Michael Ray Kearney
Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Ecophysiology
Research Group
Conservation and Wildlife
Room Zoology
Tel 8344 4864
Fax +61 3 83447909

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I completed my undergraduate studies in Botany and Zoology at Monash University where I obtained a BSc(Honours) in 1998. I then obtained his PhD. in Zoology at the University of Sydney under the guidance of Prof. Richard Shine in 2004. This included a one year Fulbright fellowship the USA where I collaborated with Prof. Kellar Autumn at Lewis and Clark College in Portland Oregon, and Prof. Warren Porter at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. I then took up an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Stress and Adaptation Research (CESAR) from 2004-2006. I joined the Zoology Department as a lecturer in 2007.

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The impact of climate on animals

My research in this field is focused on understanding how climate impacts on the distribution and abundance of terrestrial animals. My approach combines laboratory and field investigations of ecophysiology and behaviour. A particular focus is on developing trait-based, mechanistic models that enable predictions of distributions under current and future climates with GIS data. I have been working with Prof. Warren Porter at The University of Wisconsin to develop computer programs that use energy balance equations and microclimate models to predict how traits (behaviour, morphology and physiology) of organisms interact with climatic conditions to affect key fitness components such as potential activity time, development and growth rates, water balance and food requirements. Importantly, this trait-based approach makes it possible to incorporate evolutionary change. Current and widely-used regression-based approaches to this problem are unable to incorporate evolution because they use the distribution points of the organism as a starting point rather than its traits. The trait-based models we are developing work for any kind of ectotherm or endotherm and hold great promise for enhancing our understanding of the adaptive significance of climate-sensitive traits, for looking at selection gradients across landscapes, and of course for predicting the impact of climate change.

Recent media:




The evolution of parthenogenesis

The maintenance of sexual reproduction is regarded as a major unsolved problem in evolutionary biology. My research has focused on species that have secondarily lost sexual reproduction and instead reproduce by parthenogenesis. There are strong geographical and genetic correlates of the transition from sex to parthenogenesis. Specifically their distributions are often biased towards high latitudes, high altitudes or arid environments. For instance, in the Australian arid zone, we find multiple instances of parthenogenesis in lizards, insects and plants. Parthenogenetic organisms are also very often polypoids, hybrids or both.

I am interested in extent to which the ecological and geographical tendencies of parthenogenetic organisms are influenced by hybridization and by polyploidy. We need to answer this question if we are to truly understand the relevance of naturally parthenogenetic organisms to the paradox of sex. I approach this question using a number of parthenogenetic organisms from the Australian arid zone, including the grasshopper Warramaba virgo, the stick insects Sipyloidea nelida and S. similis, and the gecko Heteronotia binoei. I combine phylogeographic analysis, life-history and ecophysiological studies to compare the ecology and evolution of the parthenogenetic lineages with that of their sexual progenitors. An exciting prospect in this research is the ability, at least in W. virgo, to artificially synthesize hybrid and polyploid lineages. My collaborators in this reserach are Prof. Craig Mortiz (The University of Califorina, Berkeley) and Dr. Mark Blacket (The University of Melbourne).




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Students & Postdocs

Postdocs and technicians

Dr Mark Blacket

Angela Schneider


Graduate students

Joshua Hale

Katie Smith

Madeline Barton

Natalie Briscoe

Jessica Ridenour


Past Lab Members

John Deutscher

Elizabeth Sim

Hong Diem Vo

Kelly Richardson

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Ecology in Changing Environments

Global Environmental Change



Australian Wildlife Biology

Climate Change II

Field Biology of Australian Wildlife

Animal Physiology

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Subject Selection Advice

Faculty of Science Representative

Publicity/Open Day Committee

Science Summer School

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    Google Scholar Profile

Peer Reviewed Book Chapters

39)        Kearney, M., M. K. Fujita, and J. Ridenour. in press. Lost sex in the reptiles: constraints and correlations.in press I. Schön, K. Martens, and P. van Dijk, editors. Lost Sex: The Biology of Parthenogenetic Organisms. Springer Scientific Publications, Dordrech, Netherlands

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles In Press

38)        Kearney, M., W.P. Porter, C.K. Williams, S.A. Ritchie, and A.A. Hoffmann, Integrating biophysical models and evolutionary theory to predict climatic impacts on species’ ranges: the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti in Australia. Functional Ecology.

