Centre for Evolutionary Biology


Further information

  • Find out what our postgraduates are researching
  • Research at CEB

We are a group of tenured academic staff, independently funded research fellows, postdoctoral researchers, research officers and students.

In addition to our independent research programs most of us have collaborative research programs with others in the Centre and routinely joint-supervise honours, master's, and PhD students.

Leigh W Simmons
Professor, ARC Professorial Fellow
My research interests lie in the evolutionary biology of reproduction, and in particular on sexual selection and sperm competition. Current programs examine the evolution of ejaculates and genital traits, and interactions between sexual selection acting on secondary sexual traits prior to copulation, and sexual selection acting on sperm production and semen quality following multiple copulations. I seek to understand how these pre- and post-copulatory selection pressures can influence the evolution of female mating behaviour and mate preferences. My work is also examining the costs of sperm production for males within a life-history context, and the interplay between sex and immunity.
Jason Kennington
I use both molecular and quantitative genetic approaches to investigate factors that determine the fitness and evolutionary potential of populations. I am especially interested in the genetic bases of traits involved with variation in fitness, the importance of genetic variation in populations and the effect of gene flow on local adaptation. I also have an ongoing interest in the genetic threats of extinction posed to small populations. My current research examines the evolution of post-zygotic incompatibilities between populations and testing the contributions of novel versus pre-existing variation to local adaptation.
Jonathan Evans
Associate Professor
I am interested in sexual selection, particularly in the context of sperm competition, cryptic female choice and the evolution of polyandry. Much of this work is conducted using freshwater fishes, including guppies, swordtails and native Australian rainbowfish. Current projects focus on the genetic basis of mate choice, sexual conflict and population genetics. An additional component of my work uses broadcast spawning marine invertebrates such as sea urchins to understand how genetic compatibility and gamete interactions influence offspring fitness.
Joseph Tomkins
Associate Professor, ARC Future Fellow
I am interested in the evolution of threshold traits and male dimorphisms that arise under the conditional evolutionarily stable strategy. This includes a desire to understand phenotypic plasticity, and the integration of plastic traits both phenotypically and genetically. Some of my early career research was on fluctuating asymmetry, an area that still interests me, particularly the ontogeny of FA. I am particularly interested in the allometry of both primary and secondary sexual traits, and the manner in which allometries evolve. My current research is focussed on the genetics of condition and condition-dependence in sexual selection. I am using a quantitative genetics approach to answer many of the questions raised in these areas of interest.
Kate Morgan
ARC Research Associate
My main research interests lie in animal behaviour and the cognitive processes which may underpin these behaviours. Much of my research has focused on investigating behaviour and cognition using non-model organisms in the wild. I am currently working on the relationship between cooperation, vocal behaviour and cognition in the cooperatively breeding Western Australian magpie. Before coming to UWA I worked at the University of St. Andrews where I researched context-dependent decision making in the wild rufous hummingbird and the role that cognition plays in the nesting building behaviour of birds.
Amanda Ridley
Senior Lecturer, ARC Future Fellow
My research interests lie in the field of cooperative breeding – primarily in the evolution, maintenance and dynamics of cooperative breeding systems. In particular, I am interested in the causes and consequences of helping behaviour, sexual selection in cooperative species, population dynamics and critical group size effects. I use pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) and Arabian babblers (Turdoides squamiceps) as model systems in which to investigate these questions, and plan to set up an additional avian study system in WA in the near future. My current funding concentrates on using long-term databases to understand the potential effect of climate change on reproductive success, recruitment and population dynamics in cooperative species.
Stephanie King
Society in Science — Branco Weiss Fellow
I'm a behavioural biologist with a primary focus on animal communication systems, and how these systems have evolved to help mediate complex social behaviours. To date, much of my research has focused on the temporal and social aspects of vocal interactions between bottlenose dolphins, and their use of individual identity signals, termed signature whistles. I continue to use bottlenose dolphins as a model system, with the aim of understanding how dynamic social environments may influence and shape the communicative strategies that animals employ when making decisions of when and with whom to cooperate. Current projects include a long-term study of the male alliances found in the Shark Bay dolphin population, providing a unique opportunity to understand how vocal communication strategies may have evolved to facilitate male cooperation.
Helena Larsdotter Mellström
Wenner-Gren Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I am working on sexual selection, particularly looking at sperm competition, immunology ad pheromone communication. Mounting an immune defense is costly and trade-offs between immunity and sexual traits provide the foundation for some of the most prominent models of sexual selection. My work will use bushcrickets as models to determine which selection pressures shape traits such as ejaculate features, immune function and chemical signalling and, for example, how an experimentally activated immune response impacts pheromone signalling and how this is used in mate choice. Hereby we hope to reveal how mating system and immunology interact in shaping the ecology of a species.
