All future 2014 events

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School Seminar Series: Mother's Curse and the Trojan Females   View Summary
24 February 2014
Prof Neil Gemmell
Department of Anatomy, University of Otago
Seminar title: Mother's Curse and the Trojan Females
Host details :
Semester 1, 2014 Honours Introductory Seminar   View Summary
26 February 2014

Please join us to hear our semester 1 honours students give their introductory seminars on 26 February.

Hear the latest cohort of students share their plans for 2014 before joining us for refreshments. Whether you're a weather-beaten old Professor or a bright-eyed undergrad, there's something for everyone.

All welcome.

Co-Chairs Dieter Hochuli & Simon Ho

1.30-1.42pm Emily Benn - Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska & David Raubenheimer
Sex specific macronutrient foraging strategies in Australasian gannets (Morus serrator)

1.42-1:54pm Jason Borg - Frank Seebacher & Ashley Ward
The effect of personality on behavioural thermoregulation in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

1.54-2.06pm Anthea Brescianini - Glenda Wardle & Maurizio Rosetto (RBG)
Patterns of gentic variation along an altitudinal gradient / a study of the New South Wales peat swamp flora

2.06-2.18pm Grace Campbell - Mary Byrne
Examining reduced female fertility in Arabidopsis thaliana

2.18-2.30pm Elisha Duxbury - Dieter Hochuli
Traits of seed dispersing ants along an urban gradient

2.30-2.42pm Rachel Finch -Mathew Crowther
Causes of niche-separation between two sympatric species. A.flavipes & A.stuartii

2.42-2.54pmSara-Rose Perry- Fiona Clissold
Gut limitations; is protein limiting locusts uptake of carbohydrate from leaves?

2.54-3.06pm Grace Swain - Eddie Holmes
The evolution of calciviruses in rabbits and their use as biological controls

3.06-3.30pm Afternoon Tea

3.30-3.42pm Niklas Mather - Madeleine Beekman, Emily Remnant & Ben Oldroyd
Vectors, Varoa and deformed wing virus: the changing landscape of honeybee disease

3.42-3.54pm Ana Flavia Minguetti - Robyn Overall & Deborah Barton
Investigation of plasmodesmata ultrastructure and distribution using high resolution microscopy

3.54-4.06pm Alistair Tang - Robyn Overall
Transport in Epiphytes

4.06-4.18pm Phoebe O'Leary - Ashley Ward & Tanya Latty
Investigating cleaner fish behaviour in the Great Barrier Reef

4.18-4.30pm Damian Holden - Rick Shine
The effect of spatial sorting on immune investment in cane toads

4.30-4.42pm Kevin Hendrawan - Mike Thompson & Katherine Belov
Maternal immune regulations during viviparous pregnancy: How inflammation towards the embryo is regulated in viviparous skinks

4.42-4.54pm Shirley Zhu - Ashley Ward
Comparative courtship behaviour in different populations of guppy

School Seminar Series: Arthropod behaviour, TBC   View Summary
4 March 2014
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
Seminar title: Arthropod behaviour, TBC
Host details :
School Seminar Series: Sexual selection and life-history trade-offs mediate personality variation in   View Summary
7 March 2014
Dr Wiebke Schuett
Zoological Institute, University of Hamburg
Seminar title: Sexual selection and life-history trade-offs mediate personality variation in zebra finches and pea aphids
Host details:
Semester 2, 2013 Honours Final Seminar   View Summary
13 March 2014

So what's it all come to? Please join us to hear our semester 2 Honours students give their final seminars on March 13.

Hear them outline their results and what they mean before joining us for refreshments afterwards.

All welcome.

Chairs - Dieter Hochuli & Simon Ho

1.30pm Welcome - Dieter Hochuli

1.32-1.47pm Pamela Wong - Osu Lilje, Peter McGee, Dennis Dwarte (ACMM) & Floris van Ogtrop
Foraging, colonisation and resource utilisation by soil filamentous fungi

1.47-2.02pm Melissa Wong - Ashley Ward
An analysis of the fine-scale movement behaviour of fish under predatory threat

2.02-2.17pm Lakshmi Sunderasan - Clare McArthur & Peter Banks
Possums, problems and personality: How do individuals respond to novel situations and challenges in their environment?

2.17-2.32pm Douglas Roy - Ashley Ward
Learning and Personality in a Teleost Fish

2.32-2.47pm Gregory Clarke - Rick Shine & Michael Crossland
Chemical weapons: can we control cane toads by using their own pheromones against them?