Peer Reviewed Published Journal Articles

37)        Kearney, M., R. Shine, and W.P. Porter, 2009. The potential for behavioral thermoregulation to buffer ‘cold-blooded’ animals against climate warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 10:3835-3840.

36)        Kearney, M. and W.P. Porter, Mechanistic niche modelling: combining physiological and spatial data to predict species' ranges. Ecology Letters 12:334-350.

35)        Kearney, M. and M.J. Blacket, The evolution of sexual and parthenogenetic Warramaba: a window onto Plio-Pleistocene diversification processes in an arid biome. Molecular Ecology, 2008. 17(24) 5257-5275.

34)        Byrne, M., D. Yeates, L. Joseph, M. Kearney, J. M. Bowler, M. A. J. Williams, S. Cooper, S. Donnellan, S. J. Keough, R. Leys, J. Melville, D. J. Murphy, N. Porch, and K.-H. Wyrwoll. 2008. Birth of a biome: insights into the assembly and maintenance of the Australian arid zone biota. Molecular Ecology 17(20): 4398-4417.

33)        Mitchell, N. J., M. Kearney, N. J. Nelson, and W. P. Porter. 2008. Predicting the fate of a living fossil: how will global warming affect sex determination and hatching phenology in tuatara? Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences Series B. 275: 2185-2193.

32)        Kearney, M., B. L. Phillips, C. R. Tracy, G. Betts, and W. P. Porter. 2008. Modelling species distributions without using species distributions: the cane toad in Australia under current and future climates. Ecography 35(3): 222-234.

31)        Phillips, B. L., J. D. Chipperfield, and M. R. Kearney. 2008. The toad ahead: challenges of modelling the range and spread of an invasive species. Wildlife Research 35(3): 222-234 

30)        Strasburg, J., M. Kearney, C. Moritz, and A. R. Templeton. 2007. Integrating phylogeography with distribution modeling: multiple pleistocene range expansions in a parthenogenetic gecko. PLoS One 2:e760.

29)        Kearney, N., K. Handasyde, S. Ward, and M. Kearney. 2007. Fine-scale microhabitat selection for dense vegetation in a heathland rodent, Rattus lutreolus: insights from intraspecific and temporal patterns. Austral Ecology 32:315-325.

28)        Kearney, M. and W. P. Porter. 2006. Ecologists have already started rebuilding community ecology from functional traits. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 21(9): 481-482.

27)        Kearney, M. 2006. Habitat, environment and niche: what are we modelling? Oikos 115(1): 186-191.

26)        Kearney, M., M. J. Blacket, J. L. Strasburg, and C. Moritz. 2006. Waves of parthenogenesis in the desert: evidence for the parallel loss of sex in a grasshopper and a gecko from Australia. Molecular Ecology 15:1743-1748.

25)        Kearney, M. 2006. Response to Lundmark: Polyploidization, hybridization. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 21:10.

24)        Kearney, M. 2005. Hybridization, glaciation and geographical parthenogenesis. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20:495-502.

23)        Strasburg, J.L., and M. Kearney 2005. Phylogeography of sexual Heteronotia binoei (Gekkonidae) in the Australian arid zone: Climatic cycling and repetitive hybridization. Molecular Ecology 14:2755-2772.

22)        Umina, P.A., A.R. Weeks, M.R. Kearney, S.W. Mckechnie, and A.A. Hoffmann 2005. A rapid shift in a classic clinal pattern in Drosophila reflecting climate change. Science 308:691-693.

21)        Kearney, M., Wahl, R. and Autumn, K. 2005. Increased capacity for sustained locomotion at low temperature in parthenogenetic geckos of hybrid origin. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 78(3): 316-324.

