I am an evolutionary biologist, interested in understanding the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change. I am also interested in exploring how evolutionary processes can be explicitly incorporated into biodiversity conservation and management
I use a combination of techniques including clinal (field) studies of phenotypic divergence, experimental evolution, quantitative genetics and genomics to examine how organisms adapt to changing environmental conditions. Below are some examples of what I do:
- Most species have very restricted distributions and occupy a limited set of ecological niches. What stops species expanding beyond their current range? The simple answer is that populations have negative growth rates and cannot become established beyond their current range. However there is abundant evidence for adaptation to different environments within the range of a species. What is happening at range edges to limit adaptation and prevent range expansion? The answer to this question will determine our ability to predict and manage species' responses to climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation. See this paper we have recently published: van Heerwaarden et al 2009 Proc. Roy. Soc. B 276:1517-1526
- Climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation are generating rapid and pervasive environmental change. How do organisms adapt to changing environmental conditions? What is the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change? See these papers we have recently published: Telonis-Scott, M, Hoffmann, AA, Sgr, CM (2011) Molecular Ecology 20: 2100-2110; van Heerwaarden, B. and Sgr, CM (2011) Evolution 65-4:1048-1067
- A central aim of evolutionary biology is to understand how processes generating phenotypic variation interact with selection and drift to result in phenotypic evolution. Recent studies have highlighted the propensity for populations to harbour genetic variation that contributes to phenotypic variation only after some environmental or genetic change; such variation has been termed cryptic genetic variation. Despite the suggestion that release of cryptic genetic variation facilitates rapid phenotypic adaptation, little empirical evidence exists supporting the claim. See our recent review on this: McGuigan and Sgr 2009 Trends Ecol. Evol. 24: 305-311.
- There is increasing recognition of the need to explicitly consider evolutionary processes into on-going biodiversity conservation and management, particularly in a future that includes climate change. I have been participating in the development of government policy on biodiversity and climate change. See these papers Hoffmann, AA and Sgr, CM. (2011) Nature470:479-485; Sgr, CM, et al (2011) Evolutionary Applications4:326-337 ; Weeks, AR, Sgr, CM, et al (2011) Evolutionary Applications in press and these submissions and reports: Sgr 2009 Submission to the Draft of Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2020; Mac Nally, Cunningham, Sgr et al 2008 Biodiversity and Climate Change, Garnaut Review on Climate Change.