James Baxter-Gilbert

Background

Measuring the bite force of an urbanised Water Dragon with the help of Liv Monck-Whipp

Measuring the bite force of an urbanised Water Dragon with the help of Liv Monck-Whipp

The central core of my research examines the impact anthropogenic landscapes and actions have on herpetofauna. I completed my BSc (Biology), GDip (Science Communication), and MSc (Biology) at Laurentian University. My MSc research, supervised by Drs. J. Litzgus and D. Lesbarrères, examined: (1) the effectiveness of mitigation structures at reducing reptile road mortality while maintaining population connectivity and (2) developing techniques for evaluating chronic stress in reptiles relating to roads and traffic. I completed PhD at Macquarie University; supervised by Dr. M. Whiting. My PhD research examined how Australian Water Dragons were responding to anthropogenic habitats through urban-derived divergent phenotypes; testing behavioural, morphological and physiology traits between urbanise and natural-living populations.

Current project

Human-mediated movement of species beyond their native range, and the subsequent formation of invasive populations, has become one of the hallmarks of the Anthropocene epoch. The establishment and propagation of invasive species is of great scientific interest as they can significantly impact ecosystems and imperil native species, but also because they represent real-world evolutionary experiments.

Found a (non-venomous) friend while conducting river surveys along the Grose River in Australia

Found a (non-venomous) friend while conducting river surveys along the Grose River in Australia

Some of the best examples of invasion-derived evolution in vertebrates have come from amphibians, notably the spread of toads. For example, changes in both morphology, physiology, and behaviour of Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) have been seen across invasive range in Australia and the islands of Hawai’i, as well as when these invasive populations are compared to those from the species’ native range. My research at the C·I·B will examine an Africa example of an invasive toad- the Guttural Toads (Sclerophrys gutturalis). Guttural toads have established invasive populations in Cape Town, as well as Mauritius and Reunion Island. Interestingly, all invasive populations of the Guttural Toad originate from the same general population near Durban. Thus, this species is an excellent African model system to research invasion-derived divergent phenotypes. Our research will examine if behavioural, morphological, and physiological traits exist within the invasive population and determine if rapid, localised evolution are providing Guttural Toads an invasion advantage.

Publications