Jane Melville

Senior Curator, Terrestrial Vertebrates

Dr Jane Melville
Dr Jane Melville
Source: Museum Victoria

Dr Jane Melville investigates the evolution, phylogeography, conservation genetics and molecular systematics of lizards and frogs. She is also integrating research on functional genes into evolutionary biology and conservation genetics.

Background:

Dr Jane Melville has been conducting research on the ecology, evolution and genetics of reptiles and amphibians for more than 17 years. She undertook her PhD on the evolution of Tasmanian snow skinks at the University of Tasmanian, before moving to the USA to take up a postdoctoral research position. At Washington University St Louis, in Prof. Jonathan Losos’s lab, she studied the evolution of desert agamid and iguanid lizards. She was particularly interested to see if similar evolutionary patterns could be seen in the Australian and North American deserts – known as convergent evolution. This research led to an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship in Prof. Rick Shine’s lab at the University of Sydney and the project was expanded to include deserts in South America, Central Asia and Africa.

Since commencing work at Museum Victoria, Dr Melville’s research has combined field studies with a variety of genetic analyses to study population biology, systematics, evolutionary ecology, and speciation in reptiles and amphibians. Currently, her research focuses on revising the taxonomy of agamid lizards by integrating genetic and morphological information. Other projects include investigating the impacts of habitat disturbance, particularly the recent Victorian bushfires, on frog populations in the Kinglake region and the impacts of habitat fragmentation on diversity of immune-system genes (MHC) in box-ironbark woodland birds. She is also running other genetics projects aimed at the conservation of endangered reptiles, such as the Striped Legless Lizard, which lives in Victorian grasslands.

Current activities:

Molecular Systematics and Taxonomy

This research on the molecular systematics and phylogeography of Australia's agamid lizards. In particular, Dr Melville is currently focusing research efforts on determining diversification, evolution of species boundaries and taxonomic status of species in the genera Diporiphora,TympanocryptisPogonaAmphibolurus, and Lophognathus. In addition to this molecular research, Dr Melville and colleagues are undertaking a complete morphological review of these genera. Research has been funded from the following grants:

2006 - 2008 Australian Biological Resources Study Participatory Program Grant "An integrative approach to the revision of four genera of Australian lizards (family Agamidae, subfamily Amphibolurinae)." JE Melville (Chief Investigator); RE Glor (University of Rochester); JA Schulte II (Clarkson University)

2004 - 2006 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (Ecology and Evolution) "A molecular phylogenetic study of the evolution of ecological specialisation in Amphibolurinae agamid lizards." JE Melville (Chief Investigator)

2001 - 2003 Australian Research Council Large Grant (Ecology and Evolution) "Evolutionary ecology and molecular systematics of desert agamid and iguanid lizards" JE Melville (Chief Investigator), JB Losos (Harvard University), A Larson (Washington University), N Ananjeva (Russian Academy of Sciences)

Conservation genetics

Dr Melville and collaborators are currently running a number of projects that incorporate novel techniques and approaches to conservation genetics, such as the use of historical museum specimens to investigate changes in genetic diversity of Melbourne frog species through time. She has recently started a project to investigate the long-term impacts of severe bushfires on the population genetics of Victorian frog species. In addition, Dr Melville has run a number of conservation genetics projects on endangered Victorian reptiles species in collaboration with Dr Joanna Sumner, Museum Victoria, and researchers at the Department of Sustainability and Environment. These projects have been funded by the following grants:

2004 Award for Research on the Conservation of Endangered Australian Vertebrate Species, Australian Academy of Sciences "Conservation genetics and ecology of Victoria's earless dragons." JE Melville

2006 - 2008 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant. "Habitat fragmentation: Human-induced changes in the genetic structure of amphibian populations." JE Melville; J Van Buskirk (University of Melbourne); M. Kearney (University of Melbourne); KM Parris (University of Melbourne); JJ Austin (University of Adelaide); MJ Littlejohn (University of Melbourne).

2010-2013 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant. “The impact of severe bushfires on the ecology, demography and genetics of frogs in the Victorian Kinglake region.” JE Melville; KM Parris (Melbourne University); JJ Austin (University of Adelaide); MJ Littlejohn (Melbourne University).

