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Honours gets curiouser and curiouser

10 August 2017
A project on the stranger things in life

In the lead up to Science Week’s weird and wonderful JD Stewart lecture - Stranger things: The uncanny world of animal pregnancy, we slither by a curious honours project in reptile pregnancy.

Joshua Kemsley is seven months into his honours year and is thoroughly fascinated by strange science.

“We only have to look to the animal world to see some pretty strange, yet fascinating adaptations that can give us insights into the past and the future.  

“Reptile pregnancy is not really what I envisaged when I embarked upon my science degree, but I have always been fascinated by science, and I have come to love lizards.”

By understanding the evolutionary history of our native species, we are also able to predict their adaptability to changing environments.
Honours student Joshua Kemsley
Joshua Kemsley with a blue-tongue lizard in the field

Honours student Joshua Kemsley in the field with one of the lizards he's grown to appreciate.  

Joshua was nearing the completion of his undergraduate degree and wanted to continue his adventures into the world of science.

“Doing honours was the logical choice.”

To discuss his prospects, Joshua organised a meeting with potential supervisors.

“During this meeting, I realised how little I knew about their areas of expertise. I took my lack of knowledge as a challenge, and after one meeting I was hooked.

“The research conducted by my supervisors Dr Camilla Whittington and Professor Michael Thompson really stood out. I was riveted by the Evolutionary and Integrative Zoology lab’s research and they have certainly sparked my interest in lizards.”

“My project is focused on comparing the genetics and physiology underpinning labour in egg-laying and live-bearing skinks.”

Joshua’s real-world research broadens our understanding of the biological phenomena around us, while answering big questions such as ‘how did pregnancy evolve?’

“By understanding the evolutionary history of our native species, we are also able to predict their adaptability to changing environments. My research has even had some unexpected applications, as the hormone I’m looking at could potentially be used to treat dystocia (egg boundness) in captive reptiles in the future.

“This branch of science is curiosity-driven, and the concept of ‘stranger things’ really does encapsulate the work our lab does,” Joshua added.

“I have no regrets about undertaking my honours, although at times the learning curve is steep!

“The fundamental techniques I’ve learnt will be applicable to a broad range of fields. I have gained both laboratory experience and field experience, including an essential introduction on how to become an expert lizard fisherman!”

A lizarman? Definitely a job of the future.

“The honours experience as a whole has given me an introduction to the life of a scientist and has given me direction for my future career.”

Even if the subject matter is a little strange.

Join us to find out more about the strange and uncanny aspects of animal pregnancy on Wednesday 16 August 2017.

Stranger things: The uncanny world of animal pregnancy

Giving birth to a live baby is an important biological adaptation. Join Dr Camilla Whittington to learn about her work in identifying pregnancy genes and the fundamental processes of pregnancy in lizards, mammals, fish, and the only male-pregnant animals - the seahorses. 

Wednesday 16 August 2017
5.45pm - 7.00pm
Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Camperdown Campus
Free, registration requested
Register now

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