Andrew Lowe

Professor Andrew Lowe

Director, Environment Institute

Environment Institute

Division of Research and Innovation

Professor Andrew Lowe is a dynamic and innovative research leader with executive experience in university, government, start-up industry and community sectors. He is particularly skilled at identifying and realizing research opportunities and partnerships combining collaborative research expertise with external stakeholders.

Andrew is currently Director of the Environment Institute, one of the University of Adelaide’s six research Institutes with over 100 members. During his tenure he has led a culture-focused rebuilding of the institute to prioritise activity around key staff and strengths. Previous roles include: Director of Agrifood and Wine (2017-2020), an institution-wide role that brought together expertise in research and teaching across Faculties, Institutes and Schools to coordinate and provide engagement with the food industry and government sectors across Australia and internationally; Science Director for the $121M Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre - research lead for the bid and responsible for developing the research investment portfolio across 60 research and industry partners; Deputy Dean – Partnerships and Collaboration in the Faculty of Science (2015-2016), coordinating early and mid-career training and mentoring programs and building partnerships with external stakeholders; Since 2012, Andrew has held significant research infrastructure management positions - led and negotiated the South Australian node of the NCRIS funded Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, and served as Science Director and Board member (2010-2016); Director, NCRIS strategy (2022-2023), coordinating across the University’s significant NCRIS portfolio.

Andrew is a successful academic leader, and was made full professor in 2006, nine years after gaining his PhD in Plant Evolutionary Biology (1997) from the University of St Andrews, UK. He has helped secure over $250M of funding and has published over 250 scientific papers and books (including in Science, Nature PNAS), which have attracted >23,000 citations and an h index of 75. He has collaborated with over 300 researchers, from 100 institutes in 30 countries, and has directly supervised over 120 technical and postdoctoral staff, and graduate students (PhD, MSc Honours).

Experienced in commercializing research, Andrew is Chief Scientific Officer of Double Helix Tracking Technologies, a Bioknowledge start-up headquartered in Singapore that uses DNA tools to identify and help eliminate illegally logged timber from global supply chains. He has served on a broad range of international and national boards and committees, including: Lead author of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration; the United Nation’s Office of Drugs and Crime expert working group on timber tracking; review panel for the $200M New Zealand Natural Heritage strategic investment research program; the board of the Atlas of Living Australia, and has headed up and participated in international delegations; e.g. leading the University’s delegation at COP22 in Marrakech, and working with Australian Chief Scientist Ian Chubb and departmental officials to negotiate Australian partnership priorities for the EU funding program Horizon 2020. He has also held executive positions in the government sector, including acting Director of the South Australian Museum (2013-2014), and Head of Science in the South Australian Department of Environment (2006-2012).

Andrew is passionate about communicating science and knowledge to a general audience and is an experienced media article writer and public presenter. He has presented at TedX and PechaKucha events, hosted panel discussions (WOMAD Planet Talks), runs blog sites (biodiversityrevolution and andylowe), hosts podcasts (Discovery Pod, EcoFuturists, FoodFuturists) and has served as Scientist in Residence for the Australian Financial Review (2019-2020) and the Advertiser (2018). He has published over 150 media articles and given over 250 public and scientific presentations.

My main research focus is in plant ecological and evolutionary genetics

Gene flow and adaptation in fragmented landscapes

Even when individuals of a species survive in remnant habitat, small population sizes make them more susceptible to extinction  (Lowe et al 2005). In addition changes to gene flow dynamics can have detrimental impacts to the fitness of the new generation. Research in my lab has demonstrated this effect for plants (Breed et al 2013a; Ward et al 2005) and animals (Pavlacky et al 2012; 2010), and in Australian (Breed 2012a, b; Breed et al 2011), European (Bacles et al 2006, 2005) and tropical systems (Davies et al 2013; Breed 2012c; Davies et al 2010). Current work is focusing on integrating landscape genetic and adaptation genomics into restoration management and policy frameworks. By quantifying landscape level gene flow and assessing the strength of local adaptation, new principles for corridor and restoration planning have been developed (Broadhurst et al 2008, Sgro et al 2010; Navarro et al 2010, 2011; Breed et al 2013). At a national level, Greening Australia, Trees for Life, the Forestry Commission (UK) and English Nature have all reassessed their seed sourcing strategies based on this information.

Genetic structure and DNA timber tracking 

Examining the genetic structure across the range of plants and trees gives us important insight into the historical demographic dynamics (migration, adaptation or extinction). My group has examined the historical range dynamics of a range of plants (Mellick et al 2011; Navarro et al 2005; Cavers et al 2005; 2003a), across Australia (Mellick et al 2012; McCallum et al 2013), Europe (Cotrell et al 2002; Petit et al 2002), the Neotropics (Cavers et al 2013; 2004; 2003b; Lemes et al 2010), China (Wang et al 2009; Kang et al 2007) and Africa (Hardy et al 2013; Lowe et al 2010). Using such knowledge, particularly for valuable timber species (e.g. Cavers et al 2003; Lemes et al 2010), we have been developing specific markers to aid the tracking and identification of material from unknown or dubious sources (Lowe et al 2010; Lowe & Cross 2011; Dormontt et al 2015), and work with forest certification companies and NGOs (e.g. WWF and FSC) and a private company in Singapore (DoubleHelix)to identify the species and source of origin of timber to eliminate illegally logged products in supply chains.