2.47-3.02pm Felicity Nelson - Rick Shine & Greg Brown
The warrior and the worm: the impact of invaders on native host-parasite systems

3.02-3.30pm Afternoon Tea

3.30-3.45pm Elissa McFarlane - Mathew Crowther, Clare McArthur & Daniel Lunney (EOH)
Quantifying landscape ecology for koalas on the Liverpool Plains, northernNew South Wales

3.45-4.00pm Margot Law - Dieter Hochuli & Clare McArthur
Trees under pressure: disruptions to insect-plant interactions along an urban gradient

4.00-4.15pm Christopher Jolly - Matthew Greenlees & Rick Shine
Alien vs. Predator: the impact of cane toads on native predators in southern Australia

4.15-4.30pm Casey Jessop - Osu Lilje, Jodi Rowley (Aus Museum) & Frank Gleason
Understanding the pathogenicity of isolated filamentous microbial pathogens on several species of fish during egg and embryo development

4.30-4.45pm Charlotte Fletcher - Peter Banks & Bradley Law (DPI)
Bats, boxes and birds in an urban bushland matrix

4.45-5.00pm Kaitlyn Preece - Madeleine Beekman
Dance this way - Pollen foraging and nest site selection in the honey bee, Apis mellifera.

Please join us for refreshments.

School Seminar Series: Behavioural waves in fish, sheep and cicadas   View Summary
14 March 2014
Prof David Sumpter
Mathematics Institute, Uppsala University
Seminar title: Behavioural waves in fish, sheep and cicadas
Host details :
School Seminar Series: Patterns and mechanisms: Postcopulatory sexual selection and sexual conflict    View Summary
21 March 2014
Dr Christopher Friesen
School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney
Seminar title: Patterns and mechanisms: Postcopulatory sexual selection and sexual conflict in Garter Snake mating systems
Internal speaker, to RSVP for lunch contact Emily Remnant
School Seminar Series: The queen, her pheromone and reproductive hegemony in honey bees   View Summary
28 March 2014
Dr Vanina Vergoz
School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney
Seminar title: The queen, her pheromone and reproductive hegemony in honey bees
Internal speaker, to RSVP for lunch contact Emily Remnant
School Seminar Series: Trickery without mimicry in brood parasitic birds   View Summary
4 April 2014
Dr Ros Gloag
School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney
Seminar title: Trickery without mimicry in brood parasitic birds
Internal speaker, to RSVP for lunch contact Emily Remnant
School Seminar Series: Spider sex, cricket calls, and violent video games   View Summary
11 April 2014
Dr Michael Kasumovic
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales
Seminar title: Spider sex, cricket calls, and violent video games: Three things that make my world go round
Host details :
School Seminar Series: Males exist: Does it matter?   View Summary
2 May 2014
Prof Hanna Kokko
Research School of Biology, ANU
Seminar title: Males exist: Does it matter?
Host details:
Keast Lecture: The Thermodynamic Niche   View Summary
16 May 2014

Dr Michael Kearney, Keast lecturer for 2014.
Dr Michael Kearney, Keast lecturer for 2014.

Dr Michael Kearney presents the 2014 Keast lecture: The Thermodynamic Niche - physiologically based models of climatic constraints on animals

Climate influences the distribution and abundance of terrestrial animals in a rich variety of ways. Most directly, however, it imposes thermodynamic constraints on heat, water and nutritional balances. The sum of these constraints can be thought of as defining the 'thermodynamic niche'.

Dr Kearney will discuss how the thermodynamic niche can be characterised using integrated models of the biophysics of animals and their microclimates, together with metabolic theory. He will show how the models can be coupled to weather and climate databases to predict constraints on animal survival, behaviour, phenology, growth, development and reproduction, and ultimately distribution limits.

Dr Michael Kearney is an alumnus of the School of Biological Sciences, having graduated with a PhD in 2004. He is now an Australian Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology at the University of Melbourne. Dr Kearney's work focuses on how climate impacts animals and the predicted impact of climate change on those same animals.

