New projects 2019

A number of large new projects will be getting underway in 2019 as a result of ARC funding schemes. Dustin Marshall and Matt Hall are now Future Fellows and Giulia Ghedini has received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. Dustin and Giulia will be using marine invertebrates to look into impacts of global warming whilst Matt is tackling the importance of sex in the evolution of infectious disease.

Within a given species, often the greatest heterogeneity that a pathogen will encounter will be due to differences between males and females. Yet, up until recently, insight into this crucial topic was driven by research into one sex, typically males.


Matt’s recent work has shown that, in the water-flea Daphnia magna, not only is pathogen fitness lower in males, but so is a pathogen’s evolutionary potential. What is more, the relative proportion of males in a population can fundamentally alter the overall transmission potential of a pathogen.

A. The graph on the left demonstrates that pathogen fitness is sex specific; in this case pathogen fitness is greater in females. B. The graph on the right indicates how changes in the relative proportion of males can increase the burden of disease for every individual.

This project was stimulated by Matt’s recognition that there is an absence of theory that explicitly considers how males and females can impact on the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease.  Matt is seeking to address this imbalance and integrate sex-specific effects into a general framework for disease evolution and epidemiology.

Matt will be using the water-flea Daphnia magnaand its associated pathogens to provide an experimental system in which he can manipulate infections in males and females, characterise the degree of differentiation, and generate predictive models.


Dustin will be investigating how temperature affects the life-history stages of feeding and non-feeding larvae. Marine life histories show strong biogeographic patterns: warmer waters favour species with feeding larvae and cooler waters favour species with non-feeding larvae. Warming could be particularly problematic for Australian species because in 2012, Dustin discovered that Australian coastal species predominantly have non-feeding larvae. This means that future temperatures increases could affect native Australian invertebrates disproportionately relative to other regions of the world. (Put in schematic from application here)

Schematic of the data pipeline to estimate developmental energetics across temperature regimes. For each species, parents will be exposed to a range of temperatures, after which the size and number of offspring that are produced will be measured. These offspring will then have every phase of their energy usage and acquisition, from fertilisation through to metamorphosis estimated across an orthogonal temperature range. Dustin will then integrate these estimates to create a thermal energy performance curve for each species and use these data to parameterise models of connectivity, viability and life history evolution.

At the end of an intensive experimental period, Dustin will have quantitative estimates of how temperature alters the success of a range of species from the gamete to the juvenile. At this stage Dustin will work with collaborators to generate predictive models to determine

  1. how does temperature alter the relative advantages for each of the two developmental modes?
  2. how does temperature affect dispersal and connectivity among populations for each developmental mode? and finally
  3. how does temperature affect the distribution of marine organisms with feeding or non-feeding larvae?


Giulia will be investigating how global warming will affect entire ecological communities.

We already know that warming can affect individuals by reducing their body size and speeding up energy use, as well as reducing water viscosity.  But what we don’t know is how these changes at the individual level might play out at the population and community level and affect the energy intake or expenditure of whole communities.

Giulia will be looking at how changes in body size at the individual level interact with population and community level ecosystem functions.

Giulia is particularly interested in this knowledge gap and will be investigating the implications of warming sea temperatures for important ecosystem functions such as productivity, food web stability or resistance to invasion.

Giulia has planned a series of experiments, using communities of easily manipulated, sessile, marine invertebrates, to explore 4 main questions.

  1. How do changes in community size-structure and composition under warming alter the energy intake (phytoplankton) and expenditure (oxygen) of marine invertebrate communities?
  2. Since the availability of energy can mediate biological invasions, does warming alter the energy usage of communities so that they are more susceptible to invasive species?
  3. Are the responses of invertebrate communities to warming mediated by changes in their food (phytoplankton)?
  4. Given that warming reduces water viscosity, how does this mechanical effect alter food consumption and metabolic expenditure in marine communities of different size-structure?