Functional genetics in evolution and conservation

Dr Melville is running a number of research projects that are integrating functional genetics into studies of evolutionary diversification and conservation biology. She is investigating whether evolution in hindlimb length of desert agamid lizards results from differences in gene expression during limb development. Her research team has been investigating a number of genes, includingSHHPITX1PITX2 and GHR, using qPCRs and immunohistochemistry across developmental stages in two agamids lizards (Ctenophorus pictus & Pogona vitticeps). This research has been funded by the following grant:

2007 - 2009 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant. "Convergent Evolution of Desert Lizards: Phylogenomics and Morphological Analyses of Limb Development", Jane Melville (Chief Investigator), Jonathan Losos (Harvard University)

Dr Melville is collaborating in a project investigating the effect of habitat loss and fragmentation in agricultural landscapes by comparing the effective population size, genetic structure and population dynamics of bird species in landscapes that have experienced different levels of habitat loss. As part of this large collaborative project Dr Melville is running a project on the effects of habitat fragmentation on the diversity of immune system genes (MHC IIb). In particular, she is interested whether highly fragmented landscapes are associated with a loss in genetics diversity of this important gene complex and whether there is an associated increase in infection rates of blood parasites. This MHC IIb work is being conducted on eight sympatric species of the woodland bird species and will provide important information of the evolution of this gene complex in Passerines. This work is funded by the following grants:

2007 - 2009 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant "How much habitat and what configuration maintain natural levels of connectivity in southeast Australian native birds?" Chief Investigators : Paul Sunnucks (Monash University), James Radford (Deakin University); Partner Investigators: Leo Joseph (Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO), Jane Melville (Museum Victoria), Graeme Newell (Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, DSE).

2009 Award for Research on the Conservation of Endangered Australian Vertebrate Species, Australian Academy of Sciences " Immunogenetics of Pardalote species in South-eastern Australia." JE Melville

Students and staff

Anna Phillips (MSc student)

"Immunogenetics of the Forty Spotted Pardalote."

Co-supervision with Dr Phil Batterham & Dr Belinda Appleton, Department of Genetics, University of Melbourne.

Maggie Haines (PhD student)

"The evolutionary ecology of alpine lizards threatened by climate change."

Co-supervision with Dr Devi Stuart-Fox, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne.

Claire Keely (PhD student)

"Conservation genetics of the endangered Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) in urbanising landscapes."

Co-supervision with Dr Kirsten Parris & Dr Geoff Heard, Department of Botany, University of Melbourne.

Shandiya Balasubramaniam (PhD student)

“Impacts of habitat fragmentation on MHC IIb gene diversity in birds of the Victorian box ironbark woodlands.”

Co-supervision with Dr Raoul Mulder, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne.

Past students and staff

Katie Smith (PhD student)

“Historical change in a hybrid zone: Evolution of the Hylid frogs, Litoria ewingi and L. paraewingi.”

Co-supervision with Dr Michael Kearney, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne; Dr Kirsten Parris, Department of Botany, University of Melbourne; Dr Jeremy Austin, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide.

Peter Smissen (MSc student)

"Phylogeography and population genetics of Varanus varius: Evidence of rapid expansion and high gene flow in a mobile lizard."

Co-supervision with Dr Tim Jessop, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne; Dr Joanna Sumner, Museum Victoria.

Sumitha Hunjan (Research Assistant)

Sumitha is current working on the project examining the impacts of the 2009 Victorian bushfires on the frog populations of the Kinglake region. Previously, she has worked on the project investigating the developmental genetics of limb length in Australian agamid lizards.

Joshua Hale (PhD student)

“Human-induced changes in the genetic structure of amphibian populations.”

Co-supervision with Dr Michael Kearney, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne; Dr Kirsten Parris, Department of Botany, University of Melbourne; Dr Jeremy Austin, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide.

David Chapple (ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

“Evolution and ecology of squamate reptiles: molecular phylogenetics, phylogeography, systematics, population genetics and evolutionary ecology.”
Currently at: http://www.biolsci.monash.edu.au/staff/chapple/

Luke Shoo (Postdoctoral Researcher)

“Molecular systematics, conservation and population genetics of Australian Agamid lizards.”

Euan Ritchie (Postdoctoral Researcher)

“Macroecology. Systematics and phylogeography of Australian Agamid lizards.”
Currently at: http://www.jcu.edu.au/mtb/publications/JCUPRD_039657.html

Danielle Edwards (Postdoctoral Researcher)

“Phylogeographic studies of the morphologically diverse agamids Diporiphora australis andAmphibolurus nobbi.”

Jeremy Austin (Senior Research Fellow)

Currently at: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/jeremy.austin

Georgia Mantziou (Postdoctoral Researcher)

“Herpetology, evolutionary biology, phylogeography and population genetics.”

Rebecca Bray (Honours Student)

“MHC IIb gene diversity in birds of the Victorian box ironbark woodlands,” University of Melbourne.
Currently a PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University.

Susie Maldonado (Honours Student)

“Human-induced vs. historical habitat shifts: Identifying the processes that shaped the genetic structure of the threatened grassland legless lizard, Delma impar.
Currently a Collection Registration Officer at Museum Victoria

Rebecca Rose (Honours Student)

Currently a PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University.

Julienne Ng (Honours Student)

Currently a PhD student at the University of Rochester, USA.

Felicity McLean (Honours Student)


Last updated 8 August 2012