School Seminar Series: Unravelling the molecular basis of monotreme reproduction   View Summary
23 May 2014
Dr Frank Gr├╝tzner

School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide

Seminar title: Unravelling the molecular basis of monotreme reproduction

Introduction: Monotremes (platypus and echidna) feature a complex sex chromosome system that has reshaped our understanding of mammalian sex chromosome evolution. I will discuss our work that addresses fundamental questions about activity, organisation and function of the monotreme sex chromosome complex. We discovered a role for cohesins in the organisation of sex chromosomes at meiosis and found evidence of a transient meiotic sex chromosome inactivation mechanism in males. Although there is no evidence for chromosome wide X inactivation or dosage compensation in females, identification of a long-non coding RNA expressed exclusively in females raises the possibility of region specific dosage compensation in monotremes. Other aspects of monotreme reproduction (e.g. sex determination and placentation) are equally fascinating and remain largely unexplored on the molecular level. I will discuss identification and characterisation of genes that may have roles in sex determination and placentation in monotremes

followed by lunch at the Grandstand ($5 students, $10 staff), drinks at menu prices

Please contact if you wish to attend the lunch
School Seminar Series: Transgenerational memory in C. elegans   View Summary
6 June 2014

Dr Alyson Ashe
School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney
Seminar title: Transgenerational memory in C. elegans

Internal speaker, to RSVP for lunch contact Emily Remnant

It has recently become clear that in some circumstances Lamarck may have been right. There are a growing number of examples where a clear case can be made for the inheritance from parent to offspring of environmentally acquired gene expression changes. The more complex and outbred the organism however, the more difficult this inheritance is to study. I am studying this phenomenon using a model organism, the nematode C. elegans, and will present data showing two clear cases of transgenerational memory as well as some clues to the mechanism by which this may occur. In addition, I will present some recent data concerning the possibility of inherited immunity to viral infection, using the first virus known to naturally infect C. elegans in the wild.

Postgraduate Showcase   View Summary
12 June 2014

Join us for this important event on the School's calendar, which showcases the abundant talent of the School's postgraduates. This is a great opportunity for you to interact with our Postgraduate students and learn about the wide range of projects they are researching.

Download abstracts

Co Chairs: Elizabeth Lowe, Isobel Ronai & Clarissa Fraser

9.55am Welcome: A/ Prof Peter Banks

10.00 - 10.20am Sean Coogan - Prof D Raubenheimer & Dr J Becker (Vet Sci)
From field to fork: a laboratory and field-based investigation into the nutritional ecology of fishes.

10.20 - 10.40am Charles Foster - A/Prof S Ho & A/Prof M Henwood
Dating with flowers: examining the utility of modern phylogenetic techniques.

10.40 - 11.00am Ryan Leonard - A/Prof D Hochuli & A/Prof C McArthur
Road to ruin: vehicle pollution and its effects on insect diversity and herbivory.

11.00 - 11.20am Henry Lydecker - A/Prof D Hochuli & A/Prof N Lo
Tick, hosts and urbanization: an ecological and social perspective.

11.20 - 11.40am Morning Tea

11.40 - 12.00pm Gus Porter - Dr W Figueira & A/Prof R Coleman
Fish assemblages and aquatic habitat properties in Sydney Harbour.

12.00 - 12.20pm Marcelo Reis - Dr W Figueira & A/Prof R Coleman
Elasmobranch's by-catch in trawl fishing

12.20 - 12.40pm Amelia Saul - A/Prof P Banks & A/Prof C Taylor
Incorporating time and density into alien management - finding the good in the bad

12.40 - 1.00pm Nicole Rollings - Prof M Olsson & Dr C Freisen
Transgenerational Epigenetics and their effects on Life Histories (or Dragons and the Fountain of Youth).

1.00 - 1.50pm Lunch

1.50 - 2.10pm Zoe Patterson Ross -Prof E Holmes & A/Prof S Ho
Comparative Phylodynamics of Viral Pathogens

2.10 - 2.30pm Andrew Ritchie - A/Prof S Ho & A/Prof N Lo
Delimiting species using multiple genetic loci.

2.30 - 2.50pm Jun Tong - A/Prof N Lo, A/Prof S Ho
The evolution of Dictyoptera

2.50 - 3.10pm Stephanie Yip - Prof C Dickman & A/Prof P Banks
Dietary shifts under risk of predation in arid regions.

3.15 - 4.00pm Poster presentation

Please join our speakers for refreshments at the conclusion of the poster presentation

School Seminar Series: Information and causation in living systems   View Summary
1 August 2014

Paul Griffiths
Professorial Research Fellow, Associate Director (Humanities and Social Sciences) Charles Perkins Centre, Department of Philosophy, The University of Sydney

Seminar title: Information and causation in living systems

Paul Griffiths
Paul Griffiths

The source of order in living systems has been the key question at the boundary of biology and philosophy since the eighteenth century. Today it is widely believed that living systems differ from non-living because they are driven by information, much of which has accumulated during evolution, and much of which is transmitted from one cell to another via genome replication. But there is at present no specifically biological measure of information that can underpin this vision. It describe our attempt to fill this gap in the scientific worldview by grounding the idea of biological information in contemporary philosophical work on the nature of causation.

