Research Projects

Invertebrate animals have wonderful stories to tell and our ultimate goal is to tell those stories to the world. They often exhibit bizarre, extreme, or simply unique adaptations. In the Invertebrate Conservation Lab we focus on three main areas of research - evolutionary biology, (behavioural) ecology, and genetics and genomics - all of which aim to directly or indirectly contribute to conservation outcomes. Many invertebrates have extraordinary physiological adaptations to survive in stochastic environments. In addition, the behaviour of mountain animals must compensate for their environmental constraints as they go about gathering food, finding mates, taking shelter and being awesome. And, many invertebrates have interesting genetics. Populations are sometimes separated by insurmountable geographic barriers, while other times, barriers to gene flow are seemingly invisible and require a deeper look... and their genomes can vary from the tiny to the gigantic. 

Fighting Australian alpine grasshoppers (Kosciuscola tristis). Yep, that male wants to bite the other guy's head off... while the female patiently lays her eggs. Why are these grasshoppers so ferocious? (Photo: Kate Umbers).

Fighting Australian alpine grasshoppers (Kosciuscola tristis). Yep, that male wants to bite the other guy's head off... while the female patiently lays her eggs. Why are these grasshoppers so ferocious? (Photo: Kate Umbers).


Behavioural Ecology

What is Behavioural Ecology? Here is one idea. To us, it's the study of animal behaviour in their natural context, out in the field. It's often a rewarding privilege to see animals as they are. You should try it!

"On the day-long follows that I used to do with mothers and their offspring - these chimp families that I knew so well - there was hardly a day when I didn't learn something new about them."
- Dr Jane Goodall
 

Ooooh! phenotypic variation within a species is so exciting! Is it environmental? Is it genetic? Mountain insects, like these mountain katydids (Acripeza reticulata) have some of the largest genomes in the world... why IS that? (Photo: Kate Umbers)

Ooooh! phenotypic variation within a species is so exciting! Is it environmental? Is it genetic? Mountain insects, like these mountain katydids (Acripeza reticulata) have some of the largest genomes in the world... why IS that? (Photo: Kate Umbers)


Genetics & genomics

The study of genes (genetics) and genomics (whole genomes) has exploded in the last 30 years. We use it to understand genetic connectivity across the alps and to search for genes under selection. Get amongst it! 

"We wish to discuss a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid, DNA. This structure has novel features which are of considerable biologic interest."
- Dr Rosalind Franklin

"The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us."
- Dr Edward O Wilson
 

This remarkable grasshopper (Monistria sp.) has antifreeze in its heamolymph (insect blood). They can overwinter in the Snowy Mountains WITHOUT hot chocolate. This must be seen to be believed. (Photo: Kate Umbers)

This remarkable grasshopper (Monistria sp.) has antifreeze in its heamolymph (insect blood). They can overwinter in the Snowy Mountains WITHOUT hot chocolate. This must be seen to be believed. (Photo: Kate Umbers)


Physiology

The stuff of which living organisms are comprised can do extraordinary things and allow life to persist in extreme conditions. Physiology is the search for the super-powered superheroes of the living world. 

"A good physiological experiment like a good physical one requires that it should present anywhere, at any time, under identical conditions, the same certain and unequivocal phenomena that can always be confirmed."
- Dr Johannes Peter Müller