ARC Success for the SEX LAB

Yesterday’s ARC Grants announcements held two pieces of particularly good news for the SEX LAB.

1. Dr Michael Kasumovic was awarded a Discovery Grant for a project titled  “Adaptive plasticity and evolution: linking the genotype and the environment to understand phenotypic evolution and expression”. This is the  first genomics project ever funded in our lab.


SUMMARY: Different environmental signals alter when and where specific genes are expressed, thereby altering the phenotype. This project will examine the differences in the timing and use of genes in response to cues of competition that result in differences between the sexes. This will increase our understanding of the role of genes in sexual evolution.

2. Rob Brooks and Barnaby Dixson were awarded a Discovery Grant for the first ever human project funded in our lab. Project title: Body size in the 21st century: integrating evolution, economics and culture.  

SUMMARY: This project will study how evolution and biology interact with culture and economics to shape two important aspects of our world and our lives: the unfolding global obesity crisis and the complex, nuanced judgments people make about body shape. This research will inform the public health issues of obesity and body image problems.

For more on body research and to take part in our preliminary research projects, visit



Dissecting Gender – Workshop at Melbourne Writer’s Festival

Rob is appearing at a workshop on Dissecting Gender as part of the 2011 Melbourne Writer’s Festival, on Sunday 28 August, 4-5pm. The other panellists are Jane McCredie and Cordelia Fine, and the session is to be moderated by Monica Dux.

The Event description says: Join Jane McCredie, Rob Brooks, Cordelia Fine and Monica Dux to consider the scientific evidence for there being differences between the male and female brain, how differences arise, how gender difference informs our culture, and whether it’s actually possible to get to the bottom of these questions.
The event is being filmed by the ABC’s Big Ideas program.
I believe I have two complementary tickets to the session, and I’m happy to give these to any Melbourne-based readers who are keen to come and be part of this event.

Welcome Madeline Girard

Maddie Girard is a PhD student from UC Berkeley (Damian Elias’ research group) who studies signalling in peacock spiders and other insects. She is visiting Australia until the end of the year, and will be based in our lab at UNSW and Mariella Herberstein’s lab at Macquarie. Until the peacock spiders emerge in Spring, Maddie will be working on crickets in the lab.

Do check out Maddie’s awesome video, above, on her spider work.

Grant to Chang Seok Han

Chang Seok has just been informed that he is to receive a Rosemanry Grant award for Graduate Student Research from the Society for the Study of Evolution.

The goal of these grants is to identify and support innovative and potentially high impact research by beginning graduate students. His proposal was reviewed very positively amid a competitive field and he was awarded the full amount of his budget (US $ 1894).

Bon Voyage Elke

Our much-loved lab manager, Elke Venstra, has left the building. She’s headed elsewhere to travel and for some well-deserved holiday before starting her next exciting venture. We had a pleasant party on her last day of work last week, and we wish her all the very best.

Heather is now our lab manager and we are all looking forward to having her in charge of the lab for the next year or more.


Dr Alex Jordan

I am pleased to say that Lyndon (Alex) Jordan’s PhD thesis received glowing endorsement from three top-quality international examiners, and has been accepted subject to a few minor corrections. If you were ate last Friday’s exit seminar you would have seen a glimpse of his very impressive work, which one examiner called “a brilliant thesis reflecting a great deal of hard work, scholarship and insight”. Congratulations to Alex.

Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll has gone to press

 Jane McCredie, my publiser at NewSouth Books tells me that Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll has been sent to the printer! I’m very excited that I’ll soon see the book in physical form and cannot wait to start promoting the book when it goes on sale in June. Thanks to Jane and everyone at NewSouth Books for the fabulous work and care they have lavished on this book over the last 2 years.

Lust: Is Love Blind? Valentines Day Event at the RiAus in Adelaide

Rob recently participated, together with Professor Bill von Hippel (Psychologist at the University of Queensland) and Helen Statman (performance artist from the troupe Cocoloco) in a Valentine’s day event at the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus). The evening’s events were streamed live, and you can see an edited version here.
Continue reading Lust: Is Love Blind? Valentines Day Event at the RiAus in Adelaide

Alex Jordan on the Costs of Promiscuity

Alex Jordan‘s massive win in the People’s Choice award at the Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania Three-Minute Thesis Competition led to a gig behind the microphone with the ABC. Alex recently recorded this wonderful audio piece on the costs of promiscuity.

Listen to Alex talk about the work that won him the People’s Choice prize, and which was recently published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. While you are at it, look at Alex’s award-winning poster – the poster formerly known as ‘the Coolidgest Poster Ever‘.