Projects

Queen pheromones

Research on the identity, mode of action, and evolution of social insect queen pheromones

Science about science

Research about science itself: research practice, bias, reproducibility, and culture. Mostly text mining.

Sexual selection

Population genetic consequences of sexual selection, honest signalling, sperm biology, etc.

Gene drives

Population genetics of natural and synthetic gene drives

Intralocus sexual conflict

The causes, consequences, and genetic basis of the maladaptation that arises when males and females share a genome.

Evolution in social insects

Question-driven research on the evolution and genetics of ants and bees

The gender gap in science

Using text mining to help redress gender inequality in the STEM workforce.

Sperm

Sperm competition, and evolution of sperm morphology

5 most recent publications

Browse all or visit Google Scholar.

We test whether variation in sexual selection can predict speciation and extinction rates across up to 5,812 species of passerine birds. Male‐biased sexual selection, and specifically sexual size dimorphism, predicted two of the three measures of speciation rates that we examined.

We examined the fate of experimentally immune-challenged worker honeybees that had been reintroduced to the hive. We find that they often leave the hive, both by ‘altruistically’ leaving under their own power, and by being dragged out by other workers. Using a chemical transfer experiment, we show that the latter response is mediated by chemicals present on the body surface of immune challenged workers.

This review summarizes our current understanding of the evolution of resistance to naturally-occurring and synthetically-created gene drives. We explore how insights from earlier work might help us deelop evolution-proof gene drives, better predict the outcome of gene drive releases, and understand genomic conflict in general.

We find evidence that the mitochondrial DNA carried by Drosophila larvae affects the fitness of other cohabiting larvae – a mitochondrial ‘indirect genetic effect’. This result implies that the effects of mitochondrial DNA on the phenotype of males (specifically, male larvae) may have evolutionary consequences, in contrast to the received wisdom that mtDNA inside males is ‘invisible to selection’ due to maternal inheritance of mtDNA.

We measured the effects of a natural gene drive, Sex Ratio (SR), on fitness in Drosophila pseudoobscura. We find that SD is very costly, especially when homozygous, and that it also has transgenerational effects on offspring fitness and sex ratio. Using a model, we show that these effects may explain the frequency and clinal patterns of SR in nature.

People

Current lab members

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Tom Keaney

PhD candidate

Tom is working on the theme of sexual selection and population fitness. For his MSc in my group, Tom tested whether mitochondrial DNA inside males is truly invisible to selection (answer: not if there’s kin selection!).

Alumni

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Daisy Kocher

MSc student

Daisy investigated social insect queen pheromones, using experiments with honey bees and Drosophila (which, remarkably, shows a similar response to honey bee queen pheromone as a worker bee).

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Dan Power

Honours student

Dan found that polyandry helps beetles colonise new habitats, and tested how well sexual selection clears harmful mutations from the gene pool.

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Frances Jacomb

Research Assistant

Frances used experimental evolution to show that sexual selection can affect the evolution of insecticide resistance. We also used quantitative genetics to test whether the gender load diminishes under environmental stress.

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Dr. Heidi Wong

Research assistant

Heidi ran my Drosophila team at U Melbourne and worked on sexual conflict, gene drives, and more.

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Justin Cally

MSc student

Justin and I looked at whether sexual selection has a net positive or negative effect on the fitness of populations, using meta-analysis and comparative analysis.

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Tarli Conroy

Honours student

Tarli conducted her honours project with me, working on social immunity and chemical recognition in honeybees.

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