Molecular ecology and evolution
Dr Nick Murphy
Lecturer, College of Science, Health and Engineering
I am a molecular ecologist who runs the molecular biodiversity lab with Jan Strugnell and Susan Hoebee in the Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution. My research is aimed at understanding the biology and population dynamics of poorly dispersing organisms (mainly invertebrates) in natural and artificially fragmented ecosystems. The primary goal is to understand how species biology and evolutionary history affects their present day distributions and their ability to cope with future environmental change.
Current Research Projects
Dispersal in Freshwater Systems
We know extraordinarily little about dispersal in freshwater systems. This information is critical for understanding how past environmental and geological events have shaped species distributions, how species will respond to management such as habitat restoration. Research in this area is using cutting edge DNA technologies to study desert springs, alpine headwaters and the rivers/creeks of the Murray Darling Basin to better understand dispersal of freshwater fish, macroinvertebrates and zooplankton.
Impact of fire on arthropod detritivores
The terrestrial detritrivores in native Australian forests represent an important contributor to the breakdown of forest floor litter, an important component of fire fuel. The majority of this community has a low capacity for dispersal, and may suffer from frequent or severe fires. This research project aims at quantifying the contribution of this community to litter breakdown, the impact of fire severity and potential for recolonisation of disturbed sites.
Invertebrate metabarcoding for invertebrate communities
Invertebrate community data is critical for monitoring freshwater, and to a lesser extent terrestrial systems. Yet the taxonomic resolution generally used in monitoring limits the extent to which we can gain a detailed understanding of community response to change. DNA barcoding provides an excellent tool for species level identification, especially with the use of next generation sequencing. Research in this area will investigate how DNA metabarcoding can assist with routine biomonitoring, and extend the use of the data collected in biomonitoring to better understand and predict species/community response to change.