Below you’ll find links to the major research themes and ongoing projects in the TrEnD Lab.
eDNA for Global Environment Studies (eDGES) Program
The eDGES program (link here) is funded by BHP’s Social Investment Framework, ‘Environment’ stream by contributing to “biodiversity conservation, water stewardship and climate change mitigation and adaptation.” This project has five distinct sub-projects, ranging from conservation genomics of Pilbara Olive Python, monitoring of biodiversity deep in the Australian underground and high altitude salt lakes in Chile, and improving detection of marine invasive species. As a common theme, these projects aim to improve and expand the utility of eDNA as a biological biomonitoring tool.
Ancient DNA (aDNA)
Ancient DNA sequences provide us with a direct molecular window into the past – crucial for understanding changes in biodiversity over time. The TrEnD lab houses state-of-the-art clean room facilities for conducting aDNA research and Prof. Morten Allentoft who was recently recruited to lead the TrEnD Lab has extensive expertise in working with ancient DNA and large-scale population genomics. These efforts will now be refocused at Curtin University to study the evolution and distribution of Australian biodiversity. In working on ancient material such as animal bones, environmental DNA and large genomic datasets obtained from modern and extinct species, new and exciting insights await into the evolution of Australia’s remarkable biodiversity and its changes through time.
Reptiles – a continent full of critters waiting to be sequenced
Reptiles are endangered and understudied in many regions and excellent model organisms for understanding micro- and macro-evolutionary processes – in particular in Australia where the diversity is greater than anywhere else. Using state-of-the-art genomic technologies and environmental DNA, we will focus on the molecular evolution, conservation genetics and biomonitoring of reptiles. Watch this space!
Coral Conservation and Research (CORE Group)
Reef-building hard corals form the basis of coral reef ecosystems, and their health impacts the thousands of species that live in association with corals. The coral research and conservation (CORE) group studies coral biodiversity, functional biology, taxonomy and systematics, eco-evolutionary dynamics, population and conservation genetics.
WA Human Microbiome Collaboration Centre (WAHMCC)
The human microbiome plays an important role for our health and it’s therefore important to decipher how it changes in different stages of life, the impact of our environment, in disease but also over time and with diet or other interventions. The TrEnD lab, through WAHMCC, has the expertise to profile these changes using different molecular based approaches.
eDNA for terrestrial monitoring
Terrestrial environmental DNA (eDNA) combined with DNA metabarcoding is poised to become an effective alternative to existing monitoring approaches. Metabarcoding is a tool that allows biological auditing from DNA in the environment, and can provide cost-effective monitoring that can detect flora, fauna and soil microbial communities.
The TrEnD lab is collaborating closely with the genetics node of the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration, led by Dr Paul Nevill. Mining is a multibillion dollar industry in Western Australia and mine site restoration has increasingly become a concern for mining companies and the public. Monitoring is a crucial aspect of determining restoration success and indicating when further remediation may be necessary.
Western Australia (WA) has an extraordinary array of obligate subterranean animals associated with a variety of geological formations containing both aquatic (stygofauna) and terrestrial animals (troglofauna). This fauna comprises ancient taxon groups (>40 million years), which are predominantly short-range endemics, that maintain evolutionary histories reflective of the past climatic and biogeographic history of Australia. However, despite considerable research in the last decade, much of the fauna remains poorly understood. The TrEnD lab’s current research is focusing on the application of eDNA for assessing and monitoring Australia’s subterranean short-range endemic fauna.
eDNA frontiers was launched by Curtin University in 2018 as a contract research laboratory, seeking to explore and build upon eDNA technologies developed from within the Trace and Environmental DNA research laboratories. eDNA frontiers is a dedicated service focused business unit providing biodiversity testing capabilities and industry-driven research to the field.