Dr Kylie Cairns
Research Fellow

Dr Kylie Cairns

School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences

I am an early career researcher specialising in molecular biology and conservation genetics. My undergraduate (BSc) and postgraduate (PhD) training was completed at the University of New South Wales. Between 2012 and 2014, I managed a genetic testing service to estimate domestic dog introgression in dingoes, after being trained by the late A/Prof Alan Wilton. In 2019, I started working at the Centre for Ecosystem Science as a postdoctoral researcher. This has enabled me to start an independent research project continuing and developing my PhD studies on biogeographic variation in dingoes. Together with Professor Mike Letnic and A/Prof Mathew Crowther (USyd), partnering with the Australian Dingo Foundation, we are investigating the utility of next-generation SNP technology to estimate genetic admixture in dingoes. This data will drive research into important scientific questions concerning the origin, biogeography and conservation of dingoes but also provide a model for the process of genetic admixture. 

I am actively involved in scientific communication, to disseminate the findings of research about dingoes to the public and stakeholders. I am a scientific advisor to the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation and Australian Dingo Foundation. I am also a board member of the Colong Foundation for Wildlife and co-chair of the IUCN Canid Specialist Group 'Dingo Working Group'.


(G14) Samuels Building Centre for Ecosystem Science School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences UNSW Australia Sydney NSW 2052
  • Book Chapters | 2011
    Cairns KM; Wilton AN; Ballard JWO, 2011, 'The identification of dingoes in a background of hybrids', in Urbano KV (ed.), Advances in Genetics Research. Volume 6, edn. Original, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY, USA, pp. 309 - 327
  • Journal articles | 2021
    Cairns K; Newman K; Crowther M; Letnic M, 2021, 'Pelage variation in dingoes across southeastern Australia: implications for conservation and management', Journal of Zoology
    Journal articles | 2021
    Cairns KM, 2021, 'What is a dingo - Origins, hybridisation and identity', Australian Zoologist, vol. 41, pp. 322 - 337, http://dx.doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2021.004
    Journal articles | 2021
    Cairns KM; Crowther MS; Nesbitt B; Letnic M, 2021, 'The myth of wild dogs in Australia: Are there any out there?', Australian Mammalogy, http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM20055
    Journal articles | 2021
    Cairns KM; Surbakti S; Parker HG; McIntyre JK; Maury HK; Selvig M; Pangau-Adam M; Safonpo A; Numberi L; Runtuboi DYP; Ostrander EA; Davis BW, 2021, 'Genetics supersedes observational records regarding New Guinea canids', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 118, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022368118
    Journal articles | 2021
    Crowther MS; Cairns KM; van Eeden LM; Letnic M, 2021, 'Introgression does not influence the positive ecological and functional role of dingo populations', Australian Zoologist, vol. 41, pp. 338 - 346, http://dx.doi.org/10.7882/az.2020.016
    Journal articles | 2021
    Tatler J; Prowse TAA; Roshier DA; Cairns KM; Cassey P, 2021, 'Phenotypic variation and promiscuity in a wild population of pure dingoes (Canis dingo)', Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, vol. 59, pp. 311 - 322, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jzs.12418
    Journal articles | 2020
    Surbakti S; Parker HG; McIntyre JK; Maury HK; Cairns KM; Selvig M; Pangau-Adam M; Safonpo A; Numberi L; Runtuboi DYP; Davis BW; Ostrander EA, 2020, 'New Guinea highland wild dogs are the original New Guinea singing dogs', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 117, pp. 24369 - 24376, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2007242117
    Journal articles | 2019
    Cairns K; Nesbitt B; Laffan S; Letnic M; Crowther M, 2019, 'Geographic hot spots of dingo genetic ancestry in southeastern Australia despite hybridisation with domestic dogs', Conservation Genetics, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10592-019-01230-z
    Journal articles | 2019
    Smith B; Cairns K; Adams J; Newsome T; Fillios M; Deaux E; Parr W; Letnic M; van Eden L; Appelby R; Bradshaw C; Savolainen P; Ritchie E; Nimmo D; Archer-Lean C; Greenville A; Dickman C; Watson L; Moseby K; Doherty T; Wallach A; Morrant D; Crowther M, 2019, 'Taxonomic status of the Australian dingo: the case for Canis dingo meyer, 1793', Zootaxa, vol. 4564, pp. 173 - 197, http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4564.1.6
    Journal articles | 2018
    Cairns KM; Shannon LM; Koler-Matznick J; Ballard WJO; Boyko AR, 2018, 'Elucidating biogeographical patterns in Australian native canids using genome wide SNPs', PLoS ONE, vol. 13, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198754
    Journal articles | 2017
    Cairns KM; Brown SK; Sacks BN; Ballard JWO, 2017, 'Conservation implications for dingoes from the maternal and paternal genome: Multiple populations, dog introgression, and demography', Ecology and Evolution, vol. 7, pp. 9787 - 9807, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3487
    Journal articles | 2017
    O'Neill AJ; Cairns KM; Kaplan G; Healy E, 2017, 'Managing dingoes on Fraser Island: Culling, conflict, and an alternative', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 23, pp. 4 - 14, http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/PC16026
    Journal articles | 2016
    Arendt M; Cairns KM; Ballard JWO; Savolainen P; Axelsson E, 2016, 'Diet adaptation in dog reflects spread of prehistoric agriculture', Heredity, vol. 117, pp. 301 - 306, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/hdy.2016.48
    Journal articles | 2016
    Cairns KM; Wilton AN, 2016, 'New insights on the history of canids in Oceania based on mitochondrial and nuclear data', Genetica, vol. 144, pp. 553 - 565, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10709-016-9924-z
    Journal articles | 2010
    Cairns K; Wolff J; Brooks RC; Ballard JWO, 2010, 'Evidence of recent population expansion in the field cricket Teleogryllus commodus.', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 58, pp. 33 - 38, http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO09118

My research has been funded by donations from conservation organisations such as the Australian Dingo Foundation and Save the Fraser Island Dingoes Inc. Donations to support our ongoing research can be made via https://alumni.unsw.edu.au/giving/SCI/DingoGenetics.

I am carrying out a citizen science project using DNA testing of dingoes and wild canids in Australia to investigate the occurrence of dingo x dog hybridisation and the evolutionary history of dingoes. To contribute samples to the research please email me (k.cairns@unsw.edu.au). Samples can come from wild rescue dingoes, roadkill or animals killed as part of wild dog management activities. I also DNA test captive dingoes used in conservation breeding programs. If you are a landholder, wildlife manager, local government or conservation group that wishes to carry out DNA testing on a larger set of samples to inform management and conservation practices please get in contact directly, I frequently consult on this type of project and am open to future collaborations.

Donations towards my research can be made at https://alumni.unsw.edu.au/giving/SCI/DingoGenetics.

Project updates can be see on Facebook by following @DingoGeneticsResearch.

My broad research interests include using genetics and genomics to investigate patterns of diversity, adaption, evolutionary history and demography. My primary focus currently is the use of genomics to inform conservation and management practices of wild animals, particularly those where genetic admixture is a concern.