Associate Professor Thomas Buckley

Research Group Leader, Landcare Research

Research Group Leader, Landcare Research

Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

Phone: +64 9 574 4116
Post: Private Bag 92170, Auckland, New Zealand

See also

Research interests

I am a member of the Joint Graduate School for Biodiversity and Biosecurity and am employed by both Landcare Research and the University of Auckland. My role at Landcare Research involves leadership of invertebrate systematics and the New Zealand Arthropod Collection. At the University of Auckland I supervise graduate students within the Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour research section.

Understanding insect speciation and adaptation using genomics

New Zealand offers an ideal system from which to investigate speciation and evolution of adaptation due to the large degree of habitat variability that has developed rapidly within the recent geological past. We are using whole genomes, transcriptomes and SNP data to understand how insects have evolved adaptations to thrive in the recently formed alpine zone, particularly stick insects. This research also involves the coupling of genomic data such as RNA-seq with physiological studies. We are also interested in speciation on offshore islands and are applying whole genomes and SNP data to island species and populations of weta and stick insects.

Systematics and Biogeography of New Zealand invertebrates

The New Zealand terrestrial invertebrate fauna is interesting due its composite nature of ancient Gondwanan lineages and more recent lineages that have arrived via dispersal. However, little is known about the timing of arrival of many lineages, or where they came from. We are studying a range of diverse invertebrate groups with particular emphasis on species associated with dead wood, soil and leaf litter to reveal their timing of arrival and origins and well as the history of diversification within New Zealand. These studies involve specialised field work throughout New Zealand and phylogenetic analyses of nuclear and mitochondrial genes. We are also investigating the phylogeographic history of widespread insect species using mitochondrial DNA and coupling these patterns with ecological niche models. Study organisms include stick insects, earthworms, cicadas, beetles, and moths.

Conservation Genetics of New Zealand invertebrates

Some New Zealand invertebrate species are highly threatened due to large size, low fecundity, specialized habitat and susceptibility to predation. We are using genetic data to develop strategies for the management of these species. Or particular interest is the effect of translocation on levels of genetic variation. We are currently investigating giant weta (Deinacrida spp.), tusked weta (Motuweta isolata) and giant land snails. Conservation genetic studies underway are using microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA and increasingly SNP data. This research involves collaboration with the Department of Conservation.

An important aspect of our research is observing and collecting invertebrates in their natural environment and appreciating their natural history. We also believe it is important to have firm understanding of methods of analysis and we have published on phylogenetic methods, model selection, and tests of topology. We are also interested in coalescent models, molecular dating and the assembly and analysis of whole genomes, transcriptomes and gene expression data.

Please contact me if you are interested in graduate research in invertebrate systematics and biogeography or insect comparative genomics (weta and stick insects).


See my web site at Landcare Research:

For more details on stick insect research see:

For information on my research funded through the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution see:

Major collaborators

Research group members

Victoria Twort (PhD): Genome evolution, speciation and molecular population genetics of giant weta. (supervisor: Thomas Buckley, co-supervisors: Richard Newcomb and Howard Ross)

Chen Wu (PhD): Genome evolution, speciation and molecular population genetics of stick insects. (supervisor: Thomas Buckley, co-supervisors: Richard Newcomb and Howard Ross)

Andrew Dopheide (PhD): Molecular ecology and metagenomics in a model ecosystem (supervisor: Richard Newcomb, co-supervisors: Thomas Buckley and Alexei Drummond)

Bernd Steinwender (PhD): Variation in sex reception in male moths (supervisor: Richard Newcomb, co-supervisor: Thomas Buckley).

Shelley Myers (PhD): Speciation and the evolution of behaviour in the New Zealand stick insect genus Clitarchus (supervisor: Greg Holwell, co-supervisor: Thomas Buckley)

Dave Seldon (PhD): Thesis topic: Systematics of Mecodema ground beetles (supervisor: Greg Holwell, co-supervisor: Thomas Buckley and Todd Dennis)

Rebecca Bennik (PhD): Sexual conflict in the lichen tuft moths (supervisor: Greg Holwell, co-supervisor: Thomas Buckley and Robert Hoare)

Erin Crosby (MSc): SNP Analysis of selection and gene flow in the New Zealand stick insect genus Clitarchus (supervisor: Thomas Buckley)