Centre for Evolutionary Biology

Postgraduate researchers

Further information

Research at CEB

The Centre is supporting the research of local and international postgraduate students.

Tabitha Rudin-Bitterli
PHD Student
The drying conditions in the South West region of Australia are a growing challenge for many amphibians, particularly for species that deposit their eggs on land. My PhD project will use a quantitative genetics approach to assess whether genetic adaptation and/or phenotypic plasticity could enable terrestrial-breeding frogs to adapt to the predicted changes in rainfall. I will furthermore explore whether genetic translocations could be used to assist the adaptation of at-risk populations to drier breeding environments.
Jacqueline Loo
PHD Student
My project uses microsatellite DNA markers to assess genetic effects of selective harvesting, with a special emphasis on sexual selection, in two commercially important crustaceans. The western rock lobster (WRL) and marron crayfish are being subjected to selective harvesting as part of their management regimes. In WRL, larger males are subject to intense harvesting. In contrast, in marron crayfish, two species, the hairy and smooth marron, are subject to selective harvesting, where the introduced smooth marron is being removed, in an effort to protect hairy marron from extinction. My research will provide an evolutionary perspective to fisheries management and conservation.
Laura Travers
PHD Student
My PhD uses a quantitative genetics approach with Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the evolvability of traits important in post-copulatory sexual selection. My project examines how polyandry evolves by investigating the co-evolution of sperm competitiveness with female multiple mating. In a bid to understand the relative importance of conventional pre-copulatory traits and post-copulatory traits on the action of sexual selection, I am also examining the integration between the evolution of secondary sexual traits and post-copulatory traits that contribute to sperm competitive ability, and how these traits relate to male attractiveness.
Soon Hwee Ng
PHD Student
Animals play host to a wide variety of commensal microorganisms within the gastrointestinal tract. Increasing evidence suggests that these gut microbes play a bigger role than just aiding in digestion - they affect the health, development, and physiology of their host. Using Australian field cricket as an insect model, I am studying the interactions between gut microbes and diet, and how they might influence sexual behaviours. Through diet manipulation and the use of ‘germ-free’ crickets, I will examine how gut microbiota changes with protein/carbohydrate ratio, and how these microbes affect reproductive success.
Blair Bentley
PHD Student
Sea turtles in the Kimberley region of Western Australia have both summer and winter nesting populations that presumably select similar thermal microclimates on beaches. My research will develop mechanistic models of beach microclimates to explore the environmental control of primary sex-ratios and embryonic mortality within this region. Through the resolution of population-specific physiological and genetic parameters, I will be able to predict population traits under current and future climate scenarios. I will also utilise next-generation sequencing technologies to explore the transcriptomic response of populations to thermal stresses analogous to those expected under climate change.
Jacob Berson
PHD Student
The dung beetle, Onthophagus taurus, has become a model system for examining questions in sexual selection. However, nothing is known of the role chemical communication may play inmate choice in this species. Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), lipids found on the cuticle of insects, have been shown to mediate sexual selection in a number of insects. my research aims to investigate the role of CHCs in mate choice in O. taurus, and examine the genetic architecture underlying these traits. Furthermore, I will explore what role CHCs play in identifying the mating status of females and the effects this has on a male's mating investment.
Angela Eads
PHD Student
My research interests are in local adaptation and the evolvability of stress tolerances in species susceptible to anthropogenic climate change using a quantitative genetics approach. My honours project characterised the genetic variation in dessication tolerance of embryos from one population of the crawling frog, Pseudophryne guentheri. My current research is on the evolvability and plasticity in traits impacted by anthropogenic ocean disturbance in broadcast spawning marine invertebrates, such as Mytilus spp. and Haliotis roei.
Melanie Mirville
PHD Student
My research interests are focused primarily on exploring the behavioural ecology of animals and applying this knowledge to promote effective conservation practices. I am investigating the social and ecological influences on intergroup relationships in a wild population of mountain gorillas at the Karisoke Research Center, Rwanda. I aim to identify the causes and consequences of intergroup encounters, and contribute to a better understanding of the factors that regulate intergroup dynamics.
Yong Zhi Foo
PHD Student
My research focuses on sexual signalling. Specifically, I am interested in signals of good health in humans. My PhD looks at the relationship between facial attractiveness traits such as facial masculinity and skin colour and physiological health variables such as immune function, oxidative stress, and sperm quality. I am also planning an experiment to investigate the effects of antioxidants on facial attractiveness and health.
Samuel Lymbery
PHD Student
I am interested in the evolutionary drivers of cooperation and conflict. For my PhD, I will examine the roles of inclusive fitness and multilevel selection in mediating sexual conflict and female harm during reproduction, using seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus as a model species. By manipulating the kin structure in breeding groups, I aim to determine the role of relatedness in both the short term adjustments of female harm by individual males and population-level changes in female harm over generations. I will also examine differences between pre- and post-copulatory male competitiveness in response to changes in kin structure.
Elizabeth Wiley
Elizabeth Wiley

