My group's research focus has molecular evolutionary ecology as its underlying theme - studying models which allow us to determine evolutionary significant interactions from the molecular to the population level. Much of our recent work has been focused on elasmobranch conservation genetics/genomics and molecular ecology, studying the common skate, spur dog, porbeagle, basking and white shark. One of our aims is to better assess the efficacy of marine protected areas (MPAs), by using cutting edge molecular methodologies to determine whether they are sited to provide the greatest benefit for species conservation and recovery.
An important consideration in the wider context of ecosystem protection and recovery is the relationship between hosts and parasites - one of the most powerful evolutionary forces. For instance, various aspects of an organism's life history will make it more or less susceptible to parasite/pathogen attack, and several of our interests (such as mate choice and paternity assessment - in an ascidian Diplosoma listerianum and in the squid Loligo forbesi ; inbreeding assessment - in tropical freshwater snails; and population structure - in the elasmobranchs) reflect this interest.
Our studies of the genetic basis of parasite resistance employ four model systems which have been used to investigate expression analysis of resistance genes, population genetics, phylogenetics, and in some species their identification and evolution. Our main model is the tropical freshwater snail-schistosome association, but, in response to the rapid progress of the Salmon Genome Project, our research interests have expanded to include immune gene expression and parasite resistance in three fish-parasite systems, sealice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) and Gyrodactylus salaris resistance in Atlantic salmon and resistance to Tetracapsula bryosalmonae, PKX, causative agent of Proliferative Kidney Disease, PKD in trout. The synergy produced by studying these systems in parallel is proving particularly helpful in defining general key determinants of host-parasite interactions and ecosystem conservation.