CIE members successful in winning an ARC-Discovery grant

Congratulation to all CIE members that were successful in winning an ARC-Discovery grant with leading partners from University of Sydney and University of Melbourne. Full details below:

Rebecca L.
Rebecca L.

Project ID: DP160102262
Investigators: Barbara Downes; Rebecca Lester; Stephen Rice
Years Funded: 3, $462,300
Administering Organisation: The University of Melbourne

This project aims to improve our understanding of landscape-scale patterns of species diversity, particularly invertebrates. A central question in ecology asks how habitat patchiness interacts with dispersal abilities to determine species diversity. Field tests of hypotheses are lacking due to logistic difficulties in quantifying habitat patchiness and dispersal over landscape scales. A new model proposes that fractals (a clever way of measuring environmental complexity) can capture both habitat patchiness and species’ responses. Advances in river ecology have solved the logistic problems and will allow tests to compare the three main hypotheses about species diversity. The project aims to improve information about which tools will provide the best guidance, benefitting the discipline of ecology and conservation managers.

Marcel K.
Marcel K.

Project ID: DP160102146
Investigators: Edward Holmes; Marcel Klaassen; Aeron Hurt
Years Funded: 3, $534,100
Administering Organisation: The University of Sydney

This project aims to understand how avian influenza virus (AIV) emerges, evolves and spreads in wild birds. AIV has the potential to devastate the poultry industry and cause human pandemics, but the factors that shape the genetic diversity of AIV in its wild bird reservoir are poorly understood. The project plans to combine genomic, ecological and phylogenetic approaches to reveal key aspects of AIV evolution, as well as the risk for future viral emergence. Using sampling sites in Australia and Antarctica, it plans to investigate AIV diversity, the evolutionary dynamics of AIV in wild birds and poultry, and the role played by environmental transmission in AIV ecology.

Lee Ann R.
Lee Ann R.

Project ID: DP160102991
Investigators: Richard Shine; Lee Rollins
Years Funded: 4, $385,700
Administering Organisation: The University of Sydney

The project seeks to unravel the mechanisms by which a species responds to challenges such as pollution, invasive species and climate change. Organisms can deal with challenges by changing their phenotypes in response to environmental cues (plasticity) and/or by longer-term changes in gene frequencies within a population (adaptation). Plasticity itself can be adaptive; so how does it evolve? Invasive species offer a unique opportunity to answer that question, because a founding population (with modest genetic variation) must deal with myriad challenges in its new home. Using Australia’s cane toad invasion as the model system, the project aims to tease apart the roles of epigenetic and genetic modifications, and the interplay between them, as drivers for the toads’ success and rapid evolution in Australia.