Genetics, genomics and zoology

Improving the welfare, health and conservation of animals
We investigate and characterise diversity and variation in animals with the aim to improve welfare, health and production in companion animals, livestock and wildlife; and to revise systematics of reptiles and amphibians.

Our research applies a range of molecular and quantitative genetic techniques to investigate inherited diseases and traits; to explore the evolutionary origin, phylogeny, and population structure of animals; to increase our understanding of comparative genomics; and to inform conservation, captive breeding and reintroduction programs to save species from extinction. 

We are curating a globally used knowledgebase about inherited traits and diseases in animals and are developing a portal for the reporting of inherited conditions in animals in Australia.

We are using morphology to revise the systematics of several groups of Australasian and Indopacific reptiles and amphibians, primarily using morphology.

Research areas

Key researchers: Jaime Gongora

The aim of my research is to understand the nature of variation of genes and whole genomes underlying speciation, immune response, gene evolution and diseases in a range of animals including crocodiles, platypuses, peccaries, pigs, chickens, camels and antelopes.

This informs wildlife conservation programs to save species from extinction, how species adapt to environmental challenges and how genetic diversity influences biodiversity and population structure and demographics. 

Key researchers: Imke Tammen and Bianca Waud

We are investigating inherited diseases and traits with an effect on biomedical conditions and economically important traits in livestock (Team leader: Imke Tammen) and companion animals (Team leader: Bianca Waud).

The aim is to characterise these diseases and traits, to identify the underlying variation on DNA level, and to develop tests that can be used by animal owners to make informed decisions when breeding animals.

Many of the conditions are considered as valuable models for human diseases.

Key researchers: Frank Nicholas and Imke Tammen

Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA) is a freely available, curated, online knowledgebase with up-to-date summary information on the known harmful and beneficial variants in animals, together with background information on known inherited disorders and beneficial traits.

Key researchers: Imke Tammen, Claire Wade, Frank Nicholas, Marina Gimeno, Bianca Waud, Brandon Velie, & Brendon O'Rourke (NSW Department of Primary Industries)

The Anstee Hub for Inherited Diseases in Animals (AHIDA) will be a portal for reporting and surveillance of inherited diseases in animals in Australia, with entry points for researchers, veterinarians, animal owners and genotyping providers.

The Ronald Anstee bequest is supporting the development of AHIDA and the portal is expected to go live towards the end of 2022.

Key researchers: Glenn Shea

Revision of the systematics of several groups of Australasian and Indopacific reptiles and amphibians, primarily using morphology. Some projects include a genetic component, in collaboration with researchers at other institutions.

The various subprojects include examination of specimens in museum collections around Australia and elsewhere in the world, including in some cases assessment of reproductive status and stomach contents to inform knowledge of diet and reproduction, as well as size at maturity, sexual dimorphism and allometric growth, which are partitioned from geographic variation.