Potential projects

Find out more about the potential projects available to research as part of your studies with E&ERC.

Black fly

Evolutionary Ecology of Sexual Reproduction Research Group

The following projects are based in the Brooks lab and may include cosupervision with or at UNSW or colleagues overseas. We're looking for honours and PhD students interested in evolution, ecology and/or behaviour. Our research has both laboratory and field components. We use a variety of insect and fish species that are well suited to experimental work, although opportunities exist to work on other vertebrate and invertebrate groups as well as on humans.

  • Mate choice and life histories.
  • Evolutionary biology of ageing and physiological performance.
  • Behavioural evolution.
  • The intra-genomic conflict that arises from sex-dependent selection.
  • Ecological and evolutionary genetics/genomics.
  • Sexual selection and sexual conflict.
  • Using computer graphic animations to study human attractiveness.
  • Measuring selection on complex suites of traits in any organism.
  • The interaction between conservation and mating systems.

Research projects in the Bonduriansky Lab

Our research focuses on the causes and consequences of sexual selection and conflict at genetic and phenotypic levels, and the evolution and expression of ageing. Our main study system is the giant stilt-legged flies of Australia (Family: Neriidae; Genus: Telostylinus). These flies occur along the east coast, with one species in NSW and another in tropical North-Queensland. We also maintain laboratory populations of each species for experiments. Potential projects:

  • Can a male's environment affect his sperm quality and the health of his offspring?
  • Maggots in mortal combat? Testing interactions between the larval environment and larval behaviour.
  • Your offspring are what you eat: effects of parental diet on offspring in flies and beetles.
  • The somatic manifestations of ageing: how the body breaks down and how this process is affected by the environment.
  • Understanding the sources and implications of phenotypic variation in wild populations of neriid flies.
  • Sexual behaviour and sexual selection in natural populations of neriid flies.

Experimental Marine Ecology and Evolution

Projects in the laboratory of Prof. Alistair Poore and Prof. Emma Johnston involve the use of manipulative experiments to understand ecological and evolutionary processes in marine ecosystems. We're interested in supervising students that have interests in marine ecology, evolution, toxicology and environmental impacts.

  • Evolutionary ecotoxicology 1: How do animals adapt to toxicants?
  • Evolutionary ecotoxicology 2: How does contamination affect sexual dimorphism?
    (with Russell Bonduriansky).
  • Effects of habitat change on biodiversity.
  • Nutritional ecology of marine herbivores.
  • How much damage can a plant tolerate?
    (with Steve Bonser)
  • How does plant structure affect animal communities?
  • Contemporary ecological threats from historical pollution events.
  • Invasion resistance: assessing the role of disturbance and diversity.

Research Projects in Behaviour and Evolution

There are a number of projects available with Terry Ord. Topics include the evolution of animal communication, behavioural adaptations to major ecological transitions, genetic differentiation and 'neutral' change in behaviour, the role of phenotypic plasticity in macroevolution and others.

Eco-Stats Research Group

The Eco-Stats Research Group is a team of statistics researchers and students led by David Warton, who specialises in ecological statistics — improving the methods for making use of data to answer research questions commonly asked in ecology.

We evaluate existing methodologies, explore the application of modern methods that are essentially unknown to ecologists, and where needed we develop entirely new statistical methodology, with an emphasis on model-based approaches (which are usually easier to interpret and which often have optimality properties).

  • Community-level modelling of presence-only data.
  • Modelling inter-species correlation.
  • Testing for trait-environment association.
  • Finite mixture modelling and ecological applications.

For further details go to www.eco-stats.unsw.edu.au.