Evolution in a Changing World

Our Research

We live in a dynamic and ever changing world. The history of life is a story of persistence through ice ages, reorganization of the earth’s continents, and mass extinctions, in which species were faced with environmental changes that either prompted rapid evolutionary responses, or ultimately drove them to extinction. Modern day populations are by no means exempt from such change. We live in an age of pronounced change to our climate, exacerbated by natural and human induced modifications, including pollution, invasive species introductions, and habitat fragmentation. These factors have drastically altered the living conditions of many native species around the globe. Humans are also changing their own environments, including the foods we eat and lifestyles we live, in ways that differ markedly from those of our ancestors.

We are evolutionary biologists, who study the capacity for, and mechanisms by which, populations adapt and cope with environmental change over short and long time scales. Our goals are to understand how we, and the diversity of life that we share the planet with, respond in the face of change, and use these insights to inform predictions of ecosystem and population health outcomes under ongoing environmental stress.


The following researchers study evolution in a changing world.

  • Professor Sureshkumar Balasubramanian: Suresh is interested in deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying phenotypic variation that shapes evolution in plants
  • A/Professor Martin Burd: As an evolutionary biologist Martin researches plant evolutionary ecology as well as behaviour and social organisation in ant colonies.
  • Professor David Chapple: Dave's research spans invasion biology, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, population and conservation genetics, phylogenetics and phylogeography.
  • Professor Steven Chown: Steven is engaged in biogeographic and macroecological studies, macrophysiology, spatial ecology, and invasion biology. Translation of science into policy is a major focus.
  • Dr Tim Connallon: Tim is interested in the conceptual links between theory and data in evolutionary biology. Topics of interest include sexual dimorphism, genome evolution, and genetic constraints to adaptation.
  • Professor Damian Dowling: Damian's research focuses on the dynamics of life-history evolution. A core goal is to understand the evolutionary processes that shape our energy producing genes.
  • A/Professor Alistair Evans: Al’s research explores the many aspects of biology that influence the shape or morphology of animals – evolution, development and function – in embryos, adults and fossils.
  • A/Professor Matt Hall: Matt's research group focuses on the evolution of host-pathogen interactions with a focus on the causes and consequences of variation in host susceptibility and pathogen virulence. Research projects centre on three key themes: i) sex differences and the evolution of infectious disease; ii) invasion biology and host-pathogen interactions; and, iii) the consequences of global change.
  • Dr Kay Hodgins: Kay researches plant evolution in human altered environments, plant adaptation to climate change, crop evolution and the evolution of plant sexual systems.
  • Professor Dustin Marshall: Dustin is an evolutionary ecologist who is seeking to improve our understanding of how energy moves through biological systems.
  • Dr Mike McDonald: Mike and his research group evolve populations of microbes in a variety of laboratory environments, with the goal to understand how organisms adapt to better fit their environment.
  • Dr Matt McGee: Matt’s research utilizes experimental studies of behaviour in conjunction with modern genomic techniques to understand the phenotypic and genotypic dynamics of ecological speciation, evolutionary innovation, and convergent evolution in fish communities.
  • A/Professor Christen Mirth: Christen's research explores the regulation and evolution of developmental plasticity,focussing on how environmental conditions alter body size and shape, life history traits, and patterns of foraging behaviour.
  • Dr Keyne Monro: Keyne's research explores how selection and evolution shape biological diversity, and the evolutionary consequences of environmental change in marine ecosystems.
  • Professor Anne Peters: Anne's research area is behaviour and ecology of wild birds, with a focus on physiological mechanisms and implications of life-history trade-offs.
  • A/Professor Matt Piper: Matt's research focuses on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which nutrition modifies lifelong health and ageing. Our goal is to use this knowledge to improve health in humans.
  • Professor Carla Sgro: Carla researches the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change. How evolutionary processes can be incorporated into biodiversity conservation is a focus.
  • Professor Paul Sunnucks: Paul's group applies field biology, ecological genomics/genetics and spatial environmental analysis to the population biology of animals under natural and human-impacted conditions.
  • Dr Sridevi Sureshkumar: Sridevi is interested in understanding the mechanisms of alternative splicing in the context of evolution of phenotypes.
  • Professor Craig White: Craig is an evolutionary physiologist interested in describing and understanding the causes and consequences of physiological variation in animals.
  • Professor Bob Wong: Bob is interested in the evolution of animal mating systems and behaviour, and how investment in sex influences reproductive strategies and biological diversity.

Bee and flower. Image: Dr Rebecca Adrian (Dowling Lab)

Eucalyptus venation. Image: A/Professor Martin Burd.

Dental Complexity. Image: A/Professor Alistair Evans.

Structure and MDS of an F420H2-Dependent Reductase (Ney et al Front Microbiol 2017). Image: Dr Chris Greening.

Variation in fish faces. Image: Dr Matt McGee.

Male meiotic chromosomes stained for synaptonemal complexes (red) and histone H4K20 (green). Image: Jo Merriner (O'Bryan Lab).