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.
Honours, UOW (2020) Sandy is studying the behavioural ecology of mate choice and male competition in painted dragon lizards.
PhD USYD (2019) Nicky's project on painted dragon telomere dynamics was co-supervised with Rick Shine, Mats Olsson, and Camilla Whittington. Nicky won three awards for her research at national conferences.
Honours USYD (2016) Callum's project on painted dragon sexual selection and color polymorphism was co-supervised with Mats Olsson. Callum won an award for his research at the 2016 Australian Society for Herpetology Conference.
Masters, University of Gothenburg (2016) Rasmus' project on painted dragons was co-supervised with Mats Olsson.
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
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
Randy Krohmer, St. Xavier University
Simon de Graaf, University of Sydney
Steve Arnold, Oregon State University
Suzanne Estes, Portland State University