Research

Population genetics

Genetics is a powerful tool to asses population dynamics.  Quantification of genetic diversity and levels of inbreeding allows us to assess populations and species’ evolutionary potential.  By resolving population structure and estimating gene flow we are able to study the impacts of disease, local population extinctions, and effects of habitat fragmentation.  Our projects include areas such as: defining conservation management units, addressing impacts of disease, and assessing effectiveness of reserve design in various species.

Phylogenetics

Reconstructing phylogenies is important for addressing various biological questions. Using genetic data we trace evolutionary histories of species;  inferring relationships among species or genes, estimation of effective population sizes, and assessment of migration patterns.  Our projects focus on Australian species, including galaxiid fish and giant kelp.

Ancient DNA

Incorporating ancient DNA (aDNA) in studies allows for accurate calibration of molecular rates, inference of  past demographic events, and how these have impacted species distributions.  Currently we are researching the impact of the separation of Tasmania from mainland Australia (~12,000 ybp) on the molecular diversity of Tasmanian devils. Furthermore, we are also using aDNA to assess historical migration rates and genetic diversity loss in relation to pre- and post- colony collapse in seabirds.

Biogeography

Species distributions are affected by past events.  Glaciation and geological changes are major drivers of current distributions and thereby genetic structuring within species.  Tasmania has unique endemic species — impacted by the last glacial maximum — such as the spotted snow skink (Niveoscincus ocellatus).  We are addressing the effects of these events on the current distribution and genetic diversity.

DNA barcoding

Many species of beetles are difficult to identify by morphology.  DNA barcoding is an efficient method for classification of these species.  We are working on a comprehensive barcoding database of saproxylic beetles in Tasmania.

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