From constructing mathematical models aimed at shedding light into bacterial evolution to understanding human-induced environmental changes, researchers in UQ’s School of Biological Sciences have emerged as strong winners in the recent round of Future Fellowships awarded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Dr Jan Engelstaedter and Dr Margie Mayfield join a group of 16 UQ researchers who have been awarded this year’s ARC Future Fellowships.
Faculty Associate Dean (Research) Professor Ian Gentle congratulated the winners on their achievement.

“This year saw the UQ Faculty of Science drawing 50 percent of the successful UQ applicants and 48 percent of the total funding awarded to UQ,” Professor Gentle said.

“A truly impressive result for the Faculty of Science, and for UQ overall.”
Research project summaries:
Dr Jan Engelstaedter
Sex and bottlenecks: understanding the evolutionary dynamics of bacterial adaptation - $686,570
Bacteria can rapidly adapt to changing environments, often with devastating consequences for humans. However, this adaptive evolution is often limited by strong reductions in population size, in particular during transmission from one host to another. This project aims to investigate whether recombination in bacteria can overcome the limits that such bottlenecks impose on the rate of adaptation. To this end, it will construct mathematical models and complement them with evolution experiments in bacterial populations. Results from this research aim to generate fundamental insights into the role of recombination in bacterial evolution and will provide guidance for developing management strategies for bacterial pathogens.
Dr Margie Mayfield
What drives novel community formation? Mechanisms of resilience against invasion and native species persistence under land use change - $770,543
Environmental change is driving the creation of novel communities, stable mixes of native and exotic species. These communities are inevitable outcomes of human-induced environmental changes, yet why and how they form is still poorly understood. As these communities maintain high levels of native biodiversity, they are of great conservation value. Using Western Australia wildflower communities, This project aims to provide the first experimental tests of which environmental and biotic factors drive novel community formation, native species persistence and resilience to invasion. This will be important for developing realistic conservation plans in many ecosystems globally, and more specifically in Western Australia's biodiversity hotspot.
 
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