Lab Leaders

Associate Professor Michael Gardner

I obtained my degree at QUT in Brisbane, and worked on a highly polymorphic intertidal snail during my honours, investigating the relationship of shell morph to background. I then worked with Dr Bob Ward (CSIRO Marine Labs) for 2 1/2 years in Hobart where I looked at population genetic structure in school and gummy sharks.  I came to Flinders University to study a PhD in a genetic investigation of sociality in a group living lizard with Prof. Mike Bull. I spent time in England for 3 1/2 years studying co-evolution between parasitic hoverflies and their host ants. I returned to Adelaide for a two year postdoc with Flinders Biological Sciences where I linked Flinders and the SARFMEE. I have been in my current role at Flinders since halfway through 2008. I have a joint position with the South Australian Museum. For more information please visit my Flinders University or Google Scholar profile or to contact, click here.

Associate Professor Michael Schwarz MPSchwarz photo small

I did my Honours and PhD at Monash University and then moved to La Trobe University for a series of postdocs.  I moved to Flinders University in 1993 and established a research team that focused on social evolution in insects.  My research interested gradually expanded into the use of molecular tools to investigate social evolution, trait evolution, historical biogeography, historical demography as a function of climate, conservation, effects of exotic bee species in island ecosystems, and island biogeography.  Some of our most recent foci involve transcriptomics of insect sociality, mitogenomics of bees, the dispersal of bees throughout the South West Pacific and the role of Quaternary climate cycles as drivers of speciation on tropical archipelagos. For more information please visit my Flinders University, Google Scholar or ResearchGate profile, or to contact, click here.


Dr. Aaron Fenner


Dr. Amy Slender (Research Associate)

Amy completed her undergraduate and Honours at the University of Western Sydney. Her career in research began with a project on marsupial immunology which was followed by an honours project about understanding the effects of stress on the immune system of the Koala. She then worked in medical research where she gained experience in a number of labs working on projects such as indigenous health at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, vaccine development and clinical testing at Oxford University in the UK and disorders associated with Down’s Syndrome at the London institute, National Institute for Medical Research (now amalgamated to the Crick Institute). She recently completed a PhD studying population genetics of the Thick-billed Grasswren. This project tested hypotheses regarding species evolution in this arid zone bird and also gathered data that can be used to make informed decisions about the conservation of this threatened species. Amy is currently employed to investigate the influence of two parapatric tick species on the evolution of the sleepy lizard. Please see Amy’s Flinders University and LinkedIn profile for more information.

IMG_20210825_155853Gerrut Norval (March 2017 – current)

Gerrut received a National Certificate (N.Cert.) in Production Management from Technikon Witwatersrand (1997).  He also received a N.Cert.: Nature Conservation (2003), a National Diploma: Nature Conservation (2010), and Master of Science: Nature Conservation (2015) from the University of South Africa (UNISA).  From 2000 to 2016, he was actively involved in field research on herpetofauna (primarily lizards) in Taiwan (publications of his research can be found on his ResearchGate profile), and has been an Associate Researcher of the Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit (ABEERU), Department of Environmental Sciences, UNISA, since 2004.  He has broad research interests in the natural history of lizards and snakes, reptiles as invasive species, and parasites of reptiles. Gerrut started his PhD studies in 2017 and his research will be examining the parasites of the sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) across an ecological gradient. His project is supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner, A/Prof Kirstin Ross and Dr Bob Sharrad.

PhD and Masters Students

KimKimberley Michael (Sep 2021 – current)

Kim completed her Honours at La Trobe University in 2019, studying the effects of ecologically extinct mammals on vegetation in arid Australia. Supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner, Dr Ryan Baring and Dr Jess Clayton, Kim will be completing a Masters by Research investigating the habitat requirements of pygmy blue tongues (Tiliqua adelaidensis) and their burrowing spider counterparts to refine a habitat suitability survey that can be used to determine new translocation sites.

Ruby McKenna (May 2021 – current)


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lab-site-photo.jpgMolly Stuart (part-time; Apr 2021 – current)

Molly completed her honours in May of 2019 entitled ‘Development of sex distinguishing markers in two species of social skinks from the sub family Egerniinae’ supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner. She developed sexing markers that have proven successful in Tiliqua rugosa, Egernia stokesii and Tiliqua adelaidensis. She is now undertaking her PhD aiming to characterise the MHC gene region and explore the relationship between the MHC and the Vomeronasal organ in Tiliqua rugosa. In addition to A/Prof Mike Gardner, she is also supervised by Dr. Terry Bertozzi & A/Prof Mike Schwarz.

Simon Bull (part-time; Apr 2019 – current)



Robert O’Reilly (March 2018 – current)

Robert completed his undergraduate degree in Marine biology and Aquaculture at Flinders University in 2015. While working on a project utilizing genetic markers created for the sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) on a variety of species across the Egerina genus, Robert discovered his passion for molecular biology. In 2017 Robert completed his BSc Honours with A/Prof Mike Gardner and the late Prof. Mike Bull, looking at allele frequency variation of the major histocompatibility complex, in T. rugosa, across a parapatric boundary. Robert begins his PhD in 2018 continuing to work on the sleepy lizards with A/Prof Mike Gardner and A/Prof Mike Schwarz. His PhD focuses on creating an antibody test for the first nidovirus ever reported in lizards, as well as gene expression analysis between infected vs non-infected lizards.


Carmel Maher (April 2016 – current)

Carmel completed her BSc Honours in 2015 with A/Prof Mike Gardner and Prof Mike Bull on the variation of major histocompatibility complex genes across fragmented populations of the endangered pygmy bluetongue skink (Tiliqua adelaidensis). Continuing work on this species, her PhD aims to generate a transcriptome map for these skinks and provide genomic tools to investigate functional genes and potential adaptation. In addition to A/Prof Mike Gardner, she is also supervised by Dr. Terry Bertozzi & A/Prof Mike Schwarz .

Lucas Hearn (September 2018 – current)

Lucas discovered a passion for insects at a young age, whilst growing up in the Adelaide Hills. He completed his Bachelor of Science at The University of Adelaide with a focus on zoology and evolutionary biology. Lucas completed his honours with A/Prof Mike Schwarz and A/Prof Mark Stevens on the social nesting behaviour of the Australian native bee Amphylaeus morosus and is now continuing that research with his PhD. He is exploring the genetic and behavioural dynamics that allow for sociality to be promoted and maintained in this unique bee species.

Honours Students

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is received_396284168740742.jpegEvie Gooding (2021)






Connor James (C.J) Panozzo (2021)

CJ completed a double degree at Flinders University being Animal Behaviour in 2019 and Biodiversity and Conservation in 2021. Throughout his undergrads and currently, he’s been working on a publication with other colleges and A/Prof Michael Schwarz on trophallaxis in allodapine bees. After the second degree was completed, he joined A/Prof Mike Gardner’s lab to study honours with the project comparing the difference between translocated pygmy bluetongue lizards in spring and autumn. This research is being conducted closely with Alice Biggins-Baker’s Honours project and is supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner and Dr Jess Clayton.


Jack Valcic (2021)

Jack graduated a Bsc (animal behaviour) at Flinders University in 2019, discovering his interest in conservation biology and molecular ecology. He is now continuing his studies on sleepy lizards (Tiliqua rugosa) for his honours project with A/prof Mike Gardner and Dr. Amy Slender. The project aims to help understand what drives host diversification, Jack is investigating whether variation within the immune gene region – major histocompatibility complex –  in T. rugosa is coincident with a parapatric tick boundary.


Jack Bilby (2021)

Jack is a BSc Animal Behaviour graduate currently working on his Honours degree under the supervision of A/Prof Mike Gardner and Dr Katherine Moseby. Unlike most of the LEGS Lab, Jack is looking at something with fur instead of scales, the western quoll! The Flinders Ranges is home to South Australia’s only quoll population, following the reintroduction of western quolls (Dasyurus geoffroii) to the region.  As part of the ongoing monitoring of the reintroduced population, Jack is investigating the dispersal patterns of juvenile quolls and whether these individuals may be increasing their risk of predation by feral cats and foxes.


Alice Biggins Baker (2021)

Alice completed her Bachelor of Science (Animal Behaviour) in 2021. While doing her degree she went on 2 field trips to South Africa with Prof. Jeremey Robertson and whilst there discovered her love for field work and conservation efforts. As a child she always loved animals, having grown up in the Adelaide hills surrounded by the native wildlife. She has joined A/Prof Mike Gardner’s lab to study her honours on pygmy bluetongue lizards’ behaviour and compare personality between the sexes. This research is being supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner and Jessica Clayton and will closely conducted with Connor James Panozzo’s study also on pygmy bluetongue lizards.


Dee Trewartha (2020 – 2021)

With a lifelong enthusiasm for conservation and animal behaviour (Homo sapiens inclusive) Dee completed a double degree in behavioural sciences (Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Psychology) in 2019 at Flinders University. After volunteering in pygmy bluetongue (Tiliqua adelaidensis) translocation research throughout her undergraduate studies, she is now undergoing Honours with supervisors A/Prof Gardner and Dr Jess Clayton. Dee’s project is part of the wider pygmy bluetongue translocation project and focuses on identifying lineage differences in pygmy bluetongue thermal behaviours and gaining an initial insight into whether behavioural differences persist in a new location.

Undergraduate Students

Mitchell Briton-Costin (2021)
Gabriela Kalinowski (2021)
Brianna Hand (2021)
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20210913_121219_resized_20211006_0312324481499.jpg Jackson Rendall (2021)

Jackson is currently in the first year of his BSc Enhanced Program for High Achievers (EPHA), with a specialization in biodiversity and conservation. Jackson discovered a passion for wildlife, the environment and conservation throughout his childhood by visiting South Australia’s national parks and being a member of the Youth at the Zoo group, which involved volunteering at both Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park. As part of the ‘Introduction to Research’ topic in the EPHA, Jackson decided to spend his placement with Associate Professor Mike Gardner and the Lab of Evolutionary Genetics and Sociality to gain a broader understanding of how research works and learn about the lab’s lizard studies.

Past Students and lab members

James Dorey (February 2018 – 2021)

James Dorey is driven by a love of nature that was first instilled in him when growing up in the Northern Rivers, amongst the rainforest regenerated by his father. This provided James with an environment rich in plant and animal life to explore. These interests were carried into his science degree where he studied ecology and zoology at the University of Queensland. James’ honours project focused on how past climate cycles may have driven speciation of highland endemic bees in Fiji. In addition to his studies, James is an avid macro photographer who loves to share his passion for nature with a broad audience in a number of publications and competitions. To see some of what James has seen and imaged feel free to have a browse here.

Olivia Davies (March 2016 – 2021Olivia_photo)

Olivia started her honours here looking at nest-mate recognition and historical demography in a facultatively social native bee Amphylaeus morosus. She discovered that this species has no mitochondrial diversity within its whole population except for two different mitochondrial types that persist in every bee. This widespread mitochondrial heteroplasmy became the focus of her research, and she is now continuing with us, co-supervised by A/Prof Mark Stevens (SA Museum), doing her PhD on the same topic. She is exploring the connection between heteroplasmy and the intracellular parasite Wolbachia, and its prevalence in other bee species in the family. More information on Olivia’s research can be found on her ResearchGate profile.

Dr. Jessica Clayton (Research Assistant)

Jess completed a Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Biodiversity) at Queensland University of Technology in 2009, and continued there to complete her Honours (2010). She studied habitat use in an intertidal and sub tidal zone by a fish assemblage in SE Queensland, testing the effectiveness of BRUV (baited remote underwater video) as a sampling method. She recently completed her PhD, supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner and Prof. Mark Hutchinson (previously supervised by the late Prof. Mike Bull). She investigated how pygmy bluetongue lizards and burrowing spiders co-exist in native grasslands, utilising the same resources as refuges and identified niche partitioning as a mechanism. Her project also identified the impact of sheep grazing on spider and lizard burrow use, burrow construction and burrow persistence.  To see Jess’s publications please visit her ResearchGate profile.



Sarah Barker (2020)

Sarah is interested in the role social evolution plays in the ecology of species. She completed her double Bachelor of Science (Animal Behaviour) (Biodiversity and Conservation) at Flinders in 2020. In her final year she was involved in some research in the bee lab with A/Prof Mike Schwarz looking at trophallaxis in native bees and the thermal tolerances of Fijian bees. After completing her undergraduate degree, her started her honours looking at the social dynamics of gidgee skinks (Egernia stokesii) under the supervision of A/Prof Mike Gardner and A/Prof Greg Johnston. Her findings have suggested that gidgee skink aggregation dynamics vary in response to environmental differences.

Ben Parslow (2016 – 2020Ben)

Ben’s current research explores the systematics and evolutionary relationships between the predator inquiline wasp genus Gasteruption and its native bee hosts. Ben has developed a strong fascination for the taxonomy and biology of these unusual wasps during his honours work and is now applying his experience with taxonomy and phylogenetics to answer questions related to host specialisation and co-phylogenetic relationships. He is supervised by A/Prof Mike Schwarz, A/Prof Mike Gardner and  A/Prof Mark Stevens.

Bonnie Derne bonnie( February 2015 – 2021)

Bonnie has harboured a passion for parasites since contracting head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) as a young child. After studying Zoology and Biochemistry at the Unversity of  WA and completing honours at University of QLD on disease regulation by biodiverse ecosystems, Bonnie was lured to South Australia by the call of the pygmy bluetongue (PBT) lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis). Her project, supervised by  A/Prof. Mike Gardner,  Prof. Mark Hutchinson, and Prof. Phil Weinstein (previously supervised by the late Prof Mike Bull), is part of a risk assessment of an experimental translocation of this endangered and highly endemic skink species. It aims to characterise the parasite biota of the PBT and comment on the risk of transmission of allopatric parasites to naïve hosts. Please see Bonnie’s GoogleScholar profile for her past publications.

Tara Daniell (June 2016 – 2021 )

Tara completed a BSc (Biodiversity and Conservation) at Flinders University before going on to study the influence of sex ratios on captive breeding and behaviour in the pygmy bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis) for honours. She commenced her PhD in 2016, continuing work into captive breeding and translocations in the pygmy bluetongue. Her project is based at Monarto Zoo working with the captive breeding population which has produced 31 offspring over 2 breeding seasons. Her project aims to identify the behavioural attributes that make a good translocator, husbandry methods to maintain life skills necessary for surviving in the wild and thermal optima in the pygmy bluetongue. Her supervisors are A/Prof. Mike Gardner, Mark Hutchinson, Dr. Phil Ainsley and previously Prof. Mike Bull.

reneRené Campbell (October 2016- 2021)

René completed her Honours in November 2015, with her study entitled “The population structure of Carcinus maenas and its predation on native benthic species in South Australia.” Since Honours, she has been working as a Research Assistant in Professor Sabine Dittmann’s marine ecology lab on various contracts and projects surrounding marine invertebrates. René has been accepted to commence her PhD in October 2016 under supervision of Professor Sabine Dittmann and A/Prof. Mike Gardner. Her project will focus on the population structure, morphometrics, fecundity, growth and adaptation of the highly invasive C. maenas in South Australia. In her spare time, René is a professional visual artist: her work can be found here.

Lucy - LEGS image 2(March 2015- 2019)

Lucy did her masters in the UK, investigating sociality in flamingos, before spending a year in South Africa studying cooperative behaviour in meerkats as part of the Kalahari Meerkat Project. Continuing her work with social species, she has recently submitted her PhD thesis on the pygmy bluetongue lizard, a member of the predominantly social living Egernia group, examining the ecological and genetic risks associated with the translocations. She is supervised by  A/Prof Mike Gardner and  Prof.  Mark Hutchinson (and was previously supervised by the late Prof. Mike Bull). Lucy also collaborated with Monarto Zoo, regarding the fitness of hybrid offspring, and Dr. Marc Jones of Adelaide University regarding the bite force performance of the pygmy bluetongue. Please see Lucy’s Flinders University and Linkedin profile page for more information.

Morgan Staines (honours)

Morgan is a BSc Animal Behaviour graduate who is completed working on her Honours degree with A/Prof Mike Gardner after having a baby. As an undergraduate she worked on two projects supervised by A/Prof Mike Schwarz where she gained her first two publications; sex ratios in the parasitic bee Inquilina schwarzi, and pollen larceny of a tropical weed by Fiji’s endemic bee Homalictus fijiensis. She then had a break to have her baby and before investigating Rickettsiain reptile ticks that parasitise on the sleepy lizard Tiliqua rugosain Mt. Mary. So far, she has found a spotted fever Rickettsia strain in the tick Bothriocroton hydrosauri,and is currently investigating if Rickettsia is presentin the tick Amblyomma limbatumand if transmission is occurring between species. Her work was published in the Michael Bull Special Issue of Austral Ecology.

Carl Watson (honours)

Growing up, Carl had a passion for wildlife (and especially lizards), having a backyard pool converted into a bluetongue lizard enclosure. After completing his BSc Biodiversity and Conservation in 2018, he is now continuing his study of lizards in his honours project, working with the endangered Pygmy Bluetongue (Tiliqua adelaidensis). As part of an ongoing project examining the risks associated with translocations, Carl is exploring the changes in the lizard’s gut microbiome post release from captivity. He is supervised by A/Prof Mike Gardner and Dr. Jessica Clayton.

Dr. Sandra Rehan was awarded her PhD in 2011 and is currently Assistant Professor at University New Hampshire.
Dr. Scott Groom, was awarded his PhD in 2014 and is currently holds a post doctoral position at the University of Adelaide. He was a recipient of a prestigious 2015 SA Science Excellence award.
Dr. Sarah Kim Pearson was awarded her PhD in 2016, you can find out more about her on her Flinders University webpage, her ResearchGate profile and on Twitter.
Dr. Mina Hojat Ansari was awarded her PhD in 2016. She is currently based in Iran and working in biomedical research.
Dr. Rebecca Dew completed her PhD in 2017 and is currently an Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New Hampshire.
Dr. Nahid Shokri Bousjein completed  her PhD 2018. She is currently based in Iran.
Dr. Jessica Hacking completed her PhD in 2018. She is currently completing a Masters degree in Information Studies (Data Management).
Past honours students (2016-18):
Bridgette Barnden (2018)
Matthew Elmer
Justin Holder
Michael Young
Sarah Hayes 
Shelley Thompson 
Sean Cummings
Jordan Harries
James Seidel
Alice Woodward
Cale Matthews
Elisha Freedman



A/Prof Mike Gardner’s collaborators include:

Dr. Geoff While, University of Tasmania

Professor Mike Bull, Flinders University

Professor. Mark Hutchinson, SA Museum

Professor Sonia Kleindorfer, Flinders University

Dr. Jane Melville, Museum Victoria

Dr Mark O’Dea, Murdoch University

Professor Rob Miller

Dr Michelle Baker, CSIRO

Professor Steve Donnellan, SA Museum

A/Prof Mike Schwarz’s collaborators include:

Associate Professor Mark Stevens, SA Museum

Dr. Scott Groom, Kyoto University

 Ms. Carmen da Silva, University of Queensland

Dr. Daniel De Paiva Silva, Instituto Federal Goiano, Brazil

Professor Juergen Boehmer, University of the South Pacific

Dr. Sandra Rehan, University of New Hampshire

Dr. Michelle McKeown, University of the South Pacific

Mr. Marika Tuiwawa, University of the South Pacific