The role of genetic variation in the establishment and adaptation of introduced dung beetles in Australia
My research focuses on the genetics of introduced species of dung beetle in Australia. Dung beetles were introduced to Australia around 50 years ago to combat the problematic build-up of cattle dung. While 43 species were introduced, only 23 have established, and many have failed to fulfil 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.
Understanding the genetic factors that influence the outcome of species introductions is important in improving biological control programs, such as Australia’s dung beetle initiative. Species translocations are also becoming increasingly important as a tool in the conservation of threatened taxa. Improving the success of translocations may therefore assist in the management of threatened species.