I worked in the federal Environment Department for many years before taking the plunge into a PhD at UNSW, based at the National Herbarium on Black Mountain. After submitting my thesis on spatial patterns of phylogenetic diversity in Australia and new methods to measure them, I moved to the US in 2010, for a 2 year postdoc fellowship at Yale focussing on patterns of global mammal diversity. I was then lucky to snare a postdoctoral position at ANU with Craig Moritz, returning to Canberra in 2012 to work on patterns and causes of lizard diversity and endemism in Australia’s monsoonal tropics. In mid 2016 I started my DECRA project.
Current Research Interests
I am fascinated by the incredibly uneven spatial distribution of biological diversity, at all levels, particularly centres of phylogenetic endemism. This leads to two questions. First, how can phylogenetic information to contribute to better conservation decisions? We recently published a conservation assessment for lizards of the Kimberley which identifies priority areas for conservation directly from evolutionary units, bypassing the uncertain and rapidly changing taxonomy. I want to help make phylogenetic approaches to conservation accessible, practical and well-used by on-ground conservation managers. The more fundamental question is why centres of endemism are found where they are? Especially, how do particular types of landscape generate endemism? I am tackling this through various approaches including process models, where dispersal, niche evolution and isolation are simulated through evolutionary time.
What do you enjoy most about research
I really like the mix of collaboration and focussed solo work in science. It can be incredibly entrepreneurial – building teams and working together to promote an idea, attract funding, research and write. But this is balanced by the quiet time reading, writing, coding.
- This profile first appeared in the RSB Newsletter, Issue 94, February 2018.