Lab Members

Chief Investigator


Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Queensland. Over the past eight years, the Ortiz-Barrientos lab has built genomic, genetic, ecological and molecular resources to study speciation and adaptation in the Senecio lautus species complex. Our research explores the early stages of speciation, the genetic basis of adaptation and its relation to the evolution of reproductive isolation, the genetics of replicated evolution, and the developmental population genetics of ecologically important traits. We are also interested on the role of sexual selection in driving plant speciation, and on how the evolution of recombination interacts with species divergence. We collaborate closely with the research group of Jan Engelstaedter. 

PhD students

Henry Arenas-Castro is revising the mechanisms, drivers, and outcomes of conspecific gamete precedence. He is contrasting theoretical expectations with empirical evidence coming from the literature, field, and glasshouses. He is particularly interested in exploring the interplay between conspecific gamete precedence and reinforcement through simulations and crossing experiments using the S. lautus species complex as a system. Henry is committed to science popularisation initiatives and is passionated by the history of scientific exploration of the Neotropic. Bird watching is also one of his biggest passions.


Beth Brittain is doing experimental evolution to study the advantage of recombination during adaptation and its consequences for species divergence. By evolving competent and non-competent bacteria, Beth is asking whether recombination alleviates Hill-Robertson’s effects, and how this manifests at the DNA sequence level. She is also modeling various aspects of the evolution of competence in bacteria, and asking how this interacts with the accumulation of genetic divergence betwen populations adapting to contrasting environments. She is co-supervised by Jan Engelstaedter (JE Lab). 

Maddie James is studying the nature of parallel evolution, how demography affects our standard of evidence for repeated evolution, and how predictable is the evolution of recombination rates during speciation with gene flow. Her project include the exploration of patterns diversity and divergence as well as estimates of ancestral and current recombination rates in S. lautus. 


Avneet Kaur is studying the parallel evolution of polygenic adaptation using a combination of mathematical, genomic, and molecular approaches. She joined the lab in research quarter three, 2019!

Honour students

Robin Allsop (2019-2020) is studying the molecular basis of adaptation by exploring the mechanisms that control gravitropic response in multiple dune and headland populations of S. lautus.

Brianna Gough (2019-2020) is studying phyiological mechanisms responsible for variation in pollen-pistil interactions in S. lautus.

Zoe Broad (2020) is studying the evolution of expression divergence in S. lautus.

Nicholas O’Brien (2020) is studying the evolution of chromosomal inversions during polygenic adaptation.

Collaborating students

Jeff Groh  aims to research the genetics of evolutionary change to understand how microevolutionary processes lead to emergent properties of biodiversity. Jeff is currently focused on studying the connection between divergent adaptation and speciation using genomic sequence in Senecio. Prior to joining the Ortiz-Barrientos lab, Jeff studied plant biology at the University of British Columbia, where he researched hybridization and evolutionary ecology in the groups of Dr. Quentin Cronk and Dr. Dolph Schluter. Other than science, Jeff is passionate about distance running, music theory, birding, and popsicles. He is currently student with Graham Coop at UC Davis. 


PhD students

2014 - Federico Roda dissertation focused on the genomic basis of parallel ecological speciation. He was postdoc in the lab of Robin Hopkins at Harvard University, and now is a Max Plank Tandem Research Leader at The Colombian National Univeristy. 

2014 - Maria Clara Melo explored the ecological and genetic mechanisms causing extrinsic reproductive isolation and tested the ecological speciation hypothesis in plants. She also estimated rates of contemporary gene flow between parapatric populations of coastal S. lautus ecotypes. She recently did her Postdoc the laboratory of Nick Barton at ITS.

2015 - Huanle Liu developed the current genome draft of S. lautus. He also studied genome duplication and evolution in the system. He is currently a postdoc in the laboratory of Mark Ragan at The University of Queensland

2014 - Diana Bernal took a functional genomics and developmental genetics approach to uncover the genetic causes of leaf morphology variation in S. lautus, and its adaptive significance. She is postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory to Carolyn Lee-Parson at Northeastern University in Boston. 

2016 - Tom Richards tested for ecologically dependent reproductive isolation using reciprocal transplant experiments in the field, and the cumulative effects of multiple barriers to gene flow between wild populations. His adventures in 35mm can be found here: He recently started postdoctoral position in Uppsala university with John Egren. 

2017 - Greg Walter  explored the quantitative genetic basis of adaptive radiations. By combining reciprocal transplant experiments in multiple locations, with the study of multivariate trait evolution, Greg asked how natural selection drives the evolution of reproductive isolation and trait divergence during the early stages of ecotypes. Greg is a  postdoc with Jon Bridle and Simon Hiscock.  

2019 - Melanie Wilkinson studied the genetic basis of adaptation in S. lautus focusing on the molecular basis of traits that evolved repeatedly and independently in the system. Melanie performed the first steps in our journey to identify adaptive genes, and unveil the genetic and molecular basis of parallel evolution of traits. She used a combination of physiological, ecological, and genetic experiments in her research. She is currently a POstdoctoral Fellow at QAFFI helping create the Australian Platform for Tree Genomics.

Undergraduate students and visiting academics

Saphira Schroes, Honours Student, now Research Assistant at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomic at The University of Queensland

Luke Ambrose, Honours Student currently a PhD student in the Beebe Lab

Zoe Samson, Honours Student, now Project Manager at Melbourne Water

Alicia Grealy, Honours Student, currently a Postdoc in the Langmore Group at Australia National University

Andrea Schaul, Honours Student, currently a Researsh Assistant in Sydney

Peter Prentis, Visiting Postdoc, currently faculty member at Queensland University of Technology

Florencia Camus, Undergraduate Research Student, currently a Marie-Curie Research Fellow at UCL

Rhianna Knable, Undergraduate Research Student, currently doing PhD in Cambridge University

Stephanie Kerr, Summer Undergraduate Student, currently a PhD student in the Beveridge Lab

Paul Atkins, Visiting Undergraduate Student, currently a PhD student in the Voytas 

© Daniel Ortiz Barrientos 2020