Peta Hill

Current research

ocellatusSex determination directs gonadal differentiation and in reptiles is often influenced by developmental temperature. Reptiles, in particular lizards show an incredible number of independent evolutionary transitions in sex determining system. My PhD research is investigating the genetic mechanisms behind these evolutionary transitions. I will examine the genetics of divergent sex determining systems using the live-bearing skink Niveoscincus ocellatus, one of few species in the world to exhibit intraspecific divergence in sex determination. In the highlands of Tasmania this species has genetic sex determination whereas in the lowlands temperature influences the sex of offspring. My project utilises a long term data set on the life history of N. ocellatus together with advanced cytological techniques and next generation sequencing to examine similarities and differences in sex-linked polymorphisms and link these to the evolutionary drivers of transitions. In addition I will use demographic models to estimate divergence times and historic gene flow amongst populations and species of Niveoscincus.

These data will enhance the long term data collected for this species by the University of Tasmania’s Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology Research (BEER) group and inform projections of future distributions of this species under warming and more variable climates.

Supervisory team


  • PhD candidate in Zoology at the University of Tasmania, Australia (2016 – present).
  • Honours in Zoology (first class), University of Tasmania (2016)
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Tasmania (2015)
  • Associate Diploma in Chemical Technology (1995)


  • Dr. Joan Woodberry Postgraduate Fellowship Engineering and Bioscience – 2018
  • Australian Postgraduate Award – 2016
  • Ralston Trust Prize for best honours thesis (Zoology) – 2016.


  • Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment Grant (2017)
  • Australian Society of Herpetologists Student Grant (2017)


Hill, P.L., Burridge, C.P., Ezaz, T., and Wapstra, E. (2018). Conservation of Sex-Linked Markers among Conspecific Populations of a Viviparous Skink, Niveoscincus ocellatus, Exhibiting Genetic and Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination. Genome Biology and Evolution 10: 1079-1087. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evy042

Bradford, R.W., Hill, P.L., Davies, C.R., and Grewe, P.M (2015). A new tool in the toolbox for large-scale, high-throughput fisheries mark-recapture studies using genetic identification. Marine and Freshwater Research, doi: 10.1071/MF14423.

Grewe, P.M., Feutry, P., Hill, P.L., Gunasekera, R.M., Itano, D. G., Fuller, D.W., Foster, S.D., Davies, C.R. (2015). Evidence of discrete yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) populations demands rethink of management for this globally important resource. Scientific Reports, 5, 16916; doi: 10.1038/srep16916.

Conference Presentations

Hill P., Burridge C., Ezaz T., Wapstra E. “Conserved sex-linked markers in a skink with population divergence in sex determination”, Australasian Evolution Society and Phylomania combined meeting December 2017.

Hill P., Burridge C., Ezaz T., Wapstra E. “Conserved sex-linked markers in a skink with population divergence in sex determination”, Genomics Society of Australasia, July 2018.

Hill P., Burridge C., Ezaz T., Wapstra E. “Molecular signature of divergent selection on sex determination in the viviparous skink Niveoscincus ocellatus”, 5th Australian Sex Summit November 2016.

Wapstra E., Cunningham G., Hill P., Schwanz L., While G., Ezaz T. “Sex in a cold climate: understanding the evolutionary and ecological drivers of sex determination in snow skinks across Tasmania”, Cytogenetics in the genomics era, February 2017.


  • Analysis of SNP data from reduced representation sequencing, University of Canberra July 2018
  • Cytogenetics Workshop, University of Canberra July 2018