School Seminar Series - Insights into termite symbioses from symbiont genomes and metabolomics   View Summary
8 August 2014

In addition to their role as pests in urban environments, termites are keystone species and ecosystem engineers in numerous environments, particularly in arid areas. The ecological success of termites stems from their social behavior, and their unparalleled ability among animals to digest lignocellulose, the structural component of plant cells.

The low nitrogen content of lignocellulose (~0.2% in wood) compared with N levels found in their tissues (~11%) means that termites must conserve this element. To do this they have developed intimate associations with microbes, which exist both in the hindgut, and - in the case of the giant Australian termite Mastotermes darwiniensis - in specialized cells of the 'fat body', an organ akin to the vertebrate liver.

We have sequenced the genome of Blattabacterium cuenoti from the fat body cells of M. darwiniensis, as well as from some cockroaches, which are close relatives of termites. Based on this data I will discuss the evolution and role of B. cuenoti in nitrogen recycling in its hosts. I will also present some insights into termite nitrogen metabolism from recent metabolic profiling of C13-cellulose-fed termites of a different species - Hodotermopsis sjoestedti - using 2D-NMR.
Steve Tyerman: GABA-gated anion channels in plants   View Summary
15 August 2014

Professor Stephen D. Tyerman
Professor Stephen D. Tyerman

Abstract: The non-protein amino acid, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) rapidly accumulates in plant tissues in response to biotic and abiotic stress, and regulates plant growth. Until know it was not known whether GABA exerts its effects in plants through regulation of carbon metabolism or via an unidentified signaling pathway. Here, we demonstrate that anion flux through plant Aluminum-activated Malate Transporter (ALMT) proteins is activated by anions and negatively regulated by GABA. Site-directed mutagenesis of selected amino acids within ALMT proteins abolishes GABA efficacy but does not alter other transport properties. GABA-modulation of ALMT activity results in altered root growth and tolerance to aluminum and alkaline pH, and is likely to have a role in regulating stomata, and growth of hypocotyl and pollen tube. We propose GABA exerts physiological effects in plants via ALMT proteins and GABA can be considered a legitimate signaling molecule in both the plant and animal kingdoms.

Biography: Professor Tyerman has researched nutrition, salinity and water relations in plants for some 30 years and was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2003. He is currently the Head of Plant Physiology, Horticulture and Viticulture at the University of Adelaide and leads the Adelaide node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology which was recently funded for a further 7 years. With Patrick Iland, Peter Dry and Tony Profit he co-authored: The Grapevine: from the science to the practice of growing vines for wine, which was awarded an OIV prize.

Semester 2, 2014 Honours Introductory Seminar   View Summary
21 August 2014

Please join us to hear our semester 2 Honours students give their introductory seminars.

Hear the latest cohort of students share their plans for 2014-2015 before joining us for refreshments. Whether you're a weather-beaten Professor or a bright-eyed undergrad, there's something for everyone.

All welcome.

Chair - A/Professor Simon Ho 

3.15pm Jordan Smith - Prof M Beekman & Dr R Gloag
Foraging and communication in Australian stingless bees

3.30pm Matthew ByattProf B Oldroyd, Dr T Latty & Dr N Chapman
Beekeeping and the Population Genetics of the Australian Stingless Bee (Tetragonula carbonaria)

3.45pm Teresa Gustowski - A/Prof D Hochuli & A/Prof C McArthur
Surviving the concrete jungle: Impervious surfaces, urban warming and their impact on plant-insect interactions

4.00pm Alec Simmonds - Prof F Seebacher
The effect of histone acetylation on locomotor performance in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

4.15pm George Wood - Dr W Figueira
Using automated camera systems to assess conflict in coastal habitat usage amongst humans and other top predators

Please join us for refreshments. 

