Our research

The centre's purpose is to build capacity for and quality of research, including postgraduate research and supervision.

Bird in a field

What is evolution?

Evolution is responsible for all of the biological diversity in the natural world and the fossil record. Evolution occurs within the context of ecological interactions between an organism and its environment. 

Evolution research 

The most exciting research in the whole organism biology is at the intersection of how organisms interact with their biological and physical environment (ecology) and the way in which these interactions affect adaptive change across generations (evolutionary biology). 

The purpose of our Evolution & Ecology Research Centre is to build capacity for the research and to improve the quality of research, including postgraduate research and supervision. There are 13 labs operating under the support of the research centre and more than 16 major research projects. 

In 2019, UNSW had 30 researchers who were included on the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers List. Among these researchers were Evolution & Ecology Research Centre members Professor Shinichi Nakagawa, Professor David Warton and Associate Professor Will Cornwell. Read more about the award winners.  

In 2020, UNSW was ranked 43rd in the world in ecology in the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU global subject rankings). This was up from our previous rank of 51st in 2019 and 75th in 2018. 

Our projects

The ecology of invasive species

Introduced species provide a fascinating system for studying the way plants adapt to life in a new environment.

Mathematical models of infectious disease evolution

Many viruses are known to mutate at a very fast rate of around 0.5 to one mutation per genome per replication.

Species distribution modelling: data analysis in ecology

Species distribution models (or SDMs) are used to explore how the occurrence of a species is related to the environment and how a species might respond to changes in its environment.

Unravelling the paradox of sexual reproduction

Despite many decades of research, it remains unclear why most animals can reproduce only via sex, and lack the potentially advantageous ability to switch to asexual reproduction in suitable conditions. An exciting new hypothesis proposes that sexual conflict—i.e., the presence of coercive males—could hold a key to this long-standing paradox.

The evolution of land-dwelling fish

The colonisation of new habitats is an important component of the evolution of new species, yet we have very little data on what prompts organisms to invade novel environments.

The repeatability of evolution and its implications for biodiversity

If distantly related species from different evolutionary starting points are exposed to the same selection pressures, do they evolve similar adaptive solutions?