Adaptation to climate change 

Climate change is forcing a change in the adaptation of species and biological communities. We have examined the rate of change in species communities along environmental gradients (temperature and rainfall; Guerin et al 2013), and demonstrated that lowland semi-arid and upland heath ecosystems of South Australia appear to be relatively stable to temperature increases, but that the slope vegetation are expected to be very sensitive to future temperature change. Many endemic families of plants are predicted to be very sensitive to the future changes (e.g., Ericaceae, Proteaceae, Myrtaceae and Orchidaceae), whilst major weeds (e.g. Poaceae and Asteraceae) appear  much more resilient (Guerin et al 2013). Our research was also the first to demonstrate an adaptive shift in plant morphology linked to climate change when a narrowing of leaf width was identified over a 20-year period for the hop bush in South Australia (Guerin et al 2012; Guerin and Lowe 2012).

Ecological and evolutionary genomics

During this recent period of genomics revolution, my lab has been rapidly developing genomic methods for ecological and evolutionary applications (e.g. Prentis et al 2008; 2010; Gardner et al 2011; Scoble et al 2012; Wei et al 2012; Roda et al 2013), and is part of the Regional Facility for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, which houses state-of-the-art laboratories for sequencing technologies applied to ecological and evolutionary problems. Within the last year, the Facility has been significantly expanded to cater for large Next Generation Sequencing and DNA barcoding projects.

Previous work 

I studied the evolution of Britain’s newest plant species, discovered only 30 years ago, and described it as a new species, Senecio eboracensis (Lowe and Abbott, 2003). The origin of a new species within our time and its adaptation to man-made habitats (car parks; Lowe & Abbott 2004, Abbott & Lowe 2004) captured the scientific community and public imagination alike. In addition to scientific articles, press releases resulted in international media coverage (e.g. front page of The Times). The story also caused raging debate in creationist vs. evolution online forums, and a young British artist, Nich Relph, was inspired to produce an installation at the Finnish National Gallery on hearing the story.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2022 - ongoing Director, Environment Institute University of Adelaide
    2021 - 2023 Director NCRIS Strategy University of Adelaide
    2017 - 2018 Research Director Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre
    2016 - 2020 Director of Agrifood and Wine University of Adelaide
    2015 - 2016 Deputy Dean - Partnerships and Collaboration University of Adelaide
    2014 - 2016 Director of Conservation Science and Technology University of Adelaide
    2014 - 2016 Principal Advisor: Biodiversity Research Partnerships South Australian Government
    2013 - 2016 Lecturer University of Queensland
    2013 - 2013 Acting Director South Australian Museum
    2012 - 2016 Associate Director, Science Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network
    2010 - ongoing Chief Scientific Officer DoubleHelix Tracking Technologies
    2009 - 2013 Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity University of Adelaide
    2006 - ongoing Professor, Plant Conservation Biology University of Adelaide
    2006 - 2013 Head of Science South Australian Government
    1998 - 2003 Principal and Senior Scientist Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
    1998 - 1998 Postdoctoral Researcher BBSRC
    1996 - 1997 Postdoctoral Researcher Institute of Terrestrial Ecology
    1996 - 1996 International Consultant International Livestock Research Institute
    1991 - 1992 Field Science Officer Society for Environmental Exploration
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    Spanish - Latin American Can read and understand spoken
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    1992 - 1996 University of St Andrews UK PhD
    1987 - 1991 University of Bath United Kingdom Bsc (Hons) in Applied Biology

As Environment Institute director, have mentored researchers to apply for range of funding (>$100M), including: ARC Discovery, Linkage, Future Fellow and LIEF programs, NHMRC, MRFF, NESP, FRDC, Federal Government’s Soil Science Challenge program, BioPlatforms Australia, ARDC, DCCEEW, Wellcome Trust, DEFRA, ACIAR, DFAT, NORAD/NICFI, Scaling Green Hydrogen CRC.

Helped secure over $250M of research support included roles as research director (CRC, TERN, EU, PSRF), and partner in major programs (TERN, NCCARF, EU). Highlights include: 

Facilitated large multi-partner funding bids, including:

Nature Positive Economy CRC bid (submitted 2024) Department for Industry, Innovation and Science, 47 partners and $41.5M in partner cash  – Bid Lead and Interim CEO

Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (2019-2028) Department for Industry, Innovation and Science, 60 partners, $62M + $67M inkind – Inaugural Research Director

Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (2010-2023) National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme, 10 University/Research Institute partners (>$100M). Included leveraging funding through Premier’s Science and Research Fund, NeCTAR and Australian National Data Service. Inaugural Research Director and Board member.

