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I am interested in the molecular evolution of birds and animals. My research interests include New Zealand birds, island avian assemblages, the impact of the KT boundary on avian evolution, mitochondrial genome assembly, gene order, long branch attraction, phylogenetics and systematics.
I completed my PhD with Professor David Penny in 2010, and since then have undertaken postdoctoral positions at the Australian National University in Canberra, and the University of Montpellier II in France. My previous research has revolved around mitochondrial genomes and phylogenetics of birds, marsupials and Xenarthrans (armadillos, anteaters and sloths)
As part of a Marsden grant I am investigating the genetic architecture of flightlessness in island birds using comparative genomics. My focus is on the New Zealand rails, including takahe, pukeko, weka, and banded rail. Modern DNA sequencing technology allows the investigation of ecological traits and the link between genotype and phenotype (molecules and morphology) on a scale previously impossible.
Flightlessness has evolved independently numerous times within birds, and especially within the rails. My research focuses on the genome level differences between flighted and flightless sister species. One prediction of flightlessness is that it requires less energy. I am investigating metabolic gene pathways for evidence of relaxed selection in flightless rails. Flightless birds also have relatively reduced wings and tails, and increased body size relative to their flighted sister species.
I am interested in using genomic tools to understand avian and mammalian evolution, and have research collaborations with researchers in New Zealand, Australia, France and Canada.
Resource Development and Management
Field of research codes
Animal Systematics and Taxonomy (060301): Biological Adaptation (060303): Biological Sciences (060000): Ecology (060200): Evolutionary Biology (060300): Genetics (060400): Genome Structure and Regulation (060407): Genomics (060408): Molecular Evolution (060409): Speciation and Extinction (060311): Vertebrate Biology (060809): Zoology (060800)
Genomics, evolution, phylogenetics, birds, mammals, ancient DNA