Our lab undertakes research on adaptation of organisms (particularly invertebrates) to environmental stresses including climate change and chemical pollutants, using field sites in the Victorian mountains, in tropical rainforests and in wetlands around Melbourne. We also develop integrated pest control options, investigate how landscape changes can be harnessed to provide pest control services, contribute to novel approaches for suppressing dengue mosquito vectors, and examine new ways to predict species distribution shifts under climate change.
We focus on three main areas of research:
- Climatic Stress – to find traits that enable adaptation to climatic stress, and to understand the genetic basis of these traits;
- Applied – to develop better ways of sustainably controlling pest species important from an agricultural perspective.
- Applied – to explore new ways of reducing the transmission of human diseases by insect vectors based on endosymbionts.
In understanding the main issues and mechanisms involved with adaptation of organisms to stress, we are able to make informed management decisions to assist the community and industry.
Molecular population markers, ecological assessments, pesticide assays, quantitative genetic analyses, molecular species markers and entomological sampling.
Jessica Chung – bioinformatician, data wrangler
Words: Tim Thwaites, Science writer Banner image credit Casamento Photography Tracking disease-carrying mosquitoes, helping to conserve mountain pygmy possums, stopping the spread of dengue fever, studying how insects develop resistance to pesticides—solving such disparate biological problems nowadays depends on being able to handle enormous quantities of genomic data. And that’s why they land on the desk of Jessica Chung.As a bioinformatician her …2 December, 2019 News
Variability in mosquito host-seeking ability
Words and images: Meng-Jia Lau Behaviour is one of the most complex study areas in biology because it involves a combination of many factors that are often quite variable. In mosquitoes, host-seeking is the behaviour of females seeking a blood meal which provides the extra protein they need in order to lay eggs. The biting process not only makes people feel itchy, …28 November, 2019 wolbachia, endo...
Faster and cheaper without compromising quality
Words: Nick Bell When our scientific endeavours leave the lab and move into real-world deployment, a number of challenges crop up. Aside from obvious issues around myriad variables that cannot be controlled as they can in the lab, large scale logistical and financial considerations need to be made when rolling out new operations. This scaling issue becomes acutely important where a …22 November, 2019 News
Finding “Nosy Tiger’s” and other oddly named freshwater invertebrates
Words - Eddie Tsrline Images - Eddie Tsyrlin and John Gooderham Towbiters, water scorpions and Nosy Tigers. These are just some the colourful names given to freshwater insects and other invertebrates. And there is a more serious side to these quirky creatures. The Nosy Tigers are a diving beetle larva with a peculiarly elongated head. Their main interest in life is to voraciously …22 November, 2019 taxonomy, aquat...
Establishment of Wolbachia Strain wAlbB in Malaysian Populations of Aedes aegypti for Dengue Control
Our freshly published open access paper in Current Biology is the culmination of several years of work with a large team of very talented and dedicated researchers. Rather than rehash the story here, please see press releases below: Press release from the UniMelb newsroom (alternatively at Bio21's siteBio21's site or at SciMex) Brief summary article in Cosmos magazine Interview with Ary …22 November, 2019 wolbachia, mosq...
Lab-reared mosquitoes maintain their lust for blood
Words and images: Perran Ross Modified mosquitoes raised in laboratories are being released into the wild in disease control programs. These mosquitoes will still bite you, but they’re less capable of transmitting the viruses that cause dengue fever, Zika and more. This antiviral effect is caused by infection with a bacterium called Wolbachia, which occurs naturally in most insect species. This …7 November, 2019 wolbachia, mosq...
Getting revegetation right with genetics
This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article. Professor Ary Hoffmann Eucalypts, wattles, banksias, grevilleas and other Australian native plants are some of the most fascinating and unique flora on Earth. They also play an important part in revegetation programs around Australia, which aim to restore plant-life to areas where the species used to grow, before activities like agriculture, forestry, …22 October, 2019 News
Words: Véronique Paris Cover image art: © Marianne Coquilleau & Butterfly Adventures Almost every child is familiar with the famous story ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, illustrating the transformation of an unremarkable hungry caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. What exactly takes place within the pupal cocoon during the transformation remains a mystery. The scientific definition of this dramatic change is known as ‘complete …23 September, 2019 News
Rediscovering a ‘lost’ species
This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article. Associate Professor Michael Kearney and Professor Ary Hoffmann People usually go to cemeteries to visit or bury their dead but, in the name of research, we visited 25 cemeteries in Victoria, NSW and the ACT to try and find a tiny rare species of grasshopper thought to be extinct in …19 September, 2019 threatened spec...
Releases of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes for disease control
Words and images: Perran Ross When animals raised in captivity are released back into the wild, you might picture cute and furry mammals from an endangered species. But in many countries around the world, people are releasing mosquitoes raised in laboratories into the environment. These mosquitoes feed on human blood and are vectors of dengue, Zika and other diseases, so it …18 September, 2019 wolbachia, mosq...
Using bacteria to control mosquitoes Dr Tom Schmidt and Professor Ary Hoffmann “This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article.” Living inside the cells of insects is a type of bacteria that is looking increasingly like the key to controlling the spread of dengue fever, the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. The Wolbachia bacteria, which occurs naturally in about half …18 July, 2019 wolbachia, mosq...
Using genomics to determine the adaptive potential of populations
Words: Ary Hoffmann One of the central tenets of conservation biology is that high levels of genetic variation in natural populations is important for their long-term survival. High levels of variation allow populations to adapt to changing environments through evolution. This process is now recognised as being extremely fast when selection pressures are high. In fact many populations of animals and …27 June, 2019 evolution, gene...
MSc projects 2020 – Students wanted
We are seeking motivated MSc students to apply for several projects starting next year. Enquiries via firstname.lastname@example.org Project 1/4: Exploring bacterial symbionts for agricultural pest control PEARG is researching ways to control important agricultural pests such as aphids and mites that cause millions of dollars in damage to crops each year in Australia. This project will involve testing the potential for endosymbiotic …14 June, 2019 wolbachia, mosq...
Cracking the kinship code: Measuring animal dispersal across generations with DNA
NEW paper! Dispersal is a key component of the ecology and evolution of animal populations. It allows animals to colonize new habitats, escape deteriorating conditions, and locate mates. When animals disperse and breed successfully in new habitats that are already occupied by the same species, there will be an exchange of genes. This exchange is essential in maintaining the health of …31 May, 2019 Aedes, threaten...
Stowaway mozzies enter Australia from Asian holiday spots – and they’re resistant to insecticides
Original article published on The Conversation Words: Tom Schmidt, Andrew Weeks, and Ary Hoffmann We might not be able to use common insecticides to kill mosquitoes that arrive from other countries. from www.shutterstock.com Planning a trip to the tropics? You might end up bringing home more than just a tan and a towel. Our latest research looked at mosquitoes that travel as secret stowaways on …26 March, 2019 Aedes aegypti, ...
New open access paper: Morphological and molecular analysis of Australian earwigs (Dermaptera) points to unique species and regional endemism in the Anisolabididae family
Words and images: Oliver Stuart Link to open access paper Earwigs (Dermaptera) are a challenging group of insects to study. In Australia, earwigs are variously known as pests, predators of pests (so, beneficial insects), or both at once depending on the crop type and other particulars. The invasive Forficula auricularia (the European earwig) is the most common pest, but we also have …15 March, 2019 evolution, pest...
The insect apocalypse
A recent review paper in Biological Conservation by Francisco Sánchez-Bayoa and Kris Wyckhuys has sparked considerable media attention on the plight of insects and the need to conserve them. In amongst the noise, PEARGs own Linda Thomson was interviewed by The New Daily about what you can do in your own back yard to help.21 February, 2019 News
Sterile mosquito release leads to 80% population knock-down in Singapore
The National Environment Agency of Singapore released Wolbachia infected male mosquitoes last April in order to suppress the local population. The field study has been a fantastic success with an 80% population reduction achieved in the last nine months. Ary is a member of Singapore's Dengue Expert Advisory Programme, providing expertise and guidance for the program. Read more about it …6 February, 2019 wolbachia, Aede...