PHD Student
My PhD will involve the study of long-term population dynamics in the Pied Babbler (Turdoides bicolour). I will look at the influence of decision-making and communication on cooperation and conflict resolution at both group and population level, and how this affects susceptibility to extinction in small populations. I will also examine the extent to which reproductive failure and extinction risk are exacerbated or moderated by climate change, in the volatile and arid landscape in which this species occurs. My interest stems from the belief that understanding more about population dynamics is essential to promote effective conservation biology and population management.

Ben Ashton

PHD Student
My research interests lie at the interface of behavioural ecology and cognition- in particular understanding the relationship between cooperation, cognition and fitness. Group living and cooperative behaviour presents unique cognitive challenges, using the Australian magpie, Cracticus tibicen, as a model system I aim to identify the causes of variation in cognitive ability, and determine whether such variation is affected by group size and structure. I also plan to determine how variation in cognitive ability influences the dynamics of cooperation at both the individual and group level, and ultimately quantify the fitness consequences of variation in cognitive ability.

Catherine Seed

PHD Student
The evolution of sexual reproduction is still a puzzle to modern biology. While possible benefits of sex include increasing genetic variation and efficiency in the removal of deleterious mutations, in a population able to reproduce asexually or sexually, any individual who undergoes sex faces a number of hurdles not faced by their asexually reproducing conspecifics. My research aims to develop an experimental evolution model in the algal genus Chlamydomonas that is able to test hypotheses regarding the benefits and costs of sexual reproduction.

Philip Allen

PHD Student
The focus of my PhD is on seabird colonies in the North-West of Western Australia. My field site is home to the largest colony of Brown Booby in the world, therefore the work will provide important knowledge to guide conservation efforts. My research will explore the population dynamics, breeding activity and foraging ecology of the Brown Booby, the Lesser Frigatebird and the Crested Tern. I am also interested in colony response to anthropogenic pressures faced in the region, such as climate change, oil spills and marine pollution.

Rowan Lymbery

PHD Student
My research focuses on gamete interactions and their relationship to evolutionary processes, particularly sexual selection. I am exploring these interactions in the blue mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis, with a focus on multivariate sexual selection on ejaculates and a potentially novel mechanism of cryptic female choice: sperm chemotaxis. The latter may play an important role in evolutionary dynamics within (sexual selection) and between (reproductive isolation) species. These processes may also be highly vulnerable to ocean warming and acidification, and I will examine the effects of such environmental changes on gamete interactions.

Robert Dugand

PHD Student
My research interests are primarily in the indirect benefits of mate choice and the maintenance of genetic variation in sexually selected traits. I am exploring whether or not choosy females gain indirect benefits by avoiding males with bad genes (higher mutational load). My work is laboratory based, working with model species such as Drosophila melanogaster and Callosobruchus maculatus.


Fabian Rudin

PHD Student
I aim to explore consistent inter-individual differences in behaviour, or "animal personalities", from an evolutionary perspective using the Australian field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. Employing a quantitative genetic approach, I will investigate the heritability as well as the fitness consequences of personality traits. Moreover, I will examine how environmental cues influence the production, evolution and maintenance of personalities by manipulating the crickets' social and physical environment. My goal is to make valuable contributions to the ongoing discussion about the interplay between genetic and environmental effects on behaviour (nature vs. nurture).

Gonçalo Andre

PHD Student
I am interested in the selective mechanisms underlying the evolution of the penis bone or baculum in mammals, and how the morphology of this bone impacts male and female reproductive success. I am using the house mouse as a model species, to measure physiological and morphological parameters, ranging from baculum size and shape to the neuroendocrinology response of females when mated with males with different baculum phenotypes. I will also determine the degree to which the environmental and genetic backgrounds of individuals affect baculum morphology. My research will thereby contribute to our understanding of the evolution of this divergent mammalian bone.

Stephanie Venables

PHD Student
Accurate information on population size and structure is necessary in order to understand the conservation requirements of a species, develop management strategies, and to assess and monitor population health over time. My PhD project focuses on fine-scale population genetics of reef manta rays, Manta alfredi, in two separate locations – Southern Mozambique and Raja Ampat, Indonesia. I will use genetic markers to estimate effective population size, investigate spatial connectivity and generational relatedness in order to gain insight into the structure of these populations. This information is intended to guide effective management and protection of this threatened species on a regional and global scale.



 

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