While at NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology led or partnered in large EU grants including EVOLTREE. (2006-2010 €14.7M), SEEDSOURCE (2006-2010 €2.6M), GENEO-TROPECO (2002-2005 €1.2M), TEAKDIV (2002-2004 €1.25M) OAKFLOW (2000-2004 €2.5M).


Individual and team awards

ARC awards - LIEF 2016 LE160100154, Discovery 2016 DP150103414, Linkage 2012 LP120100648, Linkage 2011 LP110100721, Linkage 2011 LP110200805, Super Science Fellowship 2011 FS1102 00051, Discovery 2006 DP0664967, Discovery 2006 DP0665859, Linkage 2005 LP0562265.

Lowe AJ, Westra SP, Qinfeng S, Tien-Fu L, Umberger WJ, Wheeler SA, Collins C, Pagay V, Bennett BS, Ostendorf BF. (2019-22) VitiVisor: An information, prediction and advisory platform for viticulture (Wine Australia) $2.3M.

Lowe AJ, Hogendoorn K, Breed M, Wilkinson M, Paton D, Weinstein P, Keller M, Austin A (2017-2020) Pollination reserves - Developing pollination services for native pollinators and managed honey bees from habitat restoration/ supplementation around pollinator dependent crops. (Dept Ag Rural R&D for Profit Fund, $4.5M)

Degen B, Lowe AJ, Dormontt E, Cavers S et al. (2015-2017) Large scale project on genetic timber verification (German Federal Government – total project budget €5M).

Lowe AJ, Degen B, Rimawanto A, Grant A (2014-2015) Implementing a DNA timber tracking system in Indonesia. International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO-TFLET, $650K)   

Lowe AJ, Austin A, Cooper S, Crayn D, Nevill P, Appleyard S (2014-2015) Framework DNA barcode datasets for Australia. BioPlatforms Australia (BPA, $500k; total leverage $2.4M)

Crayn D, Costion C, Bransgrove K, Schulte K, Abell-Davis S, Metcalfe D, Rossetto M, Lowe AJ (2012-2014) What is at risk? Identifying rainforest refugia and hotspots of plant genetic diversity in the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula. National Environmental Research Program: Tropical Ecosystems Hub ($344K)

Degen B, Koch G, Hardy O, Lowe A, Doucet J-L, Höltken A, Cavers S, Boner M, Kelly S, Horacek M, Yéné Yéné G, Zahnen J, Opuni Frimpong E, Ngomanda A, Odee D (2012-1016) Development and implementation of a species identification and timber tracking system in Africa with DNA fingerprints and stable isotopes. International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO, US$ 1.7M)

Teach into Third Year Biology courses, including Conservation Biology

Directly supervised over 120 technical and postdoctoral staff, and graduate students (PhD, MSc Honours). 

Im interested in taking on new honours and PhD students in the following areas:

  • Conservation and restoration genomics
  • Biodiverstiy monitoring and analysis
  • Timber tracking
  • Plant genetic resources
  • Ecosystem services and the vlaue of nautre   
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2024 Principal Supervisor Monitoring and Evaluating Effective Community-Based Natural Resource Management Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Shannon Mariella Evenden
    2024 Principal Supervisor The illegal timber trade: a multidisciplinary approach for identifying at risk species and developing resources for a more sustainable timber industry Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Brittany Paige Hogben
    2022 Principal Supervisor Conserving orchids in a changing climate Master of Philosophy Master Part Time Ms Samantha Lee Bywaters
    2021 Principal Supervisor Sustainable Agriculture at Scale: biotechnology, carbon sequestration and nature capital Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Alexander Robert George Mason
    2019 Principal Supervisor Developing a DNA Timber Tracking System for South East Asian Timber Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Ms Melita Low
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 - 2023 Principal Supervisor Restoring Bee Diversity and Pollination Services through Revegetation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Dona Kireta
    2018 - 2022 Principal Supervisor Restoring Urban and Human Microbiotas Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Jacob Geoffrey Mills
    2017 - 2023 Co-Supervisor Multi-isotopic Provenancing: Forensic Analysis for Determining Geographic Origin of Sandalwood Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Ellyse Bunney
    2017 - 2021 Co-Supervisor Seed sourcing in the genomics era Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Colette Blyth
    2015 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Development and Application of Genetic Timber Tracking Tools to Help Control Illegal Logging Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Duncan Iain Jardine
    2014 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Clumped planting arrangements can improve the ecological function of revegetated eucalypt woodlands Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Kimberly McCallum
    2014 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Quantifying Responses of Ecological Communities to Bioclimatic Gradients Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Stefan Caddy-Retalic
    2013 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Biogeography of Australian chenopods: landscape in the evolution of an arid flora Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr John Thomas McDonald
    2013 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Best Practice Restoration: Building The Evidence-Base for Restoring Eