Dr Camilla Whittington

My research aims to understand the genetic basis of complex evolutionary innovations. Evolutionary innovations like eyes, wings, venom, and live-birth are dramatic, game-changing novelties that are responsible for much of the Earth’s animal diversity. However, their origins are poorly understood because they are produced by the collective action and evolution of thousands of genes. I apply a range of methods including molecular technologies and physiological techniques to elucidate the evolution and genetic basis of complex traits. I have worked with marsupials, monotremes, rodents, and sharks, and my current focus is on using Australian lizards and seahorses as model systems. My interests encompass evolutionary biology, genetics and genomics, physiology, animal behaviour, and conservation.

A list of my publications can be found here. Follow me on ResearchGate, @Camilla_Whitt and Google Scholar.

Emeritus Professor Mike Thompson

The main focus of my research has been on reproduction in reptiles, with a particular emphasis on the physiology and ecology of eggs and embryos. I have studied eggs of all the major groups of reptiles in the world and have recently been studying viviparous species. My current research is concerned mainly with the evolution of viviparity (live birth) using lizards as the model. I combine physiology, anatomy and molecular biology to understand the evolution of viviparity across a range of species that have different placental complexities. Other recent projects in the lab include reproduction in shovel-nosed rays, the physiology and ecology of invasive lizards, sex determination in lizards, physiological ecology of flat rock spiders and feeding behaviour in desert lizards.

A list of my publications can be found here. Follow me on ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

Dr Jessica Dudley

Research Associate

Jess is studying the biology of pregnancy in mammals and seahorses. Follow her on Twitter @jess_s_dudley

Jacquie Herbert

Research Assistant

Jacquie has the unenviable task of managing the lab and wrangling its inhabitants. She is also talented photographer and took many of the photos featured on this website.

Alice Buddle

PhD Student


Deirdre Merry

PhD Student (UTas)

Deirdre is studying pregnancy and birth in Egernia group skinks, and is co-supervised with Dr Geoff While at UTas. Follow her on Twitter @Dei_Merry.

Alice is studying the evolution of pregnancy in Australian sharks, with a focus on morphology and physiology.

Zoe Skalkos

PhD Student

Zoe is studying seahorse pregnancy, cosupervised by Dr James Van Dyke. During her honours in the lab, she discovered the first experimental evidence of nutrient transport from seahorse dad to babies. Follow her on Twitter @ZoeSkalkos.


Stephanie Liang

Research Assistant

Stephanie did her Honours in the lab, and is continuing to research the genetics of viviparity in what is possibly the world's weirdest lizard- the three-toed skink. Follow her on Twitter here @StephanieLiang_

Lauren Lee

Honours Student

Lauren is working on the genetics of reproduction in the three-toed skink.

Lab Alumni


Dr Charles Foster

Research Associate

Charles is now a postdoc at UNSW working in viral evolution. He is a current collaborator interested in big questions in evolutionary biology. His focus in the lab was on using transcriptomic data to research the evolution of viviparity and the placenta. Follow him on Twitter @theCFos.

Dr James Van Dyke

Postdoctoral Fellow

Van is now a Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University, and is a close collaborator. Follow him on Twitter @JamesUVanDyke, and visit his website here.

Dr Henrique Braz

Postdoctoral Fellow

Henrique is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Butantan Institute (São Paulo, Brazil). He has a broad interest in the reproductive biology of squamate reptiles. His research focuses on topics as the evolution of viviparity, reproductive cycles, nest-site selection, and life history. Follow Henrique on Twitter @Braz_HB and visit his website here.

Claudia Santori

PhD (2020)

Claudia is now a Project Officer for Ocean Watch Australia. Her PhD investigated conservation of three turtle species living in the Murray river. Claudia is very interested in alternative conservation strategies such as citizen science, and the use of GIS technology for conservation purposes. You can follow her on Twitter @claudia_santori

Dr Sadequr Rahman

PhD (2020)

Sadeq is researching the evolution of viviparity in sea stars by studying the morphological, physiological and genetic basis of viviparity in Australian species. His broad field of interest is in the evolutionary biology of diverse marine animals. He is now an Assistant Professor at Chittagong University.

Dr Nicky Rollings

PhD (2019)

Nicky is an evolutionary biologist with a focus on life history strategies and telomeres. Through studying dragons and snakes, Nicky seeks to determine the effects that telomeres have at a cellular level all the way to the evolution of species. She is now working in industry.

Dr Melanie Laird

PhD (2018)

Mel's PhD work investigated how the marsupial uterus prepares for pregnancy. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Otago.

Dr Oliver Griffith

PhD (2015)

Oliver's PhD was supervised by Mike Thompson, and he is a current collaborator. He is now a Lecturer at Macquarie University working on the evolution of amniote pregnancy for his DECRA research.


Vertina Teh

Honours (2020)

Vertina studied seahorse pregnancy using histological techniques. She is now undertaking further study.

Monty Oldroyd

Honours I (2018)

Monty's project centred on the evolution of reptile pregnancy using transcriptomics. He is now undertaking further training in computational analysis.


Polly Hannaford

Honours I (2018)

Polly's project focused on respiratory gas supply to viviparous fish embryos. She is now an intern for the Australian Government.

Tara MacKenzie

Honours I (2018)

Tara worked to understand the endocrinology of fish pregnancy.

Josh's project focused on the triggers of labour in viviparous reptiles, in collaboration with Dr Jonathan Paul at the University of Newcastle. He received a grant for his research and a travel grant from the Australian Society of Herpetologists. He is now working in business.

Joshua Kemsley

Honours I (2017)

Jenna Day

Honours I (2016)

Jenna's Honours project was co-supervised by Camilla and Catherine Grueber. Jenna analysed genetic diversity to determine whether heterozygosity affects breeding success in captive Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii). The results of her work will be used to inform the design of captive breeding programs for this endangered marsupial. Jenna is now a PhD Student at the University of Sydney.

Kevin Hendrawan

Honours I (2014)

Kevin's Honours project was co-supervised by Mike Thompson, Camilla, Kathy Belov and Matt Brandley. Kevin's project looked at the regulation of the maternal immune system in pregnant Australian skinks. He received awards at two national conferences for his research (ANZ Society for Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry 2014; Australian Society of Herpetologists 2015). Kevin is now doing stem cell and cancer research at St Vincent's Hospital.