Our Team

Program Leader

Dr Damian Dowling

Associate Professor / ARC Future Fellow

Research in Damian Dowling’s group is focused on understanding how life evolves. We draw on experimental evolutionary, genomic and ecological techniques to explore fundamental biological questions.

Post Docs

Dr Rebecca Adrian

ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow

I arrived at Monash in September 2017 after receiving my Ph.D. from Auburn University in Alabama, USA. While my dissertation research focused on the physiological mechanisms underlying honest signaling in carotenoid-based coloration, I became fascinated by deeper evolutionary questions, including the potential roles of mitochondria in mediating both proximate and ultimate causes of patterns we see in nature. In the Dowling Lab, I aim to explore these new avenues of research in the model fruit fly system through tests of the “mother’s curse” hypothesis. I publish under my maiden name, Rebecca Koch.

Dr Magdalena Nystrand

ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow

I am an evolutionary biologist, with a broad interest ranging from behavioural ecology, to disease ecology, to conservation and population dynamics. I have worked on a number of different species, including Eurasian lynx, Red squirrels, Siberian jays (birds), Australian field crickets and fruit flies. The common denominator for everything I have done to date is a keen interest in evolution and ecology, and in exploring the factors that influence the evolutionary process.

Dr Susi Zajitschek

Postdoctoral Associate

I have a special interest in sexual conflict and postcopulatory processes. Currently, I am investigating the transgenerational effects of harmful male traits, in an effort to shed light on the interplay of costs (i.e. reduction in lifespan) and benefits (reproductive success across generations) of this to females. To do this, I run experiments in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) here at Monash, and work on bean weevils (Callosobruchus maculatus) at the EBD-CSIC in Seville, Spain

PhD Students

Venkatesh Nagarajan Radha

I would like to picture myself as an evolutionary biologist and a behavioral ecologist. Having had my basic education in science, chemical engineering and genomics, I carry an armory of cross-disciplinary skills that I employ to understand the evolutionary significance of mitochondrial mutations in fruit flies. Particularly, I specialize in developing semi-automated behavioral experiments using a high-throughput activity phenotyping technology. Besides working as, a full-time PhD student in Dowling’s lab, I associate with behavioral ecologists in Monash university and in India to use non-model organisms like cichlids and bats to answer some evolutionary and behavioral questions.

email: venkatesh.nagarajan-radha@monash.edu

Rebecca Vaught

My research primarily focuses on how the female-biased inheritance of the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) and the X-chromosome impact the longevity and fertility of the two sexes.

email: rebecca.vaught@monash.edu

Ilaria Venturelli

I am interested in the evolution of life-history, and in particular in the trade-offs that shape senescence and lifespan, using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. My research is now focused on understanding the genetic trade-off between early life important traits (growth related traits) and lifespan itself, and if the magnitude and direction of these trade-offs change across mtDNA haplotypes and in the presence of a Wolbachia infection.

email: ilaria.venturelli@monash.edu

Andrea Pozzi

I work on the communication between the mitochondria and the nuclei. In particular I’m testing the possibility of this communication through the use of small RNAs. I found some evidence of their existence during my MSc and name them small mitochondrial highly-transcribed RNAs (smithRNAs). Now my goal is to understand their role in pathologies and thermal tolerance using both bioinformatics and experimental methods.

email: andrea.pozzi@monash.edu

Tara-Lyn Carter

I completed a Bachelor of Psychology, with further general undergraduate studies in biology, ecology and chemistry. I also hold a Master of Biological Anthropology Advanced with Honours. My research thus far has been focused on primate behavioural ecology and evolution, with more specific investigation into human male aggression and its relationship with intrasexual selection. My masters work investigated the peopling of Australia and New Guinea using mtDNA. My PhD project is focused on the transgenerational effects and evolutionary implications of obesogenic diets.

email: tara-lyn.carter@monash.edu


Eukaryotic life hinges on coordinated interactions between genes spanning mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, and thus we can expect that epistatic interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear genotypes will be key to mediating the link between the mitochondrial genotype and the organismal phenotype. The aim of my PhD is to quantify the relative contribution of mito-nuclear epistasis to determine the expression of organismal physiological and life-history trait expression. Furthermore, I will also investigate the role of the mito-nuclear genotype in contributing to trajectories of local adaptation to the prevailing climate.

email: ekta@monash.edu

Sean Layh

email: sean.layh1@monash.edu

Vanessa Higham

email: vanessa.higham@monash.edu

Research Assistants

Dr Winston Yee

I completed a PhD in the Dowling lab exploring the evolutionary significance of the mitochondrial genome, focusing on mitochondrial by nuclear genome interactions. Currently I am a research assistant and laboratory manager for the Dowling lab group.

email: winston.yee@monash.edu

Honours & Undergraduate Students

Amanda Lobley


Investigating inter-sexual genetic correlations for reproductive traits associated with mitochondrial variation.


Lab Photos

2019 Back L to R: Tom Allison, Ekta, Winston Yee, Rebecca Adrian, Rebecca Vaught, Shiqian Feng, Ilaria Venturelli, Damian Dowling. Front L to R: Vanessa Higham, Tara-Lyn Carter, Sean Layh
2018 L to R: Magdalena Nystrand, Winston Yee, Ilaria Venturelli, Ekta, Vanessa Higham, Rebecca Adrian, Venkatesh Radha, Yoshana Fonseka, Damian Dowling, Geoff Hill, Sean Layh
2017 L to R: Sean Layh, Vanessa Higham, Tara-Lyn Carter, Camille Hammer, Venkatesh Radha, Damian Dowling, Ilaria Venturelli, Susi Zajitschek, Rebecca Adrian, Andrea Pozzi, Winston Yee, Ekta, Rebecca Vaught, Magdalena Nystrand
2016 L to R: Venkatesh Radha, Rebecca Vaught, Ilaria Venturelli, Winston Yee, Vanessa Higham, Camille Hammer, Violeta Caballero, Michaela Parascandalo, Damian Dowling, Susi Zajitschek, Magdalena Nystrand
2016 L to R: Damian Dowling, Ilaria Venturelli, Magdalena Nystrand, Becca Vaught, Camille Hammer, Winston Yee, Henry Ye, Sean Layh, Venkatesh Radha, Jonci Wolff, Violetta Caballero, Katharine Prata
2015 Clockwise from left: Winston Yee, Vanessa Higham, Susi Zajitschek, Flo Camus, Jonci Wolff, Camille Hammer, Becky Dean, Magdalena Nystrand, Damian Dowling, Becca Vaught, Venkatesh Radha
2014 L to R: Ruby Albury, Belinda Williams, Magdalena Nystrand, Liz Cassidy, Damian Dowling, Venkatesh Radha, Jonci Wolff, Flo Camus, Winston Yee