My research helps us to understand how species survive when faced with strong environmental pressures
I'm especially interested in how populations become different from each other when they are isolated, how much they 'stay in touch' and share novel genetic solutions to evolutionary 'problems', and how rapid evolution (in response to severe environmental pressure) shapes changes in behaviour and in DNA.
Why should we care about this? Because understanding species resilience when their environment changes is crucial as we try to conserve Earth's diversity, manage crops, and control pests, in an ever-changing world. My research speaks 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.