My research interests are in the areas of conservation genetics, translational genomics, functional genomics and molecular breeding of commercially important forest tree species, such as Borneo Ironwood, Shorea species, Kelampayan, Sawih, Dabai and Acacia species. Currently, our research group at the Forest Genomics & Informatics Laboratory (fGiL) is actively involved in developing the highly informative and polymorphic genetic markers specific for genotyping two fast growing indigenous tree species, Kelampayan and Sawih. These markers could be then used for more accurate means of tree selection for plantation and improvement activities of the species. Apart from that, we are also studying the transcriptome to better understand important cellular processes such as genetic control of wood formation in the selected tree species. For example, we would like to know which genes affect a desirable trait and how variations (mutations) in those genes influence phenotype. By associating genotypes with phenotypes, early selection of improved planting materials for plantation establishment through biotechnological interventions can be achieved at the seedling stage, thus resulting in a better economic return due to the reduction of cost and time in the production of high quality planting materials for commercial plantation forests.
Mr Julaihi Abdullah (AFSID-SFC)
Research Manager, AFSID-SFC
My major research focuses on wood biodegradation and preservation involving analysis and understanding the natural durability of wood and chemically treated wood by determining chemicals that are responsible for its durability and microdistribution of preservative elements in the wood structure of treated wood. Special interest is on the wood quality and wood composites research. Interest on wood quality has been looking at the wood structure and properties of tropical species both from natural and plantation forests in the effort to develop relationship between wood properties and utilization. On wood composites, the aim is to evaluate and improve raw materials and manufacturing parameters in producing wood-based products that are environmentally sound and sustainable. The ongoing research, screening of fungal strains for wood extractive degradation, investigates the chemical constituents occurring in Eusideroxylon zwageri (belian) and Protoxylon melagangai (malagangai) wood that are responsible for their decay resistance. The main objective of this study is to determine the effective extractive constituents against different decay fungi.
Plant systematic, taxonomy, ethnobotany and conservation are areas of my interest. Data on taxonomic and systematic information of certain plant families in Sarawak are still lacking. These informations are crucial especially to the economic, endemic, threatened and endangered plant species of Sarawak or Borneo as a whole. Borneo is well known as one of the world biodiversity hot spots as it has a very high species endemism and diversity. The information obtained is useful for conservation activities and sustainable utilization of the important plant species in the future. Besides supervising undergraduate and postgraduate students on taxonomic studies on selected taxa, ethnobotany, ecology and anatomy, my current research activities includes the taxonomic and systematic studies for the genus Gonystylus, Aetoxylon, Aquilaria (Thymelaeceae); Eusideroxylon zwageri, Potoxylon (Lauraceae) funded by Intensified Research Priorty Areas (IRPA). I am also constantly contributing to the Plant Resources of South-East Asia project.
Physiology of plants involved knowledge of the vital phenomena in plants especially with processes, functions and responses of plant due to changes in its environment, and the growth and development that resulted from these responses. The approach on molecular biology through biochemistry, biophysics, microbiology and genetics have provided new tools for investigations and enabled these findings appropriated into useful practical applications and this include the in vitro technique of cryopreservation of germplasms. Cryopreservation refers to the placing and holding of biological materials at a very low temperature in a manner such that viability is retained after thawing. Cryopreservation in liquid nitrogen (LN) is the most convenient technique for long term storage and is now applied to a wide range of species. At LN temperature (-196oC) all cellular divisions and metabolic events are eased. The plant materials can be stored without alterations or modifications for a theoretically unlimited period of time. At present in UNIMAS our research on cryopreservation is concentrated on dehydration, encapsulation, vitrification and slow freezing techniques employing protoplasts, calluses, meristems, shoot-tips, as well as somatic and zygotic embryos of plants or crops that are of ecotypic or economic values. Though this in vitro technology may depends on relatively sophisticated facilities, but the development of these facilities is seen to be an important stage in raising of our country’s biotechnological capacity and competence.
I am currently involved in several tree improvement programmes via biotechnology innovations for selected indigenous and exotic timber tree species; these include kelampayan, sawih, terbulan and Acacia mangium. My research interests focus on the functional genomics of xylogenesis in tree speices. Our research group is addressing important scientific questions such as the genetic control of the biosynthesis of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, which these components represent a major biochemical constituent of wood fibre. We are currently performing functional genomics and association genetics analyses of candidate wood formation genes for example cellulose synthase (CesA) and cinnmate 4-hydroxylase (C4H) to better understand how these candidate genes control the wood properties in kelampayan and Acacia. Apart from that, I am also interested in the molecular genetics and genomics of tree health, i.e. focusing on resistance genes (R genes) in timber tree species. We would like to know the resistance mechanism of tree and the regulation of R genes when the tree is attacked by pests and diseases. The ultimate goal of our studies/tree improvement programmes is to enhance the plantation forest productivity in terms of growth, health and quality.
Lab Assistant / Manager, fGiL