Fiona Clissold: Diet quality for herbivores is more than just leaf chemistry   View Summary
22 August 2014

To predict the nutritional consequences for a herbivore of ingesting a particular plant, grinding up plant tissues and measuring the chemical composition gives little indication of the quality of that plant to herbivores. While there is a growing understanding of which nutrients are required by insect herbivores, and the consequences of restriction to imbalanced diets, this knowledge has come from studies using chemically defined artificial diets. The next challenge is to understand the realised nutritional outcomes for insects eating real plants. I will present experiments which set out to bridge this gap between plant composition and nutritional quality, using locusts as our model herbivore.
Macroevolution in Mammals: Evo-Devo and Rates of Evolution   View Summary
5 September 2014

Dr Alistair Evans (Future Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University)


Al's research explores the evolution, development and function of morphology in mammals over their 200 million year history. His multidisciplinary research combines fossils and modern biotechnology to establish some of the limits on evolution and predict the likely direction of evolution. In this talk he will explain the discovery of the 'inhibitory cascade' rule of tooth evolution, demonstrating that humans show the same evolutionary trends and limitations as mice. Other aspects of his work include re-engineering mouse development to replay evolutionary transitions in the fossil record, the speed of macroevolution from an animal the size of a mouse to one the size of an elephant, and predicting the shapes of undiscovered fossils. His work has been extensively published in international journals such as Nature, Science and PNAS.


Dr Alistair Evans is a biologist interested in the evolution of shape, exploring evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), functional morphology and palaeontology. Al studied zoology and completed his PhD at Monash University in 2003 before moving to Finland for postdoctoral work at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki. He returned to Monash in 2008 as an Australian Research Fellow, and has recently commenced an ARC Future Fellowship.

DTAnderson Lecture Theatre (A08) at 1.00 pm followed by lunch at the Grandstand - ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices

Please contact if you wish to attend the lunch

A Social Understanding of Grouping Patterns in a Keystone Marine Invertebrates   View Summary
12 September 2014

Associate Prof Ross Coleman, Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, The University of Sydney

There is still a major issue in animal ecology; why are animals in groups. Most of the research underpinning our understanding of grouping in invertebrates such as marine molluscs has concentrated on ecological explanations such as food supply, predation risk and desiccation. For most of these models, especially desiccation, such explanations have failed.

Associate Prof Ross Coleman
Associate Prof Ross Coleman

The most recent developments in the discipline of understanding grouping behaviour have been by theoreticians and modellers. Moreover, many of the important empirical studies have been done on animals such as fish in aquaria; so there is a dichotomy where for most vertebrates, researchers have considered social and ecological factors to explain patterns of grouping yet for almost all invertebrates, ecological (predation, food supply and settlement for example) causes for aggregation are the only explanations tested; the social dimension is not known for many invertebrates. Grouping could actually arise from social interactions and then ecological benefits arise as an emergent property.

The first step in investigating whether social interactions are involved in patterns of grouping is to measure where a social network existed. Here I present the results of a study testing whether limpets form a social networks. I show the model of a random set of interactions is not a powerful explanation but if we consider an interaction of homing and social processes we can generate realistic distributions of animals consistent with real observed limpet groups. For social (or anti-social) networks to work, organisms must be able to identify conspecifics and determine their locations. For non-homing limpets on rocky shores, such as Cellana tramoserica, the distribution of animals is often thought to be indicative of food or refuge/resources. Using manipulative experiments, I show that the distribution of C. tramoserica is actually dependent on the previous occupants of any particular resting site, in that if limpets are removed, incoming limpets will occupy previous resting sites in a much greater proportion than occupying new resting sites. This pattern held also for size-frequency distributions, such that site occupied by small limpets are much more likely to be occupied by incoming small limpets than large ones. From this, we have new evidence that decisions to occupy a microhabitat may not solely be based on resource values but also are associated with public information about previous microhabitat occupants. Hence, a new explanation for group ing in this important grazer may be that public information from mucus patches and trails lead to conspecific avoidance.

Semester 1, 2014 Honours Final Seminar   View Summary
18 September 2014

So what's it all come to? Please join us to hear our semester1 Honours students give their final seminars on September 18.

Hear them outline their results and what they mean before joining us for refreshments afterwards.

All welcome.

Welcome - A/Professor Simon Ho

1.00pm - Niklas Mather - Madeleine Beekman, Emily Remnant & Ben Oldroyd
The evolution of very virulent honey bee viruses

1.15pm - Phoebe O'Leary - Ashley Ward & Tanya Latty
Cleaning, dancing and cheating strategies of bluestreak cleaner wrasses

1.30pm - Emily Benn - Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska & David Raubenheimer
Sex specific diet in a monomorphic marine predator

1.45pm - Shirley Zhu - Ashley Ward
The Mating Game: Exploring Courtship Tactics in the Male Guppy

2.00pm - Elyse Weatherby - Will Figueira & Renata Ferrari
Coral on the catwalk: Using 3D models to quantify structural complexity of scleractinian corals