Renee Firman
ARC Early Career Researcher
Using mice as a model system, I am assessing the potential benefits that a female gains from mating with more than one male in a single reproductive cycle (polyandry). Polyandrous behaviour creates competition between sperm of rival males. Sperm competition is a persuasive force in the evolution of male reproductive traits, such as testis size and sperm number, motility and size. I am testing the effects of sperm competition on testis size and ejaculate quality with a long term laboratory experiment, as well as a field study that involves sampling Western Australian island populations of wild mice.
Kathryn McNamara
ARC Early Career Researcher
I am broadly interested in the field of sexual selection, particularly in factors affecting ejaculate traits and female mating frequency. Currently, I am examining how males trade-off investment in their immune function against investment into ejaculate traits. In particular, I am interested in how immune challenges during different developmental stages affect adult reproductive traits. Using lepidopteran models, I am taking experimental, quantitative genetic and comparative approaches to reveal how variation in immune investment is shaped by an individual's reproductive investment, population ecology, and development.
Bruno Buzatto
Bruno Buzatto
ARC Early Career Researcher
I am mainly interested in male dimorphism and alternative reproductive tactics among insects and arachnids. Male dimorphism is particularly common among arthropods, and usually results from a polyphenism: the differential expression of alternative phenotypes from a single genotype depending upon environmental conditions. I have been investigating several questions about polyphenic male dimorphism with experiments using earwigs, mites, harvestmen, and dung beetles. My interest in male dimorphism also led me into the topic of phenotypic plasticity, and in the last 5 years I have focused some of my research on threshold traits (polyphenisms), usually from a quantitative genetics perspective.
Jukka Kekäläinen
Jukka Kekalainen
Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow
I am broadly interested in evolutionary biology. In my early work I studied different aspects of sexual selection, both at the pre-mating and post-mating level. Recently, I have widened my perspective to include animal personality research. My model organisms include several fish species, such as whitefish, Arctic charr, Eurasian minnow and Eurasian perch, and also invertebrates. My current research aims to clarify the mechanisms of cryptic female choice and sperm competition in the mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis.
Clelia Gasparini
ARC Early Career Researcher
My research interests lie in the general field of sexual selection, with particular focus on postcopulatory sexual selection mainly using fish species as model systems. My recent work has concentrated on the role of sperm ageing as potential source of variance in male reproductive fitness and its transgenerational effects. Currently, my work focuses on the interactions between the sexes after mating, specifically aiming to shed light on our understanding of the role of female reproductive fluid (the fluid that surrounds the eggs) within an evolutionary framework.
Erin McCullough
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
I am fascinated by morphological diversity. Competition for mates is a particularly strong evolutionary force, and my work aims to understand how sexual selection has contributed to the elaborate and diverse morphologies found throughout the animal kingdom. My current research explores the interplay between sexual selection acting before and after mating in the horned beetle Onthophagus taurus. Specifically, I am examining how population density may affect the relative importance of pre- and post-mating sexual traits, and thereby contribute to the variation in male dimorphism observed within and among species.
Liam Dougherty
Postdoctoral Research Associate
My research interest is in the fields of sexual selection and sexual conflict, focusing on how the strength and shape of selection varies depending on the social environment, and the selection pressures acting on male and female genital traits in insects. I am currently using laboratory studies in beetles and moths to investigate how female genital morphology varies across populations, whether females exhibit plasticity in morphology in response to the social environment during development, and how female morphology evolves in response to elevated sexual selection. I also use meta-analysis to test specific hypotheses in the field of sexual selection using published studies in a range of animal species.
Maxine Lovegrove
Graduate Research Assistant
My expertise lies in biochemistry and molecular biology. I am interested in the development of molecular markers for evolutionary studies of parentage and population genetics. My master's research was on the population genetics and mating system of Dawson's burrowing bee, a solitary bee native to the north-west of Western Australia.
Dale Roberts
Senior Honorary Research Fellow
I am interested in the evolution of the Australian fauna with particular focuses on the integration of historical biogeography, speciation models, population structure and mating system evolution. I have specialist skills in animal acoustics: signal structure, function and evolution. My work on sexual selection and sperm competition in frogs derives from my interests in natural history and mating system evolution. I also work in conservation biology because it relates closely to my interest in population structure and historical biogeography. My research is focused on frogs but extends into any animal group that can answer appropriate questions.
Natasha LeBas
Adjunct Lecturer