20)        Kearney, M., and R. Shine 2005. Lower fecundity in parthenogenetic geckos than sexual relatives in the Australian arid zone. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 18:609-618.

19)        Kearney, M., and R. Shine 2004. Morphological and physiological correlates of hybrid parthenogenesis. The American Naturalist 164:803-813.

18)        Kearney, M., and W.P. Porter 2004. Mapping the fundamental niche: Physiology, climate and the distribution of nocturnal lizards across Australia. Ecology 85:3119-3131.

17)        Shah, B., Shine, R., Hudson, S. and Kearney, M. 2004. An experimental analysis of retreat-site selection by thick-tailed geckos, Nephrurus milii.  Austral Ecology 29(5): 547-552.

16)        Kearney, M., and R. Shine. 2004. Developmental success, stability and plasticity in closely-related parthenogenetic and sexual lizards (Heteronotia, Gekkonidae). Evolution 58(7): 1560-1572.

15)        Kearney, M. 2003. Why is sex so unpopular in the Australian desert? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18:605-607.

14)        Shah, B., R. Shine, S. Hudson, M. Kearney. 2003. Sociality in lizards: why do thick-tailed geckos (Nephrurus milii) aggregate? Behaviour 140(8-9), 1039-1052.

13)        Kearney, M., and A. Moussalli. 2003. Geographic parthenogenesis in the Australian arid zone. II. Climatic analyses of orthopteroid insects of the genus Warramaba and Sipyloidea. Evolutionary Ecology Research 5:977-997.

12)        Kearney, M., A. Moussalli, J. Strasburg, D. Lindenmayer, and C. Moritz. 2003. Geographic parthenogenesis in the Australian arid zone. I. A climatic analysis of the Heteronotia binoei complex (Gekkonidae). Evolutionary Ecology Research 5:953-976.

11)        Shine, R., L. Sun, M. Fitzgerald, and M. Kearney. 2002. Accidental altruism in insular pit-vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae). Evolutionary Ecology 16: 541-548.

10)        Shine, R., M. Fitzgerald, and Kearney, M. 2002. A radiotelemetric study of movements and thermal biology of insular Chinese pit-vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae). Oikos 100: 342-352.

9)          Shine, R., L. Sun, Kearney, M. 2002. Antipredator responses of free-ranging pit vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae). Copeia 2002(3): 843-850.

8)          Shine, R., L. Sun, Kearney, M. and M. Fitzgerald.  2002. Thermal correlates of foraging-site selection by Chinese pit-vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae).  Journal of Thermal Biology 27: 405-412.

7)          Shine, R., L. Sun, M. Kearney, and M. Fitzgerald. 2002. Why do juvenile Chinese Pit-Vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis) select arboreal ambush sites? Ethology 108:897-910.

6)          Kearney, M. 2002. Hot rocks and much-too-hot rocks: seasonal patterns of retreat-site selection by a nocturnal ectotherm. Journal of Thermal Biology 27:205-218.

5)          Kearney, M., R. Shine, S. Comber, and D. Pearson. 2001. Why do geckos group? An analysis of "social" aggregations in two species of Australian lizards. Herpetologica 57:411-422.

4)          Shine, R., and Kearney, M.  2001. Field studies of reptile thermoregulation: How well do physical models predict operative temperatures? Functional Ecology 15:282-288.

3)          Kearney, M. 2001. Postural thermoregulatory behavior in the nocturnal lizards Christinus marmoratus and Nephrurus milii (Gekkonidae). Herpetological Review 32:11-14.

2)          Kearney, M., and M. Predavec. 2000. Do nocturnal ectotherms thermoregulate? A study of the temperate gecko Christinus marmoratus. Ecology 81:2984-2996.

1)          Kearney, M. R., and S. Downes. 1998. Underwoodisaurus milii (Thick-tailed Gecko): cross predation. Herpetological Review 29:169.

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Further Publications: PubMed Search

Last modified: 15 November 2012