2.15pm - Alistair Tang - Robyn Overall & Debbie Barton
Water Transporting Trichomes of Tillandsia usneoides

2.30pm - Anthea Brescianini - Glenda Wardle & Maurizio Rosetto (RBG)
Patterns of genetic variation in NSW upland swamp flora

2.45pm - Sara Rose Perry - Fiona Clissold
Diet and Digestion

3.00pm - Afternoon Tea

3.25pm -Ana FlaviaMinguetti - Robyn Overall & Debbie Barton
Investigation of plasmodesmata ultrastructure and bidirectional transport

3.40pm - Damian Holden - Rick Shine
Behavioural and physiological consequences of mounting an immune response; an invasion perspective

3.55pm - Kevin Hendrawan - Mike Thompson, Katherine Belov, Camilla Whittington & Matt Brandley
Inflammatory gene expression in the uterus of live-bearing lizards

4.10pm - Rachel Finch - Mathew Crowther
The great unknown of Australian fire regimes: an investigation into the effects of fire frequency on invertebrate composition

4.25pm - Elisha Duxbury - Dieter Hochuli
How does habitat complexity affect ant assemblages in urban areas?

4.40pm - Grace Campbell - Mary Byrne
The Effect of the Ribosomal Protein Gene Family RPL24 on Female Fertility in Arabidopsis thaliana

4.55pm - Jason Borg - Frank Seebacher & Ashley Ward
Do different behavioural phenotypes determine performance in variable environments?

Please join us for refreshments.

Dengue virus transmission in the mosquito, Aedes aegypti   View Summary
19 September 2014

Beth McGraw, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University

The threat from dengue virus is growing with current estimates suggesting upwards of 380 million people annually at risk. Recent research has demonstrated that rather than being a passive vector of the virus, that variation in the genome of the mosquito, Aedes aegypti, can play a substantial role in transmission. Transmission ability can vary substantially over even very short geographic distances and hence have significant impacts on the landscape of circulating viruses and disease presence. One of the most powerful determinants of a mosquito's ability to transmit dengue viruses is the length of the extrinsic incubation period (EIP) or the time it takes for a virus to be transmitted by a mosquito after the consumption of an infectious blood meal. This trait is poorly studied, however, given its intractability. We have recently developed a novel approach for measuring EIP for dengue virus and have used this in combination with a large half-sib breeding design to study the genetic architecture of EIP in Ae. aegypti. We found EIP to be heritable and associated with shorter lifespans. We have also applied these tools to study dengue transmission in Ae. aegypti stably transinfected with the endosymbiotic bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis. The bacterium reduces the ability of the mosquito to transmit virus due in part to innate immune priming and competition for resources that are also required by the virus. Wolbachia is currently being field tested as a means for controlling dengue virus transmission in numerous sites around the world. Our work suggests that in addition to reducing the proportion of the population of mosquitoes that become infected and the dengue titer of those that do, that Wolbachia also slows the arrival of the virus in the saliva further assisting with reducing transmission.

Followed by lunch at the Grandstand - ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices - RSVP for lunch to

Murray Lecture   View Summary
24 September 2014

Wildlife Wars

Professor Justin O'Riain(Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town)delivers the 2014 Murray lecture. This free lecture is co-presented by the School of Biological Sciences and Sydney Ideas.

Dingoes are shot for eating our sheep; sharks and crocodiles are 'culled' for chewing on humans. All around us people are in conflict with nature.

When humans are either on the menu, or being forced to share it, our invariably irrational response reveals our recent evolutionary history as both a food source and a fearsome competitor.

It is within this framework that Professor Justin O'Riain explores the widespread conflict between humans and wildlife species that are adjusting to life in the anthropocene, the current geological epoch that acknowledges the impact of humans on Earth.With reference to recent research on species as different as baboons and white sharks, O'Riain uses his training as a behavioural ecologist to explore the drivers of the human-wildlife conflict. In the search for possible solutions we are forced to grapple with the uncomfortable contradiction between current conservation efforts and our determined march towards global economic security.

Professor Justin O'Riainis a behavioural ecologist who has worked on a wide variety of southern African wildlife species including mole-rats, porcupines, meerkats, wild dog, baboons, lions, leopards, jackals, seals and white sharks. Although his early interests were on how the natural environment shapes the behaviour and lifestyle of such species it soon became evident that it was impossible to ignore the enormous impacts of humans on all aspects of wildlife - from the individual to the ecosystem. The importance of translating such science into wildlife management policy has demanded that O'Riain face his own fears - using logic and evidence based arguments to convince politicians to manage for a future that is longer than an election term.

Please join us for a cocktail reception with interactive displays in the foyer after the lecture. All are welcome to attend.

Registration essential:

Causes and consequences of metabolic variation in animals Craig White   View Summary
3 October 2014

Associate Professor Craig White, the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland

Ass Prof Craig White
Ass Prof Craig White

Animals expend energy to process information, to forage for and digest food, to move, to grow and reproduce, and to generate or dissipate heat. Measures of metabolic rate integrate these processes, so it is reasonable to expect that variation in metabolic rate should be related to variation in fitness, but empirical demonstrations of such associations are surprisingly rare. Among- and within-species variation in body size and temperature are recognized as primary determinants of metabolic rate, but considerable variation remains once these factors are accounted for.

Understanding the causes and consequences of this variation in metabolic rate is a key problem facing the field of evolutionary physiology. I will examine the effects of body mass and temperature on metabolic rate, encompassing both intra- and inter-specific studies of a wide range of taxa, and will explore the possibility that the effects of size and temperature, and particularly their interaction, differ among taxa and among inter- and intra-specific studies. Then, using data drawn from phenotypic, quantitative genetic, and phylogenetic comparative studies, I will discuss the association between mass-independent variation in metabolic rate and fitness for a range of animals including lizards, cockroaches, and mammals, and will identify several key challenges facing tests of the hypothesis that metabolic rate is related to fitness.

Followed by lunch at the Grandstand- ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices - RSVP for lunch to

Managing mosquitoes is a critical component of urban wetland and wildlife conservation   View Summary
10 October 2014

Dr Cameron Webb
Principal Scientific Officer and Clinical Lecturer,
Medical Entomology, Pathology West - ICPMR Westmead and University of Sydney.

Mosquitoes are a natural part of Australia's wetland ecosystem. They may also play a potentially important role as a food source for insectivorous vertebrates. Notwithstanding the nuisance-biting impacts of mosquitoes, they're also associated with the transmission of pathogens including Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus that infect around 5,000 people every year. However, outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease are driven by more than just mosquito populations and the environmental conditions that influence their abundance. Local wildlife, particularly macropods, play a critical role in defining the risks of mosquito-borne pathogens, particularly Ross River virus.

Along the east coast of Australia, there are over 60 species of mosquito with a dozen or so considered important pests. These key mosquitoes, particularly Aedes vigilax, are closely associated with tide influenced estuarine wetlands but there are other important species associated with coastal swamp forests, floodplains and urban environments. Of increasing concern are mosquitoes associated with constructed freshwater habitats associated with new residential developments. This is particularly the case for constructed wetlands and other elements of water sensitive urban design strategies.

Assessing and managing mosquito-borne disease risk can be difficult given the spatial and temporal differences in mosquito abundance and diversity. However, there are gaps in our understanding of the interactions between mosquitoes and wildlife. Studies from two urban estuaries in Sydney suggest the presence of swamp wallabies substantially increases the risk of Ross Rover virus wre wetlands and mosquito populations are otherwise similar. This has implications for urban planning, wetland construction and rehabilitation and wildlife conservation. Does the conservation of wildlife (e.g. feral animal control, wildlife corridors) inadvertently increase the risk of mosquito-borne disease outbreaks?

The issues surrounding the management of mosquitoes, wetlands and wildlife, in light of increasing urbanisation, climate change and the threat of exotic mosquitoes and pathogens, will be discussed with the argument presented that "mosquito control" is a critical consideration in balancing environmental and public health risks.

Followed by lunch at the Grandstand - ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices - RSVP for lunch to

The real cost of high heating bills: thermoregulation and the evolution of bird beaks   View Summary
24 October 2014
Dr Matt Symond, Deakin University

Bird bills are iconic structures in evolutionary biology. Evolution in bill morphology has long been known to be associated with foraging and food availability, niche competition and sexual selection. Less well-appreciated is the important role bills play in thermoregulation. I will discuss evidence that climate predicts bird bill morphology through the pattern known as Allen's rule (larger extremities in warm climates). Further, I will consider how bill size can mediate behavioural thermoregulation in bird species. Finally, I will present evidence of increases in bill size in the past century concomitant with global warming.

