Evolutionary Ecology and Physiology

I have a longstanding interest in sexual selection, sexual conflict and reproductive biology, which over the past few years has expanded and integrated with life histories and the evolutionary ecology of ageing and telomere biology.  


Because I tend to work with ectotherms (lizards and snakes), thermal effects on metabolism, oxidative stress and telomere dynamics are now a central focus. I try to leverage geographic variation in life history and sexually selected traits along temperature/aridity clines to work out how thermal adaptation might influence selection on and mediate physiological tradeoffs between character states.


My research program combines the use of molecular genetics, physiological measurements, manipulative experiments and field-based behavioural ecology to understand the evolutionary processes that generate and maintain sexually dimorphic and intrasexual polymorphic behaviours, physiology and morphology across the landscape.

My students and I seek to uncover the links between reproductive ecology, genetics, and physiology using various model systems including Australian painted dragons, garter snakes, and cane toads.

Our interests include:

  • Sexual selection and sexual conflict, tradeoffs between pre- and postcopulatory sexual selection

  • Oxidative stress and telomere dynamics

  • Energetic costs of behaviour and reproduction

  • The evolution of sexually-dimorphic behavior and morphology

  • The evolution of life history traits- especially physiological underpinnings of sex-specific and alternative reproductive tactics effects on ageing

  • Thermal effects on the expression and the evolution of sexually selected and life history traits

  • Effect of postcopulatory sexual selection/conflict on genital interactions/function

For example, we work to understand:


How and which proximate mechanisms mediate trade-offs between pre- and post-copulatory sexually selected traits. Trade offs between traits that evolve in response to these two episodes of selection underlie the emergence of alternative mating and life history strategies.


How and why wild organisms age, and the fitness consequences of aging on sexual selection in wild populations. 

Why the interests of the sexes may be incongruent, how trait function generates sexual conflict, and how sexually antagonistic coevolution has shaped the most intimate interaction between the sexes: copulation and genital coevolution. 

How environmental factors influence physiology and behavior in ways that may cause variation in mating system dynamics among populations.




Bob Mason, Oregon State University

Camilla Whittington, University of Sydney

Catherine Grueber, University of Sydney

Dan Noble, Australian National University

Deb Lutterschmidt, University of California, Irvine

Denis O’Meally, Beckman Research Institute

Don Powers, George Fox University

Emily Uhrig, Linköping University, Sweden

Erik Wapstra, University of Tasmania (BEER group)

Heather Waye, University of Minnesota at Morris

Joanna Sudyka, University of Warsaw

Mark Wilson, University of Wollongong, IHMRI

Mathieu Giraudeau, CREEC

Mats Olsson, University of Gothenburg

Matt Dean, University of Southern California

M. Rockwell Parker, James Madison University

Nathan Clark, University of Utah

Patty Brennan, Mount Holyoke College

Phil Byrne, University of Wollongong (EARL group)

Randy Krohmer, St. Xavier University

Rick Shine, Macquarie University

Simon de Graaf, University of Sydney

Steve Arnold, Oregon State University

Suzanne Estes, Portland State University

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