Collection Manager, Terrestrial Vertebrates
Dr Katie Smith in the museum's collection store.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
Dr Katie Smith is responsible for managing Museum Victoria’s mammalogy, ornithology and herpetology collections. She is also involved in research focussed on speciation and hybridisation primarily across various species of reptiles and amphibians, and the impact of chytrid fungus in Victorian frog populations.
Katie spent a number of years as a student and employee at Museum Victoria before finally landing her dream job in 2013 as a Collection Manager. In 2006, Katie completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours at The University of Melbourne. Her research investigated cryptic speciation in the agamid lizards, Diporiphora magna and Diporiphora bilineata. This project included a field trip across remote parts of Northern Territory and Queensland.
In 2011, Katie completed a PhD at The University of Melbourne in which she studied a hybrid zone that forms between the south-eastern Australian tree frogs, Litoria ewingi and L. paraewingi. Katie utilised historic data from Museum Victoria’s herpetology collection, which included recordings of the male advertisement call and genetic data obtained from museum specimens. She compared this to modern genetic and acoustic data that she collected in the field to look at patterns of hybridisation between these two species through changing ecological conditions.
As the Black Saturday Victorian bushfires in 2009 directly impacted the area of the hybrid zone that Katie had been studying, in the last two years of her PhD, Katie also conducted a post-fire study into changes on the hybrid zone following a natural disturbance event. Further Museum Victoria research is continuing to analyse this important set of data.
Since completing her PhD, Katie has worked on a number of projects in the Sciences Department at Museum Victoria. This has included updating an online database of Australian fish, and a number of population genetic and phylogeographic projects in the Museum Victoria DNA laboratory on various species of reptiles and amphibians, including northern Australian geckos and Earless Dragons. Katie has also joined and led the herpetology team at several Bioscan events, a joint initiative between Parks Victoria and Museum Victoria that involves intensive biodiversity surveys of selected Victorian National Parks.
Katie is responsible for managing, maintaining and providing access to Museum Victoria’s impressive collection of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. She registers new specimens, manages the associated collection data, facilitates loans, provides access to visiting researchers, manages volunteer projects, assists with public enquiries and outreach and gets out in the field when possible.
Katie continues her research into patterns of speciation and hybridisation among reptiles and amphibians, using a range of genetic, morphological, acoustic and ecological data. She is also interested in preventing the spread and impact of the deadly chytrid fungus that is affecting Victorian frogs. Her research aims to document and improve understanding of this devastating disease.