Peripheral isolates as hotbeds of adaptive diversity

Here we focus on small, isolated populations at the edge of a species’ range (peripheral isolates). We focus on these populations as potential hotbeds of adaptive diversity under climate change, and as ideal experimental systems in which to answer fundamental questions in ecology and evolution. We will interrogate peripheral isolates using a combination of cutting-edge molecular genetic technology and intensive field and lab work on whole animals and their phenotypes. Our work will be conducted in Australia’s Wet Tropics rainforest; a region whose historical biogeography and paleoclimate is remarkably well known; whose many endemic species are threatened by climate change; and where ecological surveys and genetic resources (e.g., multilocus phylogeographies, and complete transcriptomes) are already in place for key taxa.

Aims: The overall goal of this project is to predict and then assess the location of climatically-relevant adaptive diversity in peripheral isolates of the Wet Tropics. In achieving this broad aim, we will achieve several specific aims including to:

  1. Develop novel spatial analyses to predict the location of isolates containing maximally divergent phenotypes.
  2. Compare climatically-relevant phenotypes for a model species across gradients from central to peripheral populations, in the context of differential selection strength and rates of gene flow.
  3. Explore the genetic basis of divergent phenotypes through a combination of population genomic and crossing experiments.

This project is funded by ARC grant DP130100318 (2013-2015)

This project uses cutting edge molecular technology and spatial analyses to predict the location of diversity relevant to managing the impact of climate change. Knowledge generated in this project will open the door to the informed use of genetic translocation in efforts to kerb expected biodiversity losses.


  • Primary/Chief Investigator
  • Dr B Phillips (JCU)
  • Secondary/Partner Investigator
  • Professor C Moritz (ANU).

River in flood, Qld. (c) Tatiana Gerus, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.