With temperature records being smashed around Australia people are paying ever more attention to climate change. As Adelaide has set a new record maximum temperature ABC's Adelaide reporter Malcolm Sutton interviewed Ary for an article, loosely based around our open access review in Austral Ecology25 January, 2019 News
An adventure in Alice at the AES conference 2018
Header photo: Marianne Coquilleau, Samantha Ward, Xuan Cheng, Josh Douglas, Tom Schmidt and Oliver Stuart Words: Oliver Stuart and Samantha Ward Introduction This past September was the 49th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Australian Entomological Society (AES). The Society publishes an Australia-focused journal and maintains, through its membership, a network of professional and student entomologists. Every year the network …8 January, 2019 Agriculture, ta...
A long way to go for a small species
Words: Daronja Trense Images: Daronja Trense & Klaus Fischer One of the projects of my PhD is to investigate the genetic connectivity of the Copper butterfly (Lycaena tityrus) in the Ötzvalley of the European Alps. In summer 2018, we collected 186 butterflies to understand how the geological structure of the valley has influences the genetic constitution of L. tityrus. PEARG provided me the …19 December, 2018 News
How to Tackle the Climatic Threats to Australia’s Eco-System | Ary interviewed on 102.7 3RRR
Please follow this link to Ary's recent interview on Three Triple R FM4 December, 2018 News
Living a life of luxury in the laboratory
Words and images: Perran Ross Mosquitoes in the wild live it rough. Adult females risk being swatted as they search for a blood meal and their larval progeny must fend off predators and compete for limited resources. When we want to study mosquitoes under controlled conditions we bring them into the laboratory, but these conditions often don’t reflect their natural environment. …29 November, 2018 News
NEW PUBLICATION | Impacts of recent climate change on terrestrial flora and fauna: Some emerging Australian examples
Words: Nick Bell Header image: Johan Larson, Department of Tropical Biology, James Cook University Together with a team of experts from across Australia, PEARG has recently published an open access review in Austral Ecology. The review outlines eight case studies which demonstrate the effects of climate change on the nation’s native flora and fauna. We’ve also put together a summary article …22 November, 2018 News
Collecting Rhynchosciara: an important fly in the history of genetics
Words and images: Ann Stocker Rhynchosciara species are endemic to South and Central America. The larvae are readily observed because they are a centimeter or more in length, usually reddish in colour and travel in groups of dozens to hundreds of individuals (Fig 1). However, they only came to the attention of biologists after Crodowaldo Pavan, a Professor at the University …6 November, 2018 laboratory adap...
In the ‘field’ of science
Words: Samantha Ward If I ask you what is involved in studying for a PhD, a Doctor of Philosophy, a higher or postgraduate degree in science, what do you envisage? The terms are different, but I’m sure the image is the same. How do you imagine a Science PhD? Credit: Cindy Schultz via Flickr Most people would likely describe the endless monotony of writing …1 November, 2018 News
The platypus: another impending extinction?
Words: Samantha Ward The duck-billed platypus has always been something of an enigma. When the first pelt and sketch were sent back to Europe at the end of the 18th century, many British scientists refused to accept the platypus was a real organism. Instead, they believed it was an assortment of animal parts that had been sewn together as a hoax. Its duck-like …1 November, 2018 News
A cat-astrophe waiting to happen!!!
Words: Samantha Ward Friend or foe? When you look at your fluffy pet cat curled up beside you on the sofa, do you see a cute companion or a calculating killer? Cute companion or calculating killer? Credit: Author’s own. I’m going to assume the former, but now let me ask you this: Do you let your cat outside, even for five minutes a day? …1 November, 2018 threatened spec...
