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My research revolves around the Drosophilidae of Australia and how this rich and under-valued resource can help us to answer important questions regarding adaptation and survival of vulnerable animal species, particularly when subjected to environmental stresses such as climate change and habitat destruction. In Australia our 300+ Drosophilid species tend to congregate in the tropical and temperate forests located on the east coast of the continent. Their varied distributions along the east coast latitudinal cline provide a powerful tool for conducting evolutionary studies. I am interested in monitoring changes in species distributions, in an effort to understand: what variables determine/limit species distributions; what is required at a genetic level to enable range expansion; and do specialist species have the ability to tolerate or adapt to conditions outside those they normally encounter?
My role as a Research Fellow within PEARG also sees me as the resident Drosophilid taxonomist and “fly hunter”, necessitating regular field trips to locations in Australia spanning from south of Hobart to the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula, as well as various locations throughout SE Asia. I have also conducted collections on the islands to the east of Africa.
On return to the laboratory, Drosophila specimens are either cultured or stored in ethanol and used for population and species level analyses including: stress resistance traits; life history traits; genetic differentiation; habitat preference and distribution; genomics and bioinformatics.
I also liaise closely with Dr Shane McEvey, specialist taxonomist of the Drosophilidae, based at the Australian Museum. Together we aim to identify the presence of cryptic/undescribed species, and to generally clarify and tidy up the taxonomy of Australian Drosophilidae.
Recent Publications (2010 – 2014):
Schiffer, M; Hangartner, S; Hoffmann, AA. (2013) Assessing the relative importance of environmental effects, carry-over effects and species differences in thermal stress resistance: a comparison of Drosophilids across field and laboratory generations. Journal of Experimental Biology: 213, 3790-3798
Hoffmann, AA; Blacket, MJ; McKechnie, SW; Rako, L; Schiffer, M; Rane, RV; Good, RT; Robin, C; Lee, SF. (2012) A proline repeat polymorphism of the Frost gene of Drosophila melanogaster showing clinal variation but not associated with cold resistance. Insect Molecular Ecology: 21(4): 437-445
Joly, D., and Schiffer, M. (2010) Coevolution of male and female reproductive structures in Drosophila. Genetica: 138(1) 105-118