Kevin C. Rowe

Senior Curator of Mammals

Kevin Rowe in Sulawesi
Kevin Rowe in Sulawesi
Source: Kevin Rowe

Dr Kevin C. Rowe investigates the systematics, evolution and conservation biology of mammals.


Kevin received his PhD from University of Illinois where he used genetic tools to recover the patterns of post-ice age colonisation of the eastern United States by mammal species and to assess the impacts of urban development on species movements in the present.

As a post-doctoral fellow at the Florida State University, Kevin studied the diversification of the old endemic rodents of Australia and New Guinea. As an international fellow at Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, Kevin investigated the rapid radiation of the native Rattus of Australia and New Guinea and the evolution of odorant receptors and chemical cues among closely related species. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, Kevin combined historical museum records from the early 20th century with modern resurveys to understand how the distributions of mammal species have changed over the last century.

Since joining Museum Victoria in April 2011, Kevin has combined field studies and genetic analyses to study population structure, systematics and evolution in the small mammals of Victoria, Northern Territory and Indonesia. These projects all contribute to understanding the diversification of rodents as they expanded from Asia to Australia.

Current activities:

Molecular systematics and diversification patterns in old world rats and mice, Murinae

This research aims to uncover the phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary processes underlying the exceptional species and morphological diversity in the rodents of southeast Asia and Australia. Recently Kevin has been collecting specimens from Sulawesi, Indonesia that lies at the crossroads of Asia and Australia. Ongoing field studies are supported by a National Geographic Discovery grant.

Evolution of odorant systems in rodents

Odorants are an important source of communication among rodents and are critical to social, parental, and reproductive behaviour. The evolution of odorant systems involves both chemical cues and protein receptors. In this research Kevin combines chemical analysis and genetic data to study how odorant cues and receptors evolve among species and how they are involved in species interactions.

Integrative taxonomy in small mammals

Molecular genetic studies are recovering deep phylogenetic divergence within many species of vertebrates that have not traditionally been recognized as separate species. Combined with rigorous morphological analyses these studies are discovering that the extent of species diversity is greater than we realize. Using molecular, morphological and ecological data Kevin is working in various systems around the world and in Australia to help refine understanding of species diversity in small mammals.

Genome analysis of museum specimens

Natural history collections are fantastic of biological specimens over space and time. In collaboration with Australian and international museums Kevin is developing methods to unlock the genome sequences stored in historical specimens preserved in natural history collections. Many of these specimens represent extinct or declining species and span over 150 years of history. Thus, the genomes locked in these specimens allow to understand how species have evolved in response to changes of the last century.

Changes in the geographic distribution of species

Using museum records to define the historical distribution and ecological limits of species and comparing these to modern surveys of species, this research aims to understand how species respond to changes over historical time.


Pete Smissen (PhD student)

NGS techniques for sequencing DNA from historic museum specimens

Co-supervision with Dr Belinda Appleton and Dr Charles Robin, University of Melbourne.

Last updated 15 December 2011