My research helps us to understand how species survive when their environment rapidly changes
I'm especially interested in how rapid evolution (in response to severe environmental pressure) shapes changes in DNA, how populations evolve novel genetic solutions to stress, and how they become different from each other when isolated in different habitats (i.e., how biodiversity is distributed).
Why should we care about this? Because understanding species diversity and resilience when their environment changes is crucial as we try to conserve Earth's diversity, manage crops, and control biological invasions, in an ever-changing world. My research speaks directly to these issues by allowing us to predict how species might respond (e.g., adapt, move, go extinct) when faced with extreme pressures.
For example, in my current position as an Independent Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow at The Australian National University in Canberra, I'm working on a major project to test the idea that species may be 'pre-adapted' to survive in extreme conditions. I'm using advanced genomic tools to unlock the secrets hidden in 'antique DNA' – comparing gene sequences of pest moth samples that were collected in Australia over 100 years ago, before insecticides were used, to modern samples that rapidly become insecticide-resistant. These historical genomes will help me work out what makes these moths such great pests.