Snow and overwinter survival
Winter snow provides an insulating layer that buffers the sub-nivean environment from temperature extremes. Several studies in the northern hemisphere have tested the impacts of changing winter snow conditions (more snow, less snow, earlier snow melt, later snow melt etc) on alpine species, but there has been much less research in southern hemisphere ecosystems. I am interested in the effects of reduced snow cover on arthropods that remain active under snow over winter. I'm also interested in how snow cover affects the hatching success of overwintering grasshopper eggs.
Thermal adaptation in alpine insects
I am interested in the role that thermal adaptation plays in defining the distributions and microhabitat selection of alpine species. I've looked at this in alpine grasshoppers (genus Kosciuscola), beetles (genus Nebria) and ice crawlers (genus Grylloblatta). If you don't know what ice crawlers are, you should probably Google them. They are amazing. I'm currently working on a project, led by Sean Schoville, on the role of climate niche evolution in generating diversity in ice crawlers.
Biodiversity and genetic structure in mountain environments
Species living in mountain environments are often distributed across "sky islands". These "islands", separated by lower elevation "seas", typically have a more dynamic history than oceanic islands are particularly interesting because the size of the "island" depends on the vertical distribution of the species. I am interested in how low elevation areas influence the relative genetic structure of species occupying different elevation zones, across the alpine region. Australia's mountains provide a perfect setting because many alpine peaks are relatively isolated.
Evolution of niche breadth
The breadth of a species niche - the variety of resources it can use - is a fundamental component of its ecology. But why do some species use only a narrow range of resources while others use many? Is a jack-of-all-trades a master of none? When is it adaptive to have a narrow niche, and when a broad niche? These questions are not new, but finding the answers to them has proven difficult.
Multiple mating in fiddler crabs (Honours research)
Well, fiddler crabs are just cool, so why not study their bizarre form of polyandry? In the fiddler crab Uca mjoebergi, females often mate with a neighbouring male (surface mating), before wandering through the population to search for another male to mate with (burrow mating). The latter male gains about 99% paternity and females incubate their eggs in this male's burrow. So why do females surface mate? My research suggests that females might get something else out of this interaction...