20 April 2011

One of Australia's leading biologists, UQ's Professor Mark Blows, has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science – one of the highest honours for individual contributions to science awarded in Australia.

Professor Blows election follows a 16-year career during which he has built a reputation as a world-renowned expert in evolutionary biology and statistical genetics.

Currently Head of UQ's School of Biological Sciences, Professor Blows’ work has focused on how genetic variance evolves, how genetic covariance structure biases evolutionary trajectories, and ultimately how genetic variation limits evolutionary change.

Currently his main focus is understanding why many populations fail to respond to selection in the presence of the two necessary ingredients for evolutionary change; selection on a trait, and genetic variation for that trait.

“High-dimensional genetic analyses have shown that although almost all individual traits display genetic variation, much of the multivariate phenotypic space tends to exhibit very little genetic variation,” Professor Blows said.

“Experiments using sexual selection as an evolutionary force have shown that selection itself is likely to be responsible for the very low levels of genetic variation found in parts of the phenotypic space.

“Pleiotropic associations between sexually-selected traits and other traits under natural selection have been revealed to play a key role in causing evolution to fail in the presence of genetic variation and strong selection for continued evolutionary change.”

This work is currently funded by the Australian Research Council, including a Future Fellowship to Professor Blows.

UQ Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated Professor Blows.

“Mark has a distinguished career in evolutionary biology and his election to the Academy recognises his international standing in this field,” Professor Lu said.

"Election of our staff to membership of learned academies such as the Australian Academy of Science — like winning prestigious prizes and awards — enhances the esteem in which the University is held and increases the University's reputational capital."

UQ now has 15 Australian Academy of Science Fellows.

The Fellowship of the Academy consists of about 400 of Australia's leading experts in the physical and biological sciences and their applications.

This year 17 scientists, judged by their peers to have made an exceptional contribution to knowledge in their field, have been elected as Fellows of the Academy.

Media: Tracey Franchi, telephone +61 7 336 54831