I am a lesbian and I am a PhD student.//
I am a lesbian PhD student in evolutionary genetics at the University of Sydney, Australia. My main research interests are insect diversity and evolution. Specifically, I use the DNA of Australian giant burrowing cockroaches to construct family trees (phylogenies) and figure out what they can tell us about how evolution operates. I also work on the evolution of the genomes of symbiotic bacteria that live inside cockroaches. In the past few years it’s been found these roaches have evolved behaviour and body types associated with a burrowing lifestyle multiple times independently of one another, which goes against a basic assumption in evolutionary biology that lineages diverge and diversify over time. The fact that these forms have arisen over and over suggests to scientists that evolutionary processes, at least in this group, might be more predictable than was once thought! It turns out there’s a strong association between ancient aridification events in Australia – the drying out of the continent – and the parallel evolution of burrowing behaviour. Crucially, teasing apart how temperature and aridification have affected animals in the past can inform our understanding of how they might respond to future events, particularly in the face of human-driven climate change.