Potential honours or graduate students interested in working on projects related to the evolution of physiological traits – particularly body size, metabolic rate, and water loss – should email Craig to discuss potential projects. Most of our experimental work is undertaken with insects, but we also have interests in plants and vertebrates, and often conduct meta-analyses of the published literature.

Honours projects:

Metabolic scaling: The relationship between metabolic rate and body mass is strong, but the shape of the relationship has been strongly debated for years. This project will examine the statistical approaches used to analyse the relationship between metabolic rate and body mass, to determine the adequacy of existing analyses.

Insect water loss: Although much of the research examining water loss in insects has focussed on respiratory water loss, particularly in the context of discontinuous gas exchange, most insects actually lose more water through their cuticle than their respiratory system. This project will use our cockroach model to test for phenotypic and genetic correlations between respiratory and cuticular water loss, to determine if selection on water loss will alter these traits together.

Oxygen and Capacity Limited Thermal Tolerance (OCLTT): The OCLTT hypothesis proposes that cardiorespiratory system failure is the principal determinant of the upper thermal limit of animals, and therefore a primary determinant of their realised thermal niche. The hypothesis has been tested and supported in many species, but it remains controversial. This project would synthesise the results of these tests using a phylogenetically informed meta-analysis framework, to test the generality of the OCLTT hypothesis in diverse groups of animals.

Growth and metabolic rate: Recent work has shown that fasted animals still allocate energy to growth; the ongoing costs of growth may therefore influence the relationship between metabolic rate and body mass during ontogeny. Using our cockroach model, we have previously shown that ambient hypoxia slows growth; this project will exploit this effect of ambient oxygen to examine the interaction between growth rate, body mass, and metabolic rate during ontogenetic growth.