Professor of Biodiversity; ARC Future Fellow, Flinders University, SA
Luciano Beheregaray is a Professor of Biodiversity and an ARC Future Fellow at Flinders University, in Adelaide. His research interests are in conservation and evolutionary genetics and genomics of aquatic animals. His work illustrates how natural history can stimulate public interest about the importance of biodiversity. He has worked in several remote ecosystems around the world and his research has featured in >3,200 media releases. In Amazonia, he pioneered the combination of genome scans with landscape genetics to clarify adaptive divergence and speciation. In the Galápagos, he produced groundbreaking findings about the evolution of one of the world’s most fascinating radiations. In Australia, he coordinates a multi-institutional team that is linking the distribution and adaptive potential of marine and freshwater biodiversity with key environmental and anthropogenic factors. Luciano received his BSc and MSc in Biological Oceanography at University of Rio Grande (Brazil) and PhD at Macquarie University (Sydney, 2001). He worked at Yale University as a ‘Gaylord Donnelley Environmental Research Fellow’ before starting a tenure position at Macquarie in 2003, followed by a move to Flinders in 2009. In the last ten years his lab produced 170+ papers and he graduated 16 PhD students. He is the head of the Molecular Ecology Lab at Flinders University and is currently an Australian Research Council Future Fellow with a focus on ecological genomics of adaptation in fish.
Understanding whether natural populations will be able to adapt to selective pressures associated with rapid environmental and climatic change is a research priority. In this talk I will present results (and unresolved challenges) from three research programs that study adaptation across the ranges of several marine and freshwater species. These research programs explore natural replicates of the adaptation process by comparing closely related species and populations in geographically separate environments or in shared environments. Our framework to study population adaptations integrates information from population genomic datasets with environmental mapping, trait phenotyping and experiments in wild and captive populations. Some of our results allowed testing general ecosystem-level theories relevant to climatic adaptation and vulnerability; others challenged paradigms in conservation biology. Our key findings include: (i) environmental heterogeneity and natural ecological disturbance influenced levels of adaptive divergence in highly connected metapopulations; (ii) variance in global gene expression (a surrogate for phenotypic plasticity) might contribute to the evolutionary potential of small populations; (iii) populations from more variable habitats showed higher adaptive resilience to climate change. Strategies for cataloguing adaptive resilience to environmental change in ecologically important non-model organisms are presented.