Our people

Our people

Brian Atwell

brian.atwell@mq.edu.au
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We have broad interests in plant functional biology, drawing together the traditional disciplines of plant physiology, proteomics and genomics. The core theme is plant stress biology, specifically how plants survive in physically adverse conditions such as flooding, drought, heat and salt stress. Our experiments are designed around commercially important (eg eucalypts, cereals, cotton, tomato) and the many wild relatives of these plants that evolved in much harsher conditions such as the Australian savannah. Using this approach, we have successfully targeted stress-tolerance genes and learned how they confer this tolerance and how they might be exploited for commercial purposes, particularly as a means of enhancing resilience in the world’s agricultural systems.

Glenn Brock

glenn.brock@mq.edu.au
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Our research activities focus on elucidating the evolution, phylogeny, biodiversity, ecology and biostratigraphy of the earliest (stem group) members of the three major supergroups of bilaterian animals (Ecdysozoa, Spiralia and Deuterostomia) that arose during the Cambrian Explosion. Our work focuses on studying exceptionally preserved macro- and microfossils from a variety of localities in Australasia. We are particularly interested in the phylogenetic, ecological and biostratigraphic significance of early Cambrian ‘Small Shelly Fossils’.
Jemma Geoghegan

jemma.geoghegan@mq.edu.au
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Our research uses evolutionary analysis, statistical models and phylodynamic methods in order to infer the dynamics of key viral infections affecting human and animal health. Our work largely concentrates on infectious disease dynamics, revealing important insights into new and emerging infections. The research has led to some major findings; for example: i) found that biological features of viruses could predict human-to-human transmissibility, ii) revealed that while many viruses seem to  co-diverge with their host species over evolutionary timescales, overall ‘host jumping’ plays a much greater role in shaping virus evolution than previously thought, and iii) applied new phylodynamic approaches that combine genetic and epidemiological data to uncover important insights into the dynamics and spread of infectious disease within populations.

Michael Gillings

michael.gillings@mq.edu.au
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The unifying theme of research in our lab is the investigation of genetic diversity using DNA markers and sequence analysis. Over the past 10 years, we have worked on viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants, invertebrates, sharks, bony fish, birds and mammals. We have developed a range of molecular methods for rapidly assessing genetic and functional diversity in genomic DNA and DNA extracted directly from environmental samples (metagenomic DNA).

Darrell Kemp

darrell.kemp@mq.edu.au
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We are interested in addressing fundamental questions in evolution, genetics and behaviour. Broadly, our research deals with the evolution, genetics and behavioural ecology of visual signals, sexual selection and sexual conflict, predicting adaptive potential and evolutionary trajectories in both wild and captive populations and the evolutionary dynamics of hostendosymbiont interactions. A general theme of the lab is to exploit the novel and often exciting empirical opportunities presented by non-model study species. We are not limited to particular taxonomic groups but have tended to mainly use insects due to their lab tractability for evolutionary genetics. The astounding biological diversity of this group also presents intriguing possibilities for testing novel hypotheses and for creating novel approaches to existing hypotheses.

Matthew Kosnik

matthew.kosnik@mq.edu.au
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We use sedimentary records  to provide a historical context  to modern marine ecosystems.  We seek to quantify how western colonisation and development have impacted Australian  marine ecosystems. To achieve this goal, we are actively working to understand the preservation of biological remains in sedimentary records and the idiosyncrasies of palaeontological assemblages. More generally, we are interested in the interplay between ecological and evoluntionary processes at the broadest spatial and temporal scales.

Michelle Power

michelle.power@mq.edu.au
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Our group investigates the ecology and evolution of host-parasite interactions and dissemination of human-derived pathogens to wildlife within a one health framework; which recognises that the pathogen cycle involves the movement of potential disease-causing organisms between humans, domesticated animals and wildlife. We are studying the pathogen cycling in threatened systems, such as in Antarctica, and in endangered wildlife species.
Photograph of Fleur Ponton
Fleur Ponton

fleur.ponton@mq.edu.au
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Nutrition is critical to immune defence and resistance to pathogens, with consequences that affect the health, welfare and reproductive success of individual organisms, and poor nutrition has profound ecological an evolutionary implications. Despite the undoubted importance of nutrition to immune defence, the challenge remains to capture the complexity of this relationship. The prospect of our research is to study the network of relationships between food composition, immunity, gut microbiota and disease. Describing the network of interactions underlying nutritional immunology is essential to provide a more comprehensive and robust understanding of the key determinants of the outcome of host-pathogen interactions.

Julia Raftos

julia.raftos@mq.edu.au
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Our interest is in the antioxidant systems in the human red blood cell, and at present my studies centre around the antioxidant glutathione. We are particularly interested in investigating the way glutathione levels are controlled within red cells. To obtain a quantitative understanding of the interaction of these processes in maintaining appropriate glutathione levels, we have developed a mathematical model of glutathione metabolism. We use the model combined with experimental measurement to identify the underlying causes of glutathione deficiency in situations ranging from disease states to long-term storage of red blood cells before transfusion.
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