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The Australian National University

Professor Craig Moritz

Professor
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Evolutionary Biology 0603
  • Speciation And Extinction 060311
  • Animal Systematics And Taxonomy 060301
  • Biogeography And Phylogeography 060302
  • Evolutionary Impacts Of Climate Change 060306

Research interests

Biodiversity discovery & conservation

The majority of species remain to be discovered, yet habitats are being lost of affected by global change at an ever increasing rate. New tools from genomics, phylogenetics and spatial environmental analysis are revolutionizing our ability to discover diversity and map hotspots of unique species- or phylo-diversity. Building on previous studies of rainforests in eastern Australia and Brazil, and in California, our lab is now turning its attention to the monsoonal tropics of Australia – perhaps the largest ecologically intact tropical savanna on the planet, and also a frontier for biodiversity discovery.

Biogeography and speciation
How new species form through a combination of selection, drift and isolation is intimately connected with the dynamics of the habitats they occupy in time and space. Our lab seeks to understand this dynamic at multiple scales, from populations and phylogographic lineages to entire clades, often using a comparative approach in particular biogeographic regions (eg. The Australian Wet Tropics Rainforests), and all in the context of current and paleo-environments. As a continental-scale island with a largely endemic biota, Australia provides an excellent opportunity for such studies.

Biological responses to climate change
Though existing species have persisted through multiple episodes of climate change in the past, we are entering a new phase of rapid, human-caused climate change with no analogue in the recent geological past. Understanding how species respond by migration or adaptation is key to finding strategies to promote persistence of biodiversity. Our lab studies this through a combination of comparative studies of phenotypic and genomic diversity in across environments in space and time. One potential solution is to identify long-term climatic refugia across the landscape - also likely centers of local diversity – and seek to protect these and habitat linkages to them. We also are using a combination of population genomics and data on trait and environments to test whether peripheral isolates of rainforest lizards are better adapted to climate fluctuation than populations in core rainforests.

 

Biography

Craig did his undergraduate at University of Melbourne (1976-1979), where he developed his passion for evolutionary biology. For his PhD at ANU (1980-1985), he studied chromosome evolution and speciation in arid zone lizards, along the way discovering all-female reproduction in Heteronotia binoei. Then he moved across the Pacific Ocean for a postdoc at University of Michigan (1985-1988; mitochondrial DNA and evolution of parthenogenesis), before returning to a faculty position at The University of Queensland (1988-2000), including a stint as Head of School. From 2000-2012 he was Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley. From mid 2012 he happily settled at EEG/RSB as a Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow. Craig is also the Director of the joint ANU-CSIRO Centre for Biodiversity Analysis.

Publications

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  19 December 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers