Areas of Expertise

I am an expert on dingoes, particularly their evolution, origins, identity, hybridisation and conservation.  

I am an early career researcher specialising in molecular biology and conservation genetics. My undergraduate (BSc) and postgraduate (PhD) training was completed at the University of New South Wales. Between 2012 and 2014, I managed a genetic testing service to estimate domestic dog introgression in dingoes, after being trained by the late A/Prof Alan Wilton. In 2017, I started working at the Centre for Ecosystem Science as a postdoctoral research. This has enabled me to start an independent research project continuing and developing my PhD studies on biogeographic variation in dingoes. Together with Professor Mike Letnic and A/Prof Mathew Crowther, partnering with the Australian Dingo Foundation, we are investigating the utility of next-generation SNP technology to estimate admixture in dingoes. This data will drive research into important scientific questions concerning the origin, biogeography and conservation of dingoes.


I am actively involved in scientific communication, to disseminate the findings of research about dingoes to the public and stakeholders. I am a scientific advisor to the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation and Australian Dingo Foundation. I am also a board member of the Colong Foundation for Wildlife. 


Research Activities

I am interested in using genetics and genomics to investigate patterns of diversity, adaption, evolutionary history and demography. My main research interests include population genetics, conservation genetics, hybridisation and biogeography. 

Organisational units


Journal articles
Cairns K; Nesbitt B; Laffan S; Letnic M; Crowther M, 2019, 'Geographic hot spots of dingo genetic ancestry in southeastern Australia despite hybridisation with domestic dogs', Conservation Genetics,
Smith B; Cairns K; Adams J; Newsome T; Fillios M; Deaux E; Parr W; Letnic M; van Eden L; Appelby R; Bradshaw C; Savolainen P; Ritchie E; Nimmo D; Archer-Lean C; Greenville A; Dickman C; Watson L; Moseby K; Doherty T; Wallach A; Morrant D; Crowther M, 2019, 'Taxonomic status of the Australian dingo: the case for Canis dingo meyer, 1793', Zootaxa, vol. 4564, pp. 173 - 197,
Cairns KM; Shannon LM; Koler-Matznick J; Ballard WJO; Boyko AR, 2018, 'Elucidating biogeographical patterns in Australian native canids using genome wide SNPs', PLoS ONE, vol. 13,
Cairns KM; Brown SK; Sacks BN; Ballard JWO, 2017, 'Conservation implications for dingoes from the maternal and paternal genome: Multiple populations, dog introgression, and demography', Ecology and Evolution, vol. 7, pp. 9787 - 9807,
O'Neill AJ; Cairns KM; Kaplan G; Healy E, 2017, 'Managing dingoes on Fraser Island: Culling, conflict, and an alternative', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 23, pp. 4 - 14,
Cairns KM; Wilton AN, 2016, 'New insights on the history of canids in Oceania based on mitochondrial and nuclear data', Genetica, vol. 144, pp. 553 - 565,
Arendt M; Cairns KM; Ballard JWO; Savolainen P; Axelsson E, 2016, 'Diet adaptation in dog reflects spread of prehistoric agriculture', Heredity, vol. 117, pp. 301 - 306,
Cairns K; Wolff J; Brooks RC; Ballard JWO, 2010, 'Evidence of recent population expansion in the field cricket Teleogryllus commodus.', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 58, pp. 33 - 38,
Book Chapters
Cairns KM; Wilton AN; Ballard JWO, 2011, 'The identification of dingoes in a background of hybrids', in Urbano KV (ed.), Advances in Genetics Research. Volume 6, edn. Original, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY, USA, pp. 309 - 327