E&ERC Exit Seminar: An Evolution Revolution

Wednesday 18 September, 2019
Rountree Room, L3 Biolink

Australia is now home to approximately three thousand introduced plant species. One of these introduced plants is the South African beach daisy, Arctotheca populifolia, which arrived in Australia in the 1930s. My research involved setting up a common-environment glasshouse experiment and comparing the A. populifolia plants from Australia with their source population from South Africa to provide a precise and powerful method of detecting evolutionary change. I investigated a wide range of morphological, physiological, defence and life-history traits and uncovered some surprising and striking evolutionary changes. Surprisingly though, I only found evidence to support eight of the 34 evolutionary hypotheses I tested. That is, rapid evolution in introduced species happens, but not always in the direction predicted by theory. The dynamic and unpredictable nature of introduced species demonstrated in my research reveals that the present static approach to understanding and managing introduced species needs to be updated.

Bio: Claire Brandenburger is a part-time PhD student in the E&ERC. Like her study species, she also originates from South Africa and is an immigrant to Australia. Claire completed her BSc(Hons) in Zoology and her MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Cape Town before taking time to travel the world, work in various conservation and consulting roles, and stay home with her two young daughters. It was so hard looking after toddlers that in 2012 she decided that she would rather sign up for 90 months of intellectually gruelling research undertaking a PhD on rapid evolution in introduced plants – a subject she knew nothing about. Luckily she had an awesome supervisor in Prof Angela Moles, and a great lab to help her along the way. She has loved every minute.