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
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.
Amanda Ridley
Associate Professor
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.
Jonathan Evans
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
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.
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.
Cyril Grueter
Senior Lecturer
My primary research interests include the evolution of primate sociality and the mechanisms underlying social cohesion in groups. My particular interests revolve around the evolution of “meta-group social organisation” which describes cases in which individuals of different social units interact and collaborate to varying degrees and in some cases form stable higher-level groupings. I have conducted extensive field work on the behavioural ecology of mountain gorillas in Rwanda and snub-nosed monkeys in China.
Renee Firman
ARC Future Fellow
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.
Jennifer L Kelley
ARC Future 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.

Giovanni Polverino
Forrest Fellow
I am interested in causes and consequences of behavioural diversity and plasticity. My animal models are mainly, but not necessarily, fishes. My recent studies have explored mechanisms behind the emergence and development of animal personality, its context dependency, and its link to individual variation in life history and physiology. My current interest is the role of behavioural plasticity in the ecological success of invasive species to predict their response to a changing world. In addition, my research integrates an interdisciplinary component at the interface between animal behaviour and engineering to test whether bioinspired robots can effectively represent a novel, autonomous, and effective solution to selectively combat invasive species in aquatic ecosystems.
Rowan Lymbery
ARC Research Associate
My research explores gamete interactions, their relationship to evolutionary processes such as sexual selection, and their underlying molecular and genetic mechanisms. My recent work has used broadcast spawning invertebrates as model systems to examine multivariate sexual selection on ejaculates and a potentially novel mechanism of cryptic female choice: sperm chemotaxis. Moreover, these processes may be highly vulnerable to ocean warming and acidification, and I am examining the effects of such environmental changes on gamete signalling and behaviour.
Helena Larsdotter Mellström
Swedish Research Council 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.
Jessie Tanner
National Science Foundation Research Fellow
I am broadly interested in the evolution of sexual traits, and in particular, genital morphology and sexual signalling. I work with invertebrate and vertebrate systems to understand how pre- and post-mating sexual selection operate when traits under selection are multivariate, correlated and subject to phylogenetic effects. My current project integrates insights from experimental evolution and phylogenetic comparative methods to understand genital diversification among rodents. I also work on acoustically communicating animals to understand the role of behavioural plasticity in sexual signal loss, the effects of noise on mating preference expression, and the consequences of within-individual variation in signal production.
Mylene Dutour
Fyssen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow
I am broadly interested in behavioural ecology, especially acoustic communication, anti predator strategies and cognition in birds. My research as two main axes: (1) the mechanisms by which species recognise the calls of other species. I examine how different species encode information in their alarm calls, and how this information travels through communities of species; (2) the cues that elicit anti predator behaviour and how cognitive ability affects appropriate responses to threat. I am currently investigating the links between cognition and fitness in Australian magpies using field observations and experimental approaches to determine the mechanisms that underpin the relationship between cognition and reproductive success.
Jacob Berson
Postdoctoral Research Associate
I am broadly interested in understanding the roles of selection and genetic (co)variation on the evolution of quantitative traits. My research to date has focussed on questions relating to sexual selection on cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) in insects, including trade-offs between the naturally and sexually selected functions of CHCs, and the information this chemical trait could convey to potential mating partners. I use a mixture of quantitative genetics, multivariate selection analyses and manipulative experiments to address these questions. I am currently investigating how variation within and among dung beetle species relates to their ability to provide resources to their offspring.
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.
Danica McCorquodale
Graduate Research Assistant
My background is in entomology, originally joining CEB in Joe Tomkins’ lab, to apply my knowledge to enable the best management of various insect species used as model organisms. Projects include female latency in Callosobruchus maculatus beetles and male dimorphism in the bulb mite, Rhizoglyphus echinopus, for which I am selecting for the asymmetrical “intermorph” male. I have recently begun using Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a unicellular green algae, as a model organism to examine the evolution of anisogamy and the sexes. 
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.
Bruno Buzatto
Bruno Buzatto
Adjunct Research Fellow
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. 

Stephanie King
Adjunct Research 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Harvey

Adjunct Professor
Mark Harvey is Head of the Department of Terrestrial Zoology and Senior Curator at the Western Australian Museum, and curates a collection of ca. 250,000 of arachnid and myriapod specimens. He is an internationally recognised systematist specialising in the study of arachnids and other terrestrial invertebrates, including spiders, pseudoscorpions, schizomids, scorpions, mites and millipedes. He studies the evolutionary origins of the Australian fauna, largely focusing on phylogenetic systematics using molecular and morphological datasets. He is particularly interested in the conservation of short-range endemic species such as subterranean fauna and trapdoor spiders, and is currently Vice President of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.
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:
Thursday, 9 January, 2020 2:54 PM