Dr Daniel Noble

PhD Macquarie University (Australia); MSc University of Guelph (Canada)
Lecturer
College of Science
T: +61 02 6125 0423

Areas of expertise

  • Life Histories 060308
  • Animal Physiological Ecology 060806
  • Behavioural Ecology 060201
  • Evolutionary Biology 0603
  • Animal Behaviour 060801
  • Biostatistics 010402

Research interests

My research is highly integrative combining observational and experimental work with statistical modeling and molecular genetics to address questions in ecophysiology and evolutionary ecology. While I mainly use lizards as model systems for testing theoretical frameworks, I am also working in other systems that lend themselves well to tackling important empirical questions (e.g. crickets, Daphnia, Drosophila).

While my research interests are broad, I am currently exploring questions in four main research areas:

Understanding the covariance between metabolism, behaviour, and life-history

Recent theoretical developments in behavioural ecology suggest that metabolism, personality (i.e. repeatable individual differences in behaviour within and across contexts), learning, and life-history (growth rates, age at maturity, reproductive output)  should covary as a result of differences in the “pace-of-life” resulting from different energetic needs of individuals. While we have some support for these ideas there are conceptual and methodological challenges in this area. My group explores how individual metabolic rate influences behaviour, learning and life-history in a short-lived lizard species, the Delicate Skink (Lampropholis delicata). 

The role of maternal, environmental and genetic effects on metabolism and life-history 

Maternal, environmental and genetic effects interact in complex ways to shape developmental trajectories and thus phenotypic variation. Energy requirements in eukaryotes are driven almost entirely by oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) taking place along the electron transport chain (ETC) of mitochondria. Energy produced by the ETC is critical for cell growth and division and governs the available energy an organism has to allocate to somatic maintenance, growth, and reproduction. We are exploring how mitochondrial gene-environment interactions affect mitochondrial function, whole-organism metabolic rate and life-history using Lampropholis delicata. Using semi-natural mesocosms we are also trying to understand the consequences any changes in metabolic traits have on fitness.

Selection on function-valued traits

Many traits are not simply static features of the individual phenotype but they develop and are influenced by the environment and as such can be viewed as functions. This is a formal way in which we can incorporate phenotypic plasticity and development into evolutionary theory, yet treating traits as being ‘function-valued’ has important statistical and conceptual challenges. Understanding how natural and sexual selection operates on curves and whether genetic variance exists on the parameters estimates describing these curves is thus important in understanding how developmental trajectories evolve. I am interested in developing and applying statistical models to test the utility of the function-valued approach in helping us understand the phenotypic evolution of plastic traits.

Meta-analysis and statistical methods in ecology and evolution

Single studies, while important, are often not enough to garner more general insights into specific hypotheses on there own. My group makes use of meta-analysis to test the general support for specific hypotheses and questions and understand what drives variation in effects across studies in ecology and evolution. With collaborators, we are actively developing new meta-analytic approaches and software that can be used to address a variety of questions an problems encountered in our field. 


Biography

I started my career studying evolutionary genetics in mole salamanders in Canada at the University of Guelph. I then received an NSERC postgraduate scholarship to move to Macquarie University to do a Ph.D. where I studied the evolutionary ecology and ecophysiology of alternative reproductive tactics in water skinks (Eulamprus quoyii). I then moved to the University of New South Wales on an ARC Discovery Early Career Award (DECRA) where I delved more deeply into meta-analysis and began to study the Delicate skink, along with Zebrafish; exploring how early developmental environments impact metabolism, behaviour, learning and life-history.

Past student projects

Fonti Kar – PhD 2016 – 2020 – University of New South Wales – Co-advised with A/Prof. Shinichi Nakagawa – Phenotypic plasticity and pace-of-life in a widespread lizard, Lampropholis delicata

Birgit Szabo – PhD 2016 – 2019 – Macquarie University – Co-advised with Dr. Martin Whiting – Comparative cognition accross in lizards with diverse social structure

Kirke Munch – PhD 2014-2018- University of Tasmania – Co-advised with Dr. Geoff While – Sociality, personality and learning in a family living lizard, Egernia whitii

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:  26 September 2022 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers