Associate Professor Michael Gardner (Lab leader)

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 (Lab leader)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 Amy Slender (Research Support Technician )

Amy completed her undergraduate and Honours at the University of Western Sydney. Her initial field of research was on immunology as her Honours was about 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 testing at Oxford University in the UK and disorders associated with Down’s Syndrome at the London institute, National Institute for Medical Research (wow amalgamated to the Crick Institute). She recently completed a PhD studying population genetics of the Thick-billed Grasswren. This project  tested hypothesis regarding species evolution in arid zone birds and also gathered data that can be used to make informed decision about the conservation of this threatened species. Please see Amy’s Flinders University and LinkedIn profile for more information.

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.



 PhD Students

reneRené Campbell (October 2016- )

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 Clive Lucy - LEGS image 2(March 2015- )

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 began studying the pygmy bluetongue lizard, a member of the predominantly social living Egernia group, examining the ecological and genetic risks associated with the translocations. Her project is supervised by  A/Prof Mike Gardner and  Prof.  Mark Hutchinson ( and was previously supervised by the late Prof. Mike Bull). Lucy is also collaborating 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.


Tara Daniell (June 2016- )

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.


Olivia Davies (March 2016-Olivia_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.

James Dorey (February 2018- )

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.


Bonnie Derne bonnie( February 2015 -)

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.


Scarlett Steffi SteffiPhotoGraff (April 2016- )

Scarlett has a keen interest in evolutionary biology and conservation genetics. For her Honours project she helped inform future conservation management of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) by studying their population structure using next-generation DNA sequencing methods. Scarlett started her PhD in 2016 and hopes to
address the fundamental question of: why do animals live together? Her focus is the social skink Egernia stokesii, a unique lizard that lives in large family groups and exhibits rudimentary levels of parental care. She hopes that these lizards will give us insight into the evolution of social complexity and the origins of family living. For more information, please visit Scarlett’s profiles at Flinders University, Researchgate and Linkedin.


JessHJessica Hacking (2013- )

Jessica completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at James Cook University in beautiful North Queensland. She developed a love of all things reptilian at a young age and is passionate about the conservation of our reptile fauna. Wildlife disease is a challenging facet of wildlife conservation and management, and understanding all aspects of wildlife disease is important. Her PhD project at Flinders University, in its final stages, involves characterising disease resistance genes (major histocompatibility genes) in the tawny dragon lizard (Ctenophorus decresii), describing the diversity at these genes, and identifying the mechanisms influencing this diversity. For more information, please visit Jessica’s Flinders University profile.

Carmel Maher (April 2016- )

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 A/Prof Mike Schwarz.

Gerrut Norval (March 2017- )

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 and Dr. Kirstin Ross.

Robert O’Reilly (March 2018- )

RobertRobert 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 Egerinagenus, 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.

Ben Parslow (2016- Ben)

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.


Nahid Shokri Bousjein

Honours Students

Bridgette Barnden
Elisha Freedman
Justin Holder
Cale Matthews
Molly Stuart
Carl Watson

Past Students

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 a JSPS Postdoctoral fellow at Kyoto University. He is a recent 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 is looking for a new position.
Dr. Rebecca Dew completed her PhD in 2017 and is currently an Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New Hampshire.
Past honours students:
Sarah Hayes 
 Shelley Thompson 
Sean Cummings
Jordan Harries
Lucas Hearn
 James Seidel
Morgan Staines
 Alice Woodward


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