I have focused on the development and application of genetic methods to study ecological questions for most of my career. The development of DNA metabarcoding methods for studying animal diet has been my main research area. I have applied these methods to dietary studies of whales, penguins, seals, rock lobsters and krill. My group identified and solved many of the early problems for DNA-based diet analysis from scat samples and we were among the first to employ high throughput DNA sequencing for dietary metabarcoding. I have also worked on DNA metabarcoding studies of species diversity in ancient Antarctic lake sediments and parasites in seabird guts.
I have a strong current interest in age-related changes in DNA methylation of specific genes as a biomarker for age. This allows cross-sectional sampling of animal populations to obtain age information and has great potential to provide information on the age structure of wild animal populations that are not under intense longitudinal study. Epigenetic biomarkers have untapped potential as biomarkers for physiological status of wild animals other than age and I intend to investigate this further.
I studied Genetics at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and then did postgraduate research on genetics of the Antarctic krill at the University of Tasmania. I spent fourteen years working for the Australian Antarctic Division in Kingston, Tasmania, Australia where I was developing DNA-based diet analysis and age estimation methods for a range of Southern Ocean animal species. I was recently appointed as the ERA chair in Environmental Genomics at CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto, where my team and I have the exciting opportunity to expand the field of Environmental Metagenomics and establish a local centre of expertise in this area.
Details available here.
Image credits: Simon Jarman