Primary research interest

  • Molecular phylogenetics and evolution of Australian biota

Researcher biography

I obtained my PhD from The Australian National University in 2001 and have been at UQ since August 2006

My research is primarily aimed at understanding the origins, diversification and distributions of organisms, especially plants and insects in Australia. I mostly take a comparative approach and use molecular phylogenies to test hypotheses about ecological and evolutionary processes. Recent and ongoing topics include: understanding how interactions among plants and insects affect the evolutionary radiation of each; teasing apart the effects of extinction and speciation to understand how past climate and environmental change has shaped our biota; and investigating the relative roles of continental drift and long distance dispersal in explaining the current distribution patterns of organisms in the southern hemisphere. Specific questions relate, but are not limited, to topics such as:

• how the diversification of the unique Australian flora has driven insect speciation

• whether specific insect-plant interactions are the result of long term co-radiation or more recent adaptive radiations of insects

• the relative roles of vicariance (such as that induced by continental drift) and dispersal in explaining the current distribution patterns of southern hemisphere organisms

• evolutionary patterns of host-use by herbivores

• how past climate change has shaped the current distributions of taxa

• assembly of the flora and fauna of current biomes, especially the arid zone, monsoon tropics and southern temperate biomes

• phylogeography of plants and insects, and what this reveals about contemporary and recent gene flow

• consequences of differential dispersal, such as that between male and female scale insects, different developmental stages, or seed and pollen