Potential Masters Projects

The evolutionary dynamics of invasions

The process of invasion imposes unusual evolutionary pressures on the vanguard population.  These evolutionary pressures can change rates of dispersal and reproduction; the very traits determining the rate of spread.  There is a growing number of field studies demonstrating rapid evolutionary shifts associated with invasion, but there are few replicated laboratory experiments.  This project would look to create replicate invasions in the lab, using Daphnia as a model system, and observe the eco-evolutionary outcomes of invasion in a controlled laboratory setting.

Supervisor: Ben Phillips, Matt Hall (Monash)


The role of Toxoplasma in Australian mammal declines

Australia has an abysmal record of mammal extinctions.  Unfortunately they are ongoing, and in northern Australia, in particular, we are witnessing a sudden catastrophic loss of mammals.  And no-one really knows why.  One possibility is a pathogen and one likely candidate here is Toxoplasma.  Following on from work looking at the presence/absence of Toxoplasma across Australia, this project would use molecular tools to examine the strain diversity currently in Australia, as well as where strains are distributed.

Supervisor: Rebecca Traub, Ben Phillips, Nelika Hughes.


Other Daphnia projects

I am developing an Australian Daphnia species as a model for work in ecology and evolution.  Daphnia are a classic model organism, but Australian researchers don’t really have access to the northern hemisphere species because of quarantine issues.  But Daphnia are really excellent models for all sorts of questions in ecology and evolution, and we have plenty of native species here in Australia.  So myself and Matt Hall are collecting clone lines and setting up Oz Daph as a study system.  On a prosaic note, they make great Masters projects because they are admin free (you can get started immediately), and you can be guaranteed to collect large amounts of data and design lovely experiments. So I’m very happy to discuss any topic you are interested in with regard to using these little critters.

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