Form and Function of Life

Our Research

  • Why are plants and animals the size and shape that they are? 
  • What structures and physiological systems do they have to help them in their daily lives?  
  • What biological processes allow them to inhabit and survive in their environments?
  • What causes developmental abnormalities, and what can they tell us about normal development?
We address these fundamental questions through investigations of morphology, development, physiology, and reproduction, and the many interactions between them. Ultimately, we seek to improve our understanding of the fascinating relationship between the form and function of life.

Theme Leaders

Theme Leader: A/Professor David Chapple

Deputy Theme Leader: A/Professor Sureshkumar Balasubramanian


The following researchers study the form and function of life.

  • A/Professor Sureshkumar Balasubramanian: Suresh is interested in deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying phenotypic variation that shapes evolution in plants.
  • Professor John Bowman: John researches the genetic and molecular basis of pattern formation in plant development and the evolution of land plant morphology.
  • A/Professor Rob Bryson-Richardson: Robert researches the genetic causes, disease mechanisms, and potential therapies for a range of neuromuscular diseases using the zebrafish as an in vivo model system
  • Dr Richard Burke: Richard is using the experimental advantages of the vinegar fly Drosophila to investigate the genetic regulation of ion transport and metabolism in animal development and disease.
  • A/Professor David Chapple: Dave's research spans invasion biology, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, population and conservation genetics, phylogenetics and phylogeography.
  • Professor Steven Chown: Steven is engaged in biogeographic and macroecological studies, macrophysiology, spatial ecology, and invasion biology. Translation of science into policy is a major focus.
  • Dr Rohan Clarke: Rohan's research seeks to secure biodiversity, especially as it relates to restoration of natural systems and recovery of threatened vertebrate species.
  • A/Professor Damian Dowling: Damian's research focuses on the dynamics of life-history evolution. A core goal is to understand the evolutionary processes that shape our energy producing genes.
  • A/Professor Alistair Evans: Al’s research explores the many aspects of biology that influence the shape or morphology of animals – evolution, development and function – in embryos, adults and fossils.
  • Professor Ros Gleadow: Ros investigates the effect of environmental variables such as drought and elevated carbon dioxide on the partitioning of resources between growth and defence in plants.
  • Dr Matt Hall: Matt's research focuses on the mechanisms by which nutrition shapes lifelong health and ageing using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as model for understanding human health.
  • Dr Travis Johnson: Travis' research explores the genetic and molecular control of cell communication during development using the fruit fly as a model.
  • Dr Francine Marques: Francine's research interests include finding new therapies and early markers to prevent cardiovascular disease, in particular high blood pressure and heart failure
  • Professor Dustin Marshall: Dustin is an evolutionary ecologist who is seeking to improve our understanding of how energy moves through biological systems.
  • Dr Matt McGee: Matt’s research utilizes experimental studies of behaviour in conjunction with modern genomic techniques to understand the phenotypic and genotypic dynamics of ecological speciation, evolutionary innovation, and convergent evolution in fish communities.
  • Professor Melodie McGeoch: Melodie is interested in spatial patterns in biodiversity, how these are impacted by global change and how biodiversity can most effectively be estimated and monitored.
  • Dr Christen Mirth: Christen's research explores the regulation and evolution of developmental plasticity,focussing on how environmental conditions alter body size and shape, life history traits, and patterns of foraging behaviour.
  • Dr Keyne Monro: Keyne's research explores how selection and evolution shape biological diversity, and the evolutionary consequences of environmental change in marine ecosystems.
  • Dr Jos Moore: Joslin's research uses ecological theory and models to solve and inform applied ecological problems that will aid in the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.
  • Professor Moira O’Bryan: Moira's research studies sperm development and function and the causes of human male infertility.
  • A/Professor Anne Peters: Anne's research area is behaviour and ecology of wild birds, with a focus on physiological mechanisms and implications of life-history trade-offs.
  • Dr Matt Piper: Matt's research focuses on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the molecular mechanisms that mediate these effects, with the goal of understanding these processes in humans.
  • A/Professor Richard Reina: Richard investigates ecophysiology of animals, and is interested in their responses to environmental challenge with application to conservation.
  • Professor Carla Sgro:  Carla researches the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change. How evolutionary processes can be incorporated into biodiversity conservation is a focus.
  • Dr Reid Tingley: Reid studies how species traits and environmental change influence the dual processes of invasion and extinction at macroecological scales.
  • Professor Craig White: Craig is an evolutionary physiologist interested in describing and understanding the causes and consequences of physiological variation in animals.
  • Professor Bob Wong: Bob is interested in the evolution of animal mating systems and behaviour, and how investment in sex influences reproductive strategies and biological diversity.

Rainbow Lorikeet. Image: Dr Rohan Clarke.

Growing Plant Tip. Image: Dr Suresh Balasubramanian.

Sperm Tail Movement. Image: Avinash Gaikwad (O'Bryan Lab).

Penguin. Image: A/Professor Richard Reina.

Crabeater Seal. Image: David Hocking (Evans Lab).

Social experiment - male Purple-crowned Fairy Wren stand off with 3-D Model. Image: A/Professor Anne Peters.

Zebrafish embryos. Image: Professor Dustin Marshall.