Zoos – the good, the bad and the ugly
Words: Samantha Ward We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you…?” Perhaps you remember singing the song when you were a child. If you do, you probably have it stuck in your head now! If you don’t, I’m sure you remember those fun-filled zoo days watching gigantic elephants spraying themselves with water, nose pressed against the glass looking …1 November, 2018 conservation, Blog
Congratulations to Ann Stocker | fungus gnat species named
Image credit: Zootaxa Congratulations to Ann for being recognised for her extensive contributions to our understanding of Australian flies. A species of Victorian fungus gnat (Diptera: Sciaridae) has been formally described and named Austrosciara stockerae. You can read about the taxonomic details in a recent Zootaxa article here. The dedication blurb A bit about Ann from her profile; Ann Stocker, Honorary Research …24 October, 2018 News
The diversity of Aussie grasshoppers | Part two
Words and images: Vanessa White Some important lessons learnt and new questions around Vandiemenella laboratory rearing In the previous grasshopper blog, I reported “reasonable success with room for improvement” in our attempts to rear Vandiemenella grasshopper nymphs in the laboratory. Alternative housing is an important focus for improvement, but a discussion with Mike and Ary raised the question of differing food requirements …15 October, 2018 laboratory adap...
The diversity of Aussie grasshoppers | Part one
Words: Vanessa White Images: Mike Kearney and Vanessa White Why Australian grasshoppers are fantastic research subjects: The Morabine grasshoppers (subfamily Morabinae) commonly known as “matchstick grasshoppers” are endemic to Australia and comprise 40 genera and around 250 species (Rentz 1996). Both sexes are wingless with a characteristic matchstick-like appearance. Some Morabine species have been studied in detail due to their interesting life …8 October, 2018 evolution, cons...
Words: Mengjia Liu Images: Perran Ross and Mengjia Liu It is important to study the fitness of different colonies of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, and also of interest to test fitness effects within the same colony when mosquitoes are maintained under different conditions. As we have been maintaining uninfected mosquitoes under laboratory conditions for over 25 generations, one question emerges: What is the difference …5 October, 2018 wolbachia, mosq...
SEEKING MSc STUDENT | Buruli Ulcer’s Most Wanted – Understanding the mosquito associated with the flesh-eating bacteria, Mycobacterium ulcerans
Aedes notoscriptus has been identified in association with the emerging bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans, which causes Buruli ulcer, as well as being a vector of Ross River virus. Key ecological features such as bloodmeal feeding patterns and movement dynamics of individuals are however not clearly defined. This project will involve both laboratory and field-based components. Field collections will be conducted in …3 October, 2018 mosquitoes, Aed...
BACK FROM THE BRINK | CROWDFUNDING FOR THE GENETIC RESCUE OF EASTERN BARRED BANDICOOTS
Words: Anne Aulsebrook Cover image: Mount Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre An article published in 1934 describes the flavour of bandicoot stew. ‘After chewing a mouthful I gave up.’ The writer states, ‘The stew tasted like roots. I have not sampled stewed bandicoot since.’ At the time of the article, bandicoots in Australia were already under threat. While not favoured by the writer, bandicoots …3 October, 2018 threatened spec...
The economic benefit of biodiversity in agriculture
Words: Linda Thomson Image: Zagrammosoma latilineatum by Elia Pirtle Along with sustainability, biodiversity is a current catchword. Our work demonstrating the benefits of non crop vegetation on increasing biodiversity and especially "beneficials' which contribute to pest control in crops. Enthusiasm for the project is shown by the excellent attendance at a recent workshop – report of which has been highlighted as an …7 September, 2018 Agriculture, pe...
Progressing genetic rescue with eastern barred bandicoots
Words: Ary Hoffmann Cover image: John Gould 1863 As featured recently in a Pursuit piece, we are making steady progress with the genetic rescue of eastern barred bandicoots through our joint work with Mt Rothwell sanctuary. Genetic rescue provides a way of introducing new genetic material into threatened populations which in turn allows these populations to increase their fitness and ability to …6 September, 2018 threatened spec...
