I completed a Bachelor of Marine Studies (Honours Class I) here at UQ, majoring in marine biology and ecology. Over the years I have developed a keen interest in cellular biology and the relationship of genes to complex physiological functions (in a range of animals, not just ones that live in the ocean). Nonetheless, during my honours year I studied mechanisms of salt and water balance in the gills of bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas), one of the few species of sharks that inhabits both seawater and freshwater. This exciting project involved both field and laboratory work, and our findings were published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.
I have embarked on a PhD project looking at the remarkable physiology of the green-striped burrowing frog (Cyclorana alboguttata). Burrowing frogs, or ‘desert frogs’ enter dormancy in response to high temperatures and arid conditions, a strategy known as aestivation. During the dry season, C. alboguttata aestivates underground, forming a cocoon of shed skin to prevent water loss. It doesn’t eat, drink or defecate, but instead suppresses metabolic rate by up to 80%, allowing the animal to persist through months or even years of drought. In addition, the frog is immobile within the cocoon during the long period of aestivation. This is particularly fascinating, because an equal period of immobility in humans results in a detrimental condition known as muscle disuse atrophy. However, these frogs do not suffer from any similar muscle deterioration.
I will be adopting a ‘physiological genomics’ approach to my research, which will bring together aspects of genomics, cell, organ and whole animal physiology in an attempt to assign function to the DNA and RNA sequences of the burrowing frog. Specifically, I am conducting high-throughput gene expression profiling (RNA Seq or transcriptomics) and other techniques to achieve a better understanding of metabolic depression and avoidance of muscle disuse atrophy in Cyclorana alboguttata.
Reilly BD, Cramp RL, Wilson JM, Campbell HA, Franklin CE. 2011Branchial osmoregulation in the euryhaline bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas: a molecular analysis of ion transporters. J. Exp. Biol. 214: 2883-2895.