I am an evolutionary biologist interested in sexual selection. My current research interests are the evolution and maintenance of female ornamentation and the consequences of inbreeding for small populations. I primarily utilise an agamid lizard study system, in which the many, highly isolated populations provide the ideal structure in which to address these questions. Other recent research interests include the evolution of genetic and environmental polymorphisms in lizards and mites; selection on developmental integration; nuptial gift giving and colour trait signalling. I also utilise molecular techniques, such as microsatellites, to investigate lizard mating systems in the natural environment.
Emile van Lieshout
Adjunct Lecturer
I am broadly interested in the evolution of morphological and behavioural traits under sexual selection and conflict. My current research focuses on how females minimise the costs associated with conflicts over reproductive interests such as mating duration, remating, and paternity. Females can reduce male-imposed harm by expressing counter-adaptations, but these may themselves confer costs when conflict is relaxed. Using the cowpea weevil Callosobruchus maculatus, a primary model organism in this field, my research aims to examine evolutionary and developmental female responses to sexual conflict.
Jennifer L Kelley
Adjunct Research Fellow
I am fascinated by the interactions between predators and their prey and particularly the role of vision perception, variation in the light environment and prey coloration in influencing the probability of prey detection. I have a strong interest in the ecology of Australian native freshwater fishes and understanding the effect of human-induced habitat alterations on key physiological, morphological and behavioural traits.
Nikolai Tatarnic
Adjunct Lecturer
I am the Curator of Entomology at the Western Australian Museum. My research focuses on various aspects of insect evolution, behaviour and diversity. I have a particular interest in the role of sexual selection in driving behaviour and morphology, which I explore using both micro- and macroevolutionary approaches. I am especially interested in male and female genital coevolution, which I am currently investigating in traumatically inseminating insects.
Kate Umbers
Kate Umbers
Adjunct Research Fellow
My research focuses on explaining the evolution of animal colouration, and I enjoy gathering evidence of the functions and mechanisms of animal colours using various field- and lab-based techniques. I prefer to work with understudied species and am especially interested in applying classical hypotheses in colouration to studies of how and why animals change colour.
Melissa Thomas
Adjunct Lecturer
My research focuses on the evolution and ecology of recognition systems in insects. I have used Hymenoptera as a model taxon in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of how recognition (or lack of) governs the success of invasive ants. My current research centres on mate recognition in the context of sperm competition. Using field crickets, I am investigating whether males are capable of maximising their inclusive fitness by adjusting their copulatory investment in females according to risks associated with sperm competition. Future work will investigate the mechanisms associated with mate recognition and male adjustment of copulatory investment.
Francisco Garcia-Gonzalez
Adjunct Research Fellow
My research centres around examining the material and genetic benefits that females may acrue by mating with more than one male in a single reproductive cycle (polyandry), investigating male adaptations to sperm competition, studying the mechanisms that allow females to bias paternity towards specific males, and analysing conflicts of interests between males and females over mating rates and paternity. I predominantly use insect model systems for empirical studies, but I am also interested in the theoretical approaches to sperm competition, sexual conflict, and the evolution of polyandry.
Monica Gagliano
Adjunct Research Fellow
My main research is broadly in evolutionary ecology with particular emphasis on the responses of individuals to changing environmental conditions and the proximate factors influencing these responses in the wild. I am particularly interested in the interplay between developmental physiology and parental effects, and the long-lasting demographic consequences of phenotypic variation induced early in life at the individual and population level. Specifically, I am involved in research on fluctuating asymmetry, compensatory growth, oxidative stress and senescence to determine the direction and strength of selection acting on the morphological and life-history traits that contribute to fitness.
Joel Huey

Adjunct Research Fellow
I am a research scientist at the Molecular Systematics Unit at the Western Australian Museum. Broadly, I am interested in understanding the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that maintain genetic variation in natural populations of animals. In particular, I am interested in measuring patterns of genetic variation to inform conservation and management. Most of my research career has focused on freshwater fish; however, I am primarily fascinated by the basic principles of population genetics and enjoy applying them to all biological systems.
Nerida Wilson
Adjunct Research Fellow
I am a research scientist at the Molecular Systematics Unit at the Western Australian Museum. My research interests focus on the systematics, phylogeny and phylogeography of marine invertebrates. I am particularly interested in the interface between populations and species, and how this is manifested in recently diverged, cryptic lineages.  I have worked across a broad range of systems including coral reefs, temperate Australia, the deep sea and Antarctica. I am especially interested in heterobranch sea slugs (including nudibranchs) and crinoids, but almost all marine invertebrates.

Centre for Evolutionary Biology

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Last updated:
Wednesday, 13 January, 2016 5:47 PM