Rod Peakall

Head of Division, Ecology and Evolution

Rod Peakall completed his BSc (Hons) in 1984 and PhD in 1987, both at the University of Western Australia (UWA), before taking up an ARC funded 5-year postdoctoral position at Macquarie University in Sydney in 1988. He subsequently joined The Australian National University (ANU) in 1993. He has also held visiting fellowships at Rutgers University, USA (1992) and at ETH (2003), Zurich, Switzerland.

He brings 30 years of research experience in evolutionary biology with expertise in pollination biology, genetic analysis and chemical ecology. He also brings a track record of successful leadership on an ongoing series of inter-disciplinary Australian Research Council (ARC) projects. He has supervised many Honours students, more than 25 PhD students, and hosted 15 postdocs.

He is the first author of the widely used population genetics software package, GenAlEx: Genetic Analysis in Excel (Peakall and Smouse 2006; Peakall and Smouse 2012).

Research interests

  • Research in the Peakall lab has long employed multidisciplinary approaches spanning the fields of ecology, genetics, molecular biology and chemical ecology.

  •  Investigations have spanned a range of pure and applied questions in evolutionary biology, conservation biology and chemical ecology.

  • The integration of multidisciplinary tools allows novel insights that are not possible on their own. Presently the research programs fall into two primary themes.
  1. Theme 1, the evolution of specialised pollinator interactions
  2. Theme 2, population genetic analysis and evolution

  • Orchids have featured strongly in theme 1 because their often highly specialised pollination systems are ideal for exploring a range of interesting ecological, biochemical, molecular and evolutionary questions.
  • The target species for theme 2 have been diverse, spanning bacteria, fungi, plants, birds and mammals.

Recent grants

  • ARC Discovery - Peakall R, Pichersky E, Linde C, Weston P (2015-2019) The biosynthesis and evolution of novel semiochemicals in Australian orchids
  • ARC Linkage - Peakall R, Dixon KW, Linde, C (2011-2013) Above and below-ground specialization in Australian orchids and its implications for diversification and vulnerability
  • ARC Discovery - Peakall R, Barrow RA, Pichersky E (2010-2012) The chemical, biochemical, genetic and ecological basis of pollinator-driven speciation in Australian sexually deceptive orchids
  • ARC Linkage - Peakall R, Dixon KW, Linde C, Krauss SL, Barrow RA, Ghisalberti EL, Hutchinson MF (2009-2012) A multidisciplinary research program to assess limiting factors and predict impacts of climate change for endangered Australian orchids
  • ARC Discovery - Peakall R (2004-2008) Sympatric speciation in Australian sexually deceptive orchids

Media coverage

  • Scope TV Network 10 (August 2017)
  • Deceptively Sexy Orchids Chemistry Views (2017)
  • Research Highlights This Week in Nature (Sep 24, 2015).
  • Orchids and chemical trickery. Chemistry Australia (October 2010)
  • Pretty cheats and liars lure researchers. UWA News (Nov 2009)
  • Flowers that tell lies. ANU ScienceWise, (Sep/Oct 2008)
  • For orchids, life is meant to be sleazy. Canberra Times (Nov 17, 2008)
  • The flower of seduction. Nature 445, 8-16-8-17  (Feb 22, 2007)

Selected publications

All publications

Rod coordinates and lectures in BIOL2151 Principals of Genetics.
He coordinated and lectured in the Masters of Molecular Genetic Analysis program, and coordinated BIOL3153 Conservation Biology.