A new and unusual Wolbachia bacteria from Drosophila flies limited to the female sex
Words: Ary Hoffmann Cover image: Perran Ross As Wolbachia bacteria that live inside insect cells continue to be discovered and studied in detail, our appreciation of the diverse ways in which these bacteria interact with their hosts continues to expand. In past work we have found Wolbachia that cause embryo death when infected males mate with uninfected females (“cytoplasmic incompatibility”), Wolbachia that …24 August, 2018 wolbachia, endo...
Probing the void for blood
Words and video: Perran Ross I recently filmed one of our mosquito colonies trying desperately to reach my arm through their enclosure. The video has been posted on Reddit by a third party and received enormous attention with over 4.5 million views in its first nine hours. To make the video, I held my arm next to a cage of Aedes aegypti …10 July, 2018 wolbachia, mosq...
We have a logo!
Excellent design by Elia Pirtle, as you can see our beleaguered website manager hasn't quite figured out how to make it work as a banner image on this site.27 June, 2018 News
New paper | Interspecific hybridization may provide novel opportunities for coral reef restoration
A new paper is out in Frontiers in Marine Science - article link A nicely digestible review of the article is available at Ocean bites here27 June, 2018 conservation, g...
Large male mosquitoes unluckier in love
Words and images: Perran Ross Large male mosquitoes may have more trouble than smaller males in finding a partner. In a new study, we find that small female mosquitoes tend to avoid larger males, preferring to mate with smaller ones. In this study, now available as a pre-print on bioRxiv, we performed laboratory experiments to investigate the effect of male and …31 May, 2018 mosquitoes, Aed...
New publication | Fine-scale landscape genomics helps explain the slow spatial spread of Wolbachia through the Aedes aegypti population in Cairns, Australia
Author summary and figures by Tom Schmidt Wolbachia is a bacterium that suppresses the capacity for arbovirus transmission in the mosquito Aedes aegypti, and can spread spatially through wild mosquito populations following local introductions. Recent introductions in Cairns, Australia have successfully established Wolbachia in the Ae. aegypti population, but the infection has spread more slowly than expected through the surrounding area. Potential reasons …25 May, 2018 wolbachia, endo...
Insect Armageddon!!? | Ary and others discuss on ABC Radio National Science Friction
Header photo by Museums Victoria, CC BY. Photographer: Rodney Start Original broadcast Sunday 20 May 2018 http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sciencefriction/insect-armageddon/977565421 May, 2018 News
NEW PROJECT | Buruli ulcer
Words and photo: Jason Axford On 26 April at the Peter Doherty Institute, Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced new NHMRC funding to investigate the mysterious and rather horrific disease commonly known as Buruli ulcer (BU) (formerly known as Bairnsdale ulcer). The project is led by Prof. Tim Stinear in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Peter Doherty Institute …10 May, 2018 mosquitoes, Aed...
NEW PUBLICATION | The influence of host adaptation on crop rotations in managing the redlegged earth mite
Words and photo: Xuan Cheng This research has been published in the Journal of Economic Entomology The redlegged earth mite, Halotydeus destructor (Tucker) (Trombidiformes: Penthaleidae) is a polyphagous economic pest in Australia, attacking a broad range of host plants in broadacre farming systems1. Although applications of pesticides are currently the main method in managing earth mites, resistance against pyrethroid and organophosphate chemicals …10 May, 2018 News
Biology of the babushkas
Words: Samantha Ward As the name suggests, at the Pest & Environmental Adaptation Research Group we are interested in pest species and enjoy investigating novel approaches to sustainably control such organisms. I began my PhD at PEARG in 2016 studying parasitoid wasps; A group of wasps that lay their eggs inside or onto other arthropods. Parasitoids differ from parasites because they …10 May, 2018 pests, Agricult...
Ambiguous literature | kdr triple resistance mutation – Where has it really been found?
Editors note: This article is direct from our internal research diary Words: Nancy M. Endersby-Harshman The purpose of this article is to recommend very careful reading and analysis of the literature relating to sodium channel mutations in Aedes aegypti and equal care in writing about them. I have uncovered some confusion in the mosquito literature about the kdr triple resistance mutation in the …4 May, 2018 mosquitoes, Aed...
