Areas of research

Lap AI Simon

Laparoscopic intrauterine AI of a ewe

  • Artificial insemination and embryo transfer
  • Preservation of mammalian semen
  • Sperm membrane and seminal plasma proteomics
  • Sperm sexing
  • In vitro embryo production in sheep, cattle and pigs

Current projects

Semen preservation, artificial insemination and embryo transfer in sheep

Merino ewes awaiting oestrus synchronisation

Merino ewes awaiting oestrus synchronisation

The group is responsible for the development and application of most artificial breeding techniques currently employed in the Australian sheep industry. Technology transfer is continuing through undergraduate/postgraduate teaching and industry training.

Current work focuses on utilising state-of-the-art proteomic techniques and novel in vivo cell imaging systems to investigate the interaction between ram spermatozoa, seminal plasma and the ewe’s reproductive tract. The goal of this research is to improve the fertility of frozen-thawed ram semen delivered by AI, with particular emphasis placed on improving the transit of frozen-thawed spermatozoa through the female genital tract.

This project is funded by Australian Wool Innovation and the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association.

In vitro embryo production in pigs

Research includes the development in pigs of techniques for in vitro maturation and fertilisation (IVM/IVF) of oocytes and in vitro culture of pre-implantation embryos. These studies are fundamental in nature and examine the requirements for maturation and fertilisation of oocytes and viable growth of embryos. Research also focuses on development of improved storage methods for porcine embryos such as vitrification.

Liquid and frozen storage of Asian elephant spermatozoa

Male Asian elephant

Male Asian elephant ('Gung') housed at Taronga Zoo

Modern reproductive management of captive wildlife populations involves the use of assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination (AI) to produce offspring. AI is conducted to maximise genetic diversity in the captive population without the need to transport males between institutions. A prerequisite for this method of artificial breeding is the ability to collect and successfully store semen (in liquid or frozen form) from males in order to allow for the time necessary to transport semen across state and even international borders. To date there has been relatively little success in the storage of Asian elephant semen, limiting the use and benefits of AI in this species.

This project aims to develop diluents, processing and storage methods for the improved survival of Asian elephant spermatozoa and subsequent use in artificial insemination programs. This project is a collaboration between the Animal Reproduction Group, Taronga Zoo and various other zoological parks in the Australasian region.

Comparison of the reproductive performance, lactation and growth of the Inbred Mouse Strains QSi3 and QSi5

This project investigates the large phenotypic variation that exists between two mouse strains derived from common ancestors. Results from these studies provide insights into how epigenetic factors control reproductive phenotypes.

Methods of sow oestrus detection applicable to industry

Methods of sow oestrus detection applicable to industry

Accurate detection of oestrus for the purpose of artificial insemination is a difficult task for large scale pig producers. Current methods employed are time consuming and imprecise, meaning that sows require a double artificial insemination regime to achieve acceptable fertility rates. This project is focused on evaluating existing methods of oestrus detection and developing new ones that will enable producers to quickly and easily determine the optimal time of AI for their sows and gilts. This will potentially enable the use of single dose AI without a loss in fecundity, saving producers time and increasing profitability.

Validating methods of in vitro semen analysis

Animal and human artificial breeding and IVF centres rely on semen analysis to determine the fertilising potential of males. Throughout these industries, there are no strict guidelines as to the in vitro handling methods for these procedures, leading to the question of whether different in vitro conditions influence the outcomes of semen analyses and ultimately if this impacts upon clinical decision making. Consequently, this project aims to quantify the differences in semen analysis results when semen is exposed to a variety of different in vitro handling techniques.

Development of assisted reproductive technologies in dromedary camels

Protrusion of the dulla by a dromedary bull prior to semen collection

Protrusion of the dulla by a dromedary bull prior to semen collection

This research project intends to further the understanding of dromedary camel sperm physiology so as to determine methods to improve its quality and facilitate effective artificial insemination following liquid (and possibly frozen) storage.

This work is part of a collaboration between the Animal Reproduction Group and the Directorate General of Veterinary Services, Royal Court Affairs, Sultanate of Oman.