Followed by lunch at the Grandstand - ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices - RSVP for lunch to
Drug Resistance in Malaria Parasites, not as clever as we though they were   View Summary
31 October 2014

Professor Geoffrey Ian McFadden
Botany School, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010

Malaria is a major global health issue. Parasite resistance to chloroquine spread globally over two decades and rendered the drug useless. Ominously, resistance to artemisinin (our current front line antimalarial) is already spreading. Atovaquone, developed as an antimalarial in 1990, mimics the mitochondrial electron transport intermediate ubiquinol and binds to mitochondrial protein cytochrome b to perturb electron transport essential for pyrimidine biosynthesis when parasites are in the human host. Parasite resistance to atovaquone emerged remarkably rapidly and the drug was deprioritised for use. Atovaquone resistance occurs through mutations to the parasite's mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Mutations prevent binding of the drug to cytochrome b protein.

We explored the transmissibility of atovaquone resistant parasites through mosquitoes in our malaria life cycle facility. None of five different atovaquone resistant mutants tested were transmissible, all failing to produce sporozoites and being unable to infect naive mice. Why? Aerobic respiration is only necessary in the insect phase of the parasite and the cytochrome b mutations are apparently tolerated in the blood phase but not the insect phase. This means that atovaquone resistance cannot be transmitted via the vector. We traced the transmission failure to a defect in female gametes, through which the mitochondrion is inherited. We crossed the atovaquone resistant (female sterile) line with a male sterile line, which restored fertility via complementation. Progeny inherited atovaquone sensitive mitochondria, further demonstrating that drug resistance cannot be transmitted. Non-transmissible resistance makes the drug vastly more useful than was initially thought.

Followed by lunch at the Grandstand - ($5 for students and $10 for staff), drinks at menu prices - RSVP for lunch to

Postgraduate Showcase   View Summary
6 November 2014

Join us for this important event on the School's calendar, which showcases the abundant talent of the School's postgraduates. This is a great opportunity for you to interact with our Postgraduate students and learn about the wide range of projects they are researching.

Chair - Steven Hawes

2.00pm Welcome by Associate Professor Peter Banks (Postgraduate Coordinator)

2.02pm - Announcement of the SoBS Postgraduate Excellence Prize - A/Prof Clare McArthur  

2.05pm - Samantha McCann - Dr M Greenlees, Dr M Crossland & Prof R Shine
Using chemical cues to control invasive cane toads in Australia

2.25pm - Georgia Karoline Kosmala - Prof R Shine, Dr G Brown & Dr K Christian
Physiological and behavioural adaptations of the invasive species Rhinella marina

2.45pm - Cameron Hudson - Prof R Shine & Dr G Brown
Phenotypic evolution in the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina); adaptations for dispersal

Exit Seminar - Introduction by Professor Maria Byrne

3.05pm- Natalie Soars - Prof M Byrne
Habitat soundscapes and sound production by tropical and temperate sea urchins and the swimming behaviour of their larvae

3.40pm Poster presentations

4.30pm Refreshments

Dividing the generations: the plant cell wall as a selective filter during female reproduction   View Summary
12 November 2014
Matthew Tucker, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide

The deposition of different polysaccharides in the plant cell wall varies greatly depending on the species, developmental stage and environmental stimuli. Despite this, little is known about the cell wall biosynthetic and hydrolytic enzymes that act on a tissue and cell-specific level to influence cell identity, function and fate. Using Arabidopsis as a model system, we have examined cell-specific transcriptional profiles to identify cell wall-related genes enriched during early female reproductive development. Families implicated in callose, pectin and cellulose biosynthesis and modification are particularly abundant. Altered expression of selected genes resulted in reproductive abnormalities consistent with defects in intercellular signalling. We are currently using this system to investigate how cell wall components influence communication between somatic and reproductive cell types during floral development.

Human population reduction is not a quick fix for environmental problems   View Summary
13 November 2014
Professor Corey J. A. Bradshaw

The inexorable demographic momentum of the global human population is rapidly eroding Earth's life-support system. There are consequently more frequent calls to address environmental problems by advocating further reductions in human fertility. To examine how quickly this could lead to a smaller human population, we used scenario-based matrix modeling to project the global population to the year 2100. Assuming a continuation of current trends in mortality reduction, even a rapid transition to a worldwide one-child policy leads to a population similar to today's by 2100. Even a catastrophic mass mortality event of 2 billion deaths over a hypothetical 5-year window in the mid-21st century would still yield around 8.5 billion people by 2100. In this talk I will explore some of the consequences of the expanding human population for biodiversity within the 35 global Biodiversity Hotspots, and describe different scenarios of impact and mitigation. Although there are no 'quick fixes', some immediate results for sustainability would emerge from policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources.

Professor Corey J. A. Bradshaw is Director of Ecological Modelling and an ARC Future Fellow III at the Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide,