invasion biology.


Dr Bell’s research uses methods from environmental DNA, genetics/genomics, and biogeography to investigate questions in biosecurity, invasion biology, plant-animal interactions and plant evolution. Key research interests are within three main themes:

  • Using environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect invasive species, particularly when they are rare in the environment. This is important for biosecurity because it enables early detection of new incursions, and the validation of eradication programs. Current focus is on detection of aquatic weeds from water samples, as well as method development for detection of terrestrial weeds.
  • Using DNA metabarcoding for the species-level identification of the community composition of ecosystems and to detect interactions between species. Two areas of focus of this work have been using pollen DNA to detect plant-pollinator interactions and using faecal DNA to detect diet species of herbivores.
  • Tracing the geographic history of invasive species and ancient introductions of culturally important species using population genetics and biogeography, to understand where a species come from, when, and why the species was introduced. Understanding introduction pathways is important for optimising biosecurity measures. Identifying source populations in the native range may help with obtaining more effective biological control agents, while also improving our understanding of the coevolution of host plants and their natural enemies.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

External positions

Research Officer, Department of Primary Industries (New South Wales)

5 Dec 2022 → …

Joint appointment, CSIRO - Health and Biosecurity

30 Oct 201629 Oct 2021

Industry keywords

  • Agriculture and Food
  • Environmental

Research expertise keywords

  • Environmental DNA
  • Biosecurity and biological invasion
  • DNA metabarcoding
  • plant-animal interactions


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