Research fellows  ·  PhD candidates  ·  Honours students

Professor Carla Sgrò

Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow

CarlaSgro2019I am an evolutionary biologist, interested in understanding the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change. I am also interested in exploring how evolutionary processes can be explicitly incorporated into biodiversity conservation and management.

I use a combination of techniques including clinal (field) studies of phenotypic divergence, experimental evolution, quantitative genetics and genomics to examine how organisms adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Dr Vanessa Kellermann

Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow

Unprecedented climate change will have significant impacts on species abundance, distribution and persistence.

For ectothermic species, temperature is one of the most important variables dictating a species distribution.

Species’ responses to climate change will be dictated by the potential for species to respond via evolution (genetic change) and/or phenotypic plasticity.

As an evolutionary biologist I am interested in examining the processes that underlie the evolution of thermal tolerances and species distributions. Using quantitative genetic and comparative methods my work has focused on examining climate related traits in tropical and temperate Drosophila species, with a focus on traits that may pose as a limit to species distributions.

Using this system, I have demonstrated both at the intra- and inter-specific level, low evolutionary potential in ecologically important traits cold and desiccation resistance.

I am also interested in how evolutionary history (phylogenetic relatedness) shapes species distributions. Examining thermal tolerances in over 90 species of Drosophila, I have dissected the role of evolutionary history and environmental selection in shaping thermal responses.

My work to date has primarily focused on evolutionary process (genetic) that shape thermal responses. In addition I plan to extend my current work to examine the role of phenotypic plasticity in shaping current species distributions.

Dr Belinda van Heerwaarden

Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellow

BelinaHeerwaarden300x300I am interested in understanding evolutionary responses to environmental change, with a particular focus on evolutionary limits to species distributions and adaptive responses climate change. I am also interested in the role of changing environments on adaptive potential.

The ‘big’ questions my research aims to address are:

  • What limits the distribution of restricted species?
  • Do rainforest restricted species have a reduced adaptive potential to respond to climate change?
  • How will changing environments from climate change itself influence evolutionary and plastic responses?

Dr Sandra Hangartner

Postdoctoral Research Associate

sandrahangartner300x300I am using quantitative genetics and theoretical population genetic approaches to examine how genetic variances and covariances between sexes and across populations change, and to understand how this influences sex-specific adaptation.

Dr Clémentine Lasne

Postdoctoral Research Associate

clementinelasne300x300The focus of my PhD was to understand the role of sex-specific adaptation to changing environmental conditions.

I used  studies of populations of D. melanogaster collected from along the east coast of Australia and theoretical population genetics to do so.

Fiona Cockerall

PhD candidate and lab manager

FionaCockerall300x300During my PhD I have been interested in understanding the genes and mechanisms organisms use to adapt to environmental change.

Given all that we know about the heat shock response and that various genes are up- or down-regulated during heat stress I was interested in whether total protein synthesis rate was linked to geographical patterns of heat tolerance. I further looked at transcript expression of the hsr-omega gene as this gene has strong links to climatic adaptation and is associated with controlling protein synthesis rate.

I used geographically divergent populations from climatically diverse regions to see whether differences in transcript expression of this gene, or rate of protein synthesis contribute to the differences observed between these populations in heat tolerance.

In my current role as a researcher in Carla’s lab I have broadened my interests from asking questions about genes and mechanisms to using quantitative genetic experiments to ask questions about heritability of stress traits within diverse species of Drosophila and Scaptodrosophila.

Teresa Kutz

PhD candidate

The focus of my PhD is to understand how temperature and nutrition interact to affect animal responses to environmental change.

I am using a combination of phenotypic manipulation and experimental evolution to do so.

Avishikta Chakraborty

PhD candidate

The aim of my PhD is to understand how developmental timing is affected by the combined effects of temperature and nutrition.

Working with D. melanogaster, I will use a combination of phenotypic manipulations,  assessments of a newly derived panel of isogenic lines and experimental evolution to do so.

Movis Choy

Honours student

I will use experimental evolution in D. melanogaster to understand how adaptation to the combined effect of nutrition and thermal stress during development affects thermal stress resistance of larvae.