Group research focus
My group works in two broad but largely unrelated, areas. My bread and butter (funded) research is on the molecular phylogenetics of Australian reptiles and frogs - and we work on all of them. We use this phylogenetic information to test evolutionary ideas about the patterns and speed of morphological and ecological change as it relates to changing climates and biomes. More recently we have scaled up to phylogenomic data sets and added in geometric morphometrics and micro-CT scanning to our work. I also always have been interested in behaviour and my group has done a lot of (largely unfunded) research on the evolution of mating systems using lizards, snakes and frogs. Most of this work is done in collaboration with students, postdocs and colleagues.
Teaching and research achievements
I think I am a good researcher and teacher but I am most proud of my postgraduate students and postdocs. I have supervised to completion a lot of honours, MPhil and PhD students and hosted a lot of ARC Postdocs and Postdoctoral Research Associates. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of seeing how they are progressing in their careers - and they are doing extremely well.
What do you enjoy most about teaching /OR/ What is your teaching focus?
I have taught in a variety of areas over the years but most of my teaching is in vertebrate evolution and zoology at the first and second year level. I certainly enjoy my second year course Australian Vertebrates but first year is my favourite teaching. I have taught a 3-4 week section of what is now the first year “Diversity of Life” course every year since 1998. I really get a buzz out of seeing new university students getting enthusiastic about something they didn’t necessarily think of as a career option.
Who is your science hero
It may be cliche but Charles Darwin is my science hero. I keep a picture of him above my computer - he is looking at me right now as I type this. I admire him because his insights were so diverse and so profound and he did it all via the power of intense observation of natural history and sustained intellectual grunt work - all at a time when talking about evolution was heresy. I wanted to name our first child Erasmus after Darwin’s famous grandfather, but my wife wouldn’t go for it.