Native Australian orchids have featured strongly in Rod's research, where he has explored a range of fascinating ecological, biochemical, molecular and evolutionary questions. With support from national and international collaborators, some of the significant advances he and his team have made include: (1) The discovery of many new to science floral volatile compounds and experimental confirmation that they can control pollinator specificity, pollinator switching and speciation in orchids. (2) The confirmation that strong-pollinator mediated isolation can be a primary reproductive barrier in plants. (3) The unexpected finding that the highly specialized pollination strategy of sexual deception can be reversible, enabling new radiations of species with more generalised pollination. In this talk Rod will provide an overview of his long and distinguished career researching orchids, and remind us of the beauty of these floral gems.
Rod Peakall is a Professor in Evolutionary Biology at the Australian National University. His research on sexually deceptive orchids, in particular, has captured the imagination of the public, educators and scientists around the world. This research, along with his photography and videography, has featured in TV documentaries, popular articles and textbooks in both biology and chemistry. He has published more than 170+ articles in leading international journals spanning multiple fields of research. He is also the first author of the popular software package, GenAlEx-Genetic Analysis in Excel, which has attracted more than 17,000 Google Scholar cites, demonstrating its far-reaching impact.