Our research focuses on evolutionary ecology, i.e. the interaction between organisms and their environment and concomitant effects on organismal fitness. Our work links molecular genetics, immunology, evolution and ecology to explore the significance of genetic and epigenetic organismal responses to both macro- and micro environmental challenges. Because our research is question-driven, our model systems range from cancer cells to vertebrates, such as squamate reptiles, birds and mammals. You can learn more about our work by clicking on the “PROJECTS” tab at the top of the page.
We are interested in shifts in life-history traits mediated by environmental challenges in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Our long-term research (> 25 years) in the wet-dry tropics in the Northern Territory of Australia has provided unique information on the impact of both biotic and abiotic factors on vertebrate population demography. Some of the our key research topics include: (i) impacts of climate change on tropical predator-prey population demography, (ii) impacts of the invasive and highly toxic cane toads (Bufo marinus) on tropical predator demography and genetics (iii) conservation biology/genetics, (iv) evolutionary significance of female polyandry and (v) wildlife immunology.
Micro-environmental challenges – Responses to micro-environmental challenges in cancer evolution
The evolutionary framework applied to organismal responses to macro-environmental challenges also pertains to micro-environmental cellular challenges, such as tumourigenesis. Similar to abiotic and biotic selection processes imposed on organisms, the cellular micro-environment (e.g. immune system), may impose analogous selective regimes on individual cancer cells. Therefore, theory and techniques applied in studying life-history trait variations on a macro-environmental scale can be applied to explore tumour formation and evolution on a micro-environmental scale. We therefore use a Darwinian approach to study the evolution of cancer in wildlife