PEARG on the air tonight
Tune in to 3RRR 102.7 FM between 7-8 this evening to hear Ary in discussion about all things insect ecology. If you miss it or live too far from Melbourne to tune in, you can stream the show live at rrr.org.au or after it airs at https://www.rrr.org.au/program/greening-the-apocalypse/ 3RRR is a Melbourne based community radio station, this show in particular is usually quite …1 May, 2018 Blog, News
Rapid evolution in insect pest species
Off the back of a review Ary wrote last year in Current Opinion in Insect Science, a less technical and more digestible summary is now available (sans pay-wall) at Science Trends. A Quote from the Science Trends article to grab your interest: Evolutionary changes often occur when pest species invade new areas where they have not been found before ... Pests are …30 April, 2018 evolution, pest...
HONORARY & VISITING MEMBERS
|Heng Lin Yeap|
PREVIOUS HOFFMANN SUPERVISED GRADUATE STUDENTS
2018 Xuan Cheng | PhD
2018 Perran Ross | PhD
2018 Ellen Cottingham | MsC
2018 Tom Schmidt | PhD
2017 Rahul Rane | PhD
2017 Rebecca Jordan | PhD
2017 Bryant Gagliardi | PhD
2017 Megan Hirst | PhD
2017 Peter Kriesner | PhD
2017 Peter Mee | PhD
2016 Michele Johnstone | MPhil
2016 Lihsin Wua | PhD
2015 Rhys Coleman | PhD
2015 Valentina Colombo | PhD
2015 Rachel Slatyer | PhD
2015 Katy Jeppe | PhD
2014 Heng Lin Yeap | PhD
2014 James Camac | PhD
2014 Ian Smith | PhD
2013 Kallie Townsend | PhD
2013 Jess M’Baya | PhD
2012 Purabi Ghosh | MPhil
2012 Matt Hill | PhD
2012 Elise Furlan | PhD
2011 Phillipa Griffin | PhD
2011 Sarah de Garis | MPhil
2011 Kate Mitchell | PhD
2010 Lauren Carrington | PhD
2010 Adrian Rakimov | PhD
2010 John Roberts | PhD
2010 Aston Arthur | PhD
2009 Gareth Holmes | PhD
2009 Warsito | PhD
2009 Cheeseng Chong | PhD
2008 Isabel Valenzuela | PhD
2008 Vanessa Kellermann | PhD
2008 Sean Byars | PhD
2008 Belinda Van Heerwaarden | PhD
2007 Paul Mitrovski | PhD
2007 Michael Nash | PhD
2007 David Sharley | PhD
2006 Nicole Bone | MPhil
2006 Vin Pettigrove | PhD
2006 Melissa Carew | PhD
2006 Lea Rako | PhD
2006 Marina Telonis-Scott | PhD
2005 Martina Bernard | PhD
2005 Michelle Schiffer | PhD
2005 Karen Herbert | PhD
2005 Mark Kellett | PhD
2005 Nancy Endersby | PhD
2004 Paul Umina | PhD
2004 Brad Rundle | PhD
2004 Claire Milton | PhD
2003 Angela Corrie | PhD
2003 Tracy Reynolds | PhD
2003 Andrea Magiafoglou | PhD
2003 Chantelle Sinclair | PhD
2003 Ursula Kolliker-Otte | PhD
2002 David Bennett | PhD
2001 Michelle Robinson | PhD
2000 Andrew Weeks | PhD
2000 Linda J. Thomson | PhD
1999 Nicole C. Jenkins | PhD
1999 Richard Woods | PhD
1999 Miriam Hercus | PhD
1998 Tracey Bjorksten | PhD
1998 David Clancy | PhD
1998 DeAnn C. Glenn | PhD
1997 Carla M. Sgrò | PhD
1995 Marcus Watson | MPhil
1989 Mark W. Blows | PhD