Moritz Group - Evolutionary biogeography & conservation

The Moritz Group focuses on evolutionary biogeography and conservation: biodiversity discovery and conservation; biogeography and speciation; biological responses to climate change.

Biodiversity discovery & conservation

The majority of species remain to be discovered, yet habitats are being lost of affected by global change at an ever increasing rate. New tools from genomics, phylogenetics and spatial environmental analysis are revolutionizing our ability to discover diversity and map hotspots of unique species- or phylo-diversity. Building on previous studies of rainforests in eastern Australia and Brazil, and in California, our lab has turned its attention to the monsoonal tropics of Australia -  perhaps the largest ecologically intact tropical savanna on the planet, and also a frontier for biodiversity discovery. Through a combination of field work, genomics, phenotyping and novel spatial analyses we have discovered species and hotspots of diversity new to science and this is now informing conservation strategies by agencies and NGOs. In ongoing work, we aim to better understand the evolutionary processes that generated this diversity and how this knowledge can inform conservation under rapid environmental change.

Biological responses to climate change

Though existing species have persisted through multiple episodes of climate change in the past, we are entering a new phase of rapid, human-caused climate change with no analogue in the recent geological past. Understanding how species respond by migration or adaptation is key to finding strategies to promote persistence of biodiversity. Our lab studies this through a combination of comparative studies of phenotypic and genomic diversity in across environments in space and time. One potential solution is to identify long-term climatic refugia across the landscape - also likely centers of local diversity and seek to protect these and habitat linkages to them. 

Diversity and conservation of Australian marsupials

Australia hosts a globally unique radiation of marsupial mammals, many of which are strongly impacted by invasive species and habitat alteration. We are using genomics and advanced statistical methods to understand species boundaries and relationships across the entire radiation. For species now restricted to islands, we are investing divergence history and genetic erosion in remnant populations that are also the source for translocations to fenced areas on the mainland.

CBA Centre Administrator

EBL Genomics Technician

EBL Manager

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Selected publications

  • Fujita, M. K., J. A. McGuire, S. C. Donnellan, & C. Moritz (2010): “Diversification & persistence at the arid-monsoonal interface: Australia-wide biogeography of the Bynoe’s gecko (Heteronotia binoei; Gekkonidae).” Evolution 64:2293-2314
  • Bell, R.C., J. L. Parra, M. Tonione, C. Hoskin, J. B. MacKenzie, S. E. Williams & C. Moritz (2010): “Patterns of persistence & isolation indicate resilience to climate change in montane rainforest lizards.” Molecular Ecology, 19 (12): 2531-2544.
  • Moritz C., C. J. Hoskins, J. B. MacKenzie, B. L. Phillips, M. Tonione, N. Silva, J. VanDerWal, S. E. Williams, & C. H. Graham (2009): “Identification & dynamics of a cryptic suture zone in tropical rainforest.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences 276: 11235-1244.
  • Carnaval, A.C., M. J. Hickerson, C. F. B. Haddad, M. Rodrigues & C. Moritz (2009): “Stability predicts genetic diversity in the Brazilian Atlantic forest hotspot.” Science 323: 785-789
  • Moritz, Craig, J. L. Patton, C. J. Conroy, J. L. Parra, G. C. White, & S. R. Beissinger (2008): “Impact of a century of climate change on small-mammal communities in Yosemite National Park, USA.” Science 322: 261-264.
  • Graham, C. H., C. Moritz & S. E. Williams (2006). "Habitat history improves prediction of biodiversity in rainforest fauna." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103: 632-636
  • Hoskin, C. J., M. Higgie K. R. McDonald & C. Moritz (2005). "Reinforcement drives rapid allopatric speciation." Nature (London) 437: 1353-1356.
  • Hugall, A., Craig Moritz, A. Moussalli & J. Stanisic (2002). "Reconciling paleodistribution models & comparative phylogeography in the Wet Tropics rainforest land snail Gnarosophia bellendenkerensis (Brazier 1875)." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99: 6112-6117.
  • Moritz, Craig (2002). "Strategies to protect biological diversity & the evolutionary processes that sustain it." Systematic Biology 51: 238-254.
  • Moritz, C. (1994). "Defining 'evolutionary significant units' for conservation." Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9(10): 373-375.
  • Moritz, C. & W. M. Brown (1987). "Tandem Duplications in Animal Mitochondrial DNA Species Variation in Incidence & Gene Content among Lizards." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 84(20): 7183-7187.
  • Moritz, C. (1983). "Parthenogenesis in the Endemic Australian Lizard Heteronotia binoei Gekkonidae." Science (Washington D C) 220(4598): 735-737

ARC Discovery projects and DECRA fellowships

Story | Monday 17 November 2014

New Academy of Science Fellows

Story | Wednesday 26 March 2014
Hanna Kokko and Craig Moritz from RSB's Division of Evolution, Ecology and Genetics have been elected Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.

CSIRO and ANU launch biodiversity research centre

Story | Thursday 4 April 2013

Professor Craig Moritz recipient of the 2012 Molecular Ecology prize

Story | Tuesday 26 February 2013
Professor Craig Moritz has been awarded the prestigious Molecular Ecology Prize for 2012.

2012 ARC grant success

Story | Friday 23 November 2012

RSB Director's Seminar: RSB Futures from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist

Event | Mon 18 March 2024
Professor Craig Moritz, Director of the Research School of Biology
Recorded EE Seminar - Audrey Prasetya

E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Fantastic Birds and Where You Can’t Find Them: Historical Biogeography of Indo-Australian Birds

Event | Fri 23 February 2024
Despite only taking up 3% of the world’s total landmass area, the Indo-Australian Archipelago holds a disproportionate amount of biodiversity.

E&E Seminar: Diversification, adaptation and extinction: genomic insights from Australian mammals

Event | Thu 22 February 2024
Australia has among the most unique biodiversity in the world, but also the highest historical rate of extinction.
Recorded EE Seminar - Yusuke Fukuda

E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Understanding the movement and dispersal of saltwater crocodiles in and around Australia

Event | Fri 20 October 2023
Human-crocodile conflict is becoming a conservation challenge worldwide. The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest (>6 m total length, >1000kg) and most aggressive living crocodilian species being responsible for increasing attacks on people and domestic animals in many countries.

E&E PhD Exit Seminar: Phylogeny and systematics of the longhorn beetle genus Rhytiphora

Event | Fri 13 November 2020
The taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships of longhorn beetles have been debated for decades, with neither morphological nor molecular data reaching a consistent solution.