Centre for Evolutionary Biology

Postgraduate researchers

Further information

Research at CEB

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

Elizabeth Speechley
PHD Student
There are many benefits to living in groups, including increased predator vigilance and foraging efficiency. However, navigating a complex social environment requires efficient and often complex modes of communication. My research will investigate the relationship between vocal complexity and social dynamics in the Western Australian magpie. Magpies are an ideal study species as they posses one of the largest range of vocalisations of any songbird and exist in highly cooperative, territorial groups that regularly vocalise with one another. Specifically, my study will examine the influence of social and cognitive factors on vocal development, vocal repertoire and vocal interaction, providing valuable insight into the mechanisms underlying vocal learning.
Nadia Sloan
PHD Student
My research project will examine biodiversity and speciation of short-range endemic millepedes from the genus Antichiropus. Specifically, I will examine coevolutionary divergence in male and female genital morphology, among species and populations, in order to understand the mechanisms behind reproductive isolation and its role in speciation.
Aline Gibson Vega
PHD Student
My research will focus on understanding the prevalence of social organisation and cooperative breeding in an understudied species, the western grasswren (Amytornis textiles textiles). As a non-obligate cooperative breeder, better understanding of the mechanisms which lead to such behaviour is critical for our understanding of cooperative breeding more generally. This work will also incorporate genetic understanding of the species to unveil the potential for Allee effects. As a by-product, it will aid in maximising the translocation success of the western grass wren under the Dirk Hartog Island Ecological Restoration Project ("Return to 1616") through better understanding of western grasswren ecology.
Kathryn Holmes
 
PHD Student
Reproductive cooperation between unrelated males is uncommon, particularly in the form of long-term alliances, and its ontogeny is not well understood. I am interested in how alliance partnerships develop, including the vocal and physical behaviour that mediates them, and what effects early social networks have on future adult reproductive success. In Shark Bay, WA, male bottlenose dolphins form three levels of nested alliances: long-term partnerships with unrelated males that are crucial to their reproductive success. My PhD research will use this system to improve our understanding of juvenile social development and its influence on future male reproductive success.
Joe Moschilla
PHD Student
My research will be looking at individual differences in behaviour in the Australian field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. I am mainly interested in the environmental mechanisms responsible for fluctuations in behaviour, and the potential for transgenerational effects on offspring behaviour. Furthermore, I will be examining the fitness benefits associated with behavioural variation and the evolutionary consequences of consistent individual differences in behaviour.
Camilla Soravia
PHD Student
Global warming in increasing the frequency of temperature extremes. The cognitive impairment caused by heat stress is well known in humans but has never been studied in wild animals, despite growing evidence that cognitive performance can directly influence fitness. My research investigates the relationship between heat stress and cognition in a wild population of pied babblers, Turdoides bicolour, residing in the Kalahari desert. Previous research has shown that above 35.5 celsius pied babblers start to lose body mass due to lower foraging efficiency and invest less in parental care. I will perform cognitive testing under normal and heat stress conditions and use available life-history records for individuals to explore the link between cognitive performance, heat wave events and life-history trajectories.
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.
 
Deanne Cummins
PHD Student
I am interested in investigating the use of translocation to increase the rate that a species can adapt to rapid climate change. This involves introducing non-local individuals that are adapted to climatic conditions similar to those predicted for the receiving population. I will use a translocated population of the periwinkle (Bembicium vittatum) as a model system to investigate the long-term risks of mixing genetically divergent individuals and to understand whether introduced genetic variation is incorporated, maintained and used to adapt to the local environment.
Amanda Bourne
PHD Student
In my PhD I am bringing together two sets of questions  - one around "Why be social?" and another around what it is that underlies species vulnerability to climate change. I am studying the impacts of high temperatures on behaviour, energy expenditure, water turnover, reproduction, and survival in Southern Pied Babblers Turdoides bicolor and investigating the extent to which, if at all, cooperation and group living can provide a buffer against negative impacts of heat stress. 
Blake Wyber
PHD Student
The seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus has become a model species for sexual selection and sexual conflict studies, due to its practice of traumatic insemination. I am interested in the role that ejaculates may play in offsetting damage to the female reproductive tract, inflicted by male genital spines, by providing supplementary resources. I will explore this my manipulating the mating context, such as sperm competition risk and resource availability, and observing whether males strategically invest ejaculates during copulation. I will also investigate whether females mating with ejaculate-depleted males incur higher mating costs.
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.
Robin Hare

PHD Student
Sexual selection acting on female animals has historically received little attention from researchers. My research aims to address this knowledge gap using the bushcricket Kawanaphila nartee, which is known to undergo sex role reversal where females compete for males and males become choosy. By investigating the effects of female competition on the evolution of female traits in this species, and by comparing these traits across populations, my research will help provide a clearer picture of how sex roles are determined and their evolutionary consequences.

Paige Maroni
PHD Student
I study the diversification and chemical ecology of a marine radiation of molluscs using phylogenomics. Mitochondrial DNA sequencing of the Southern Ocean benthic sea slug, Doris kerguelenensis (originally described as a single endemic species) has revealed a multitude of highly divergent lineages representing a species flock comprising over 32 different species. I will use a transcriptome-based exon capture approach to resolve this Antarctic radiation. I will also assess the links between the slug's defensive chemical compounds, their diet and the cryptic species lineages. I will use phylogenetics to build a predictive framework to guide further pharmaceutical development.
Sarah Leeson

PHD Student
My research focuses on the genetics of introduced dung beetles in Australia. Dung beetles were introduced to Australia between 1969 and 1984 to combat the problematic build-up of cattle dung. While 43 species were introduced, only 23 have established, and many have failed to fulfill their predicted distribution. I am interested in the role that genetic variation has played in determining the outcome of these introductions. I will also investigate how genetic variation is utilised in local adaptation across climatic gradients, and I will look for evidence of adaptive introgression in species that were introduced from multiple source populations.

Wladimir Angelino Fae Neto

PHD Student
My research focuses on the evolutionary genetics of adaptation and trade-offs within the unicellular micro algae Chlamydomonas reihardtii. I will be working on size-diverged Chlamydomonas cell lines, examining the evolutionary stability of the divergence as well as what size evolution might mean for cellular processes such as lipid production, choleraphyll content and productivity under nutrient-depleted conditions. This might advance the development of biofuels from micro algae and have other applications. So my interest lies at the interface between evolutionary aspects of algal production and commercial application.

Arek Filipczyk

PHD Student
I use a unicellular alga, Chlamydomoas reinhardtii, to test assumptions standing behind the most commonly accepted theories of the evolution of sexes. This alga has sex but not sexes. However, its sex cells can be smaller or larger depending on environmental or genetic factors. I examine sex cells production in the alga, the differences between smaller and larger sex cells (longevity, motility, mating efficiency, quality of offspring), and the inheritance of sex cell size. I also test how the mode of sexual reproduction of this alga can evolve in a laboratory.

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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Last updated:
Friday, 15 March, 2019 12:27 PM

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