Lab Members

Chief Investigator


Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Queensland. Over the past eight years, the Ortiz-Barrientos lab has built genomic, genetic, ecological and molecular resources to study speciation and adaptation in the Senecio lautus species complex. Our research explores the early stages of speciation, the genetic basis of adaptation and its relation to the evolution of reproductive isolation, the genetics of replicated evolution, and the developmental population genetics of ecologically important traits. We are also interested on the role of sexual selection in driving plant speciation, and on how the evolution of recombination interacts with species divergence. 

PhD students

Henry Arenas-Castro is revising the mechanisms, drivers, and outcomes of conspecific gamete precedence. He is contrasting theoretical expectations with empirical evidence coming from the literature, field, and glasshouses. He is particularly interested in exploring the interplay between conspecific gamete precedence and reinforcement through simulations and crossing experiments using the S. lautus species complex as a system. Henry is committed to science popularisation initiatives and is passionated by the history of scientific exploration of the Neotropic. Bird watching is also one of his biggest passions.


Beth Brittain is doing experimental evolution to study the advantage of recombination during adaptation and its consequences for species divergence. By evolving competent and non-competent bacteria, Beth is asking whether recombination alleviates Hill-Robertson’s effects, and how this manifests at the DNA sequence level. She is also modeling various aspects of the evolution of competence in bacteria, and asking how this interacts with the accumulation of genetic divergence betwen populations adapting to contrasting environments. She is co-supervised by Jan Engelstaedter (JE Lab). 


Maddie James is studying the evolution of recombination rates during speciation with gene flow. Her project include the exploration of patterns of ancestral and current recombination rates in S. lautus. Maddie is also building Linkage maps between multiple population pairs of coastal ecotypes so she can evaluate levels of variation in recombination rates across the system. 


Melanie Wilkinson  is studying the genetic basis of adaptation in S. lautus. She is focusing on the molecular basis of traits that evolved repeatedly and independently in the system. We have found that certain molecular pathways contain multiple genes genetically differentiated in coastal parapatric pairs. Melanie is aiming to isolate these genes, and unveil the genetic and molecular basis of parallel evolution of traits. She uses a combination of physiological, ecological, and genetic experiments in her research. 

Honours students

Saphira Schroes  is studying the role of inversions during parapatric speciation. She is using linkage map approaches to map traits and inversions both within and between ecotypes of the S. lautus species complex. Her favorite topics are the processes underlying speciation, thinking about evolution  in a multidimensional  space and the evolution of sex and sex-biased mutations. She fell in love with wildflowers in the Canadian rocky mountains and is pretty stoked to be working on them! Hobbies are hiking and rock climbing :D


PhD students

2014 - Federico Roda dissertation focused on the genomic basis of parallel ecological speciation. He is a postdoc in the lab of Robin Hopkins at Harvard University.

2014 - Maria Clara Melo explored the ecological and genetic mechanisms causing extrinsic reproductive isolation and tested the ecological speciation hypothesis in plants. She also estimated rates of contemporary gene flow between parapatric populations of coastal S. lautus ecotypes. She recently joined as a Postdoc the laboratory of Nick Barton at ITS.

2015 - Huanle Liu developed the current genome draft of S. lautus. He also studied genome duplication and evolution in the system. He is currently a postdoc in the laboratory of Mark Ragan at The University of Queensland

2014 - Diana Bernal took a functional genomics and developmental genetics approach to uncover the genetic causes of leaf morphology variation in S. lautus, and its adaptive significance. She is postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory to Carolyn Lee-Parson at Northeastern University in Boston. 

2016 - Tom Richards tested for ecologically dependent reproductive isolation using reciprocal transplant experiments in the field, and the cumulative effects of multiple barriers to gene flow between wild populations. His adventures in 35mm can be found here: He will start a postdoctoral position in Uppsala university in 2018. 

2017 - Greg Walter  explored the quantitative genetic basis of adaptive radiations. By combining reciprocal transplant experiments in multiple locations, with the study of multivariate trait evolution, Greg asked how natural selection drives the evolution of reproductive isolation and trait divergence during the early stages of ecotypes. Greg will soon start a postdoc with Jon Bridle and Simon Hiscock.  

Undergraduate students and visiting academics

Luke Ambrose, Honours Student currently a PhD student in the Beebe Lab

Zoe Samson, Honours Student

Alicia Grealy, Honours Student, currently a PhD student at University of Western Australia

Andrea Schaul, Honours Student, currently a Researsh Assistant in Sydney

Peter Prentis, Visiting Postdoc, currently faculty member at Queensland University of Technology

Florencia Camus, Summer Undergraduate Student, currently PhD student in the Downling Lab

Rhianna Knable, Summer Undergraduate Student, she will start her PhD in Cambridge University next fall

Stephanie Kerr, Summer Undergraduate Student, currently a PhD student in the Beveridge Lab

Paul Atkins, Visiting Undergraduate Student, currently a PhD student in the Voytas Lab

© Daniel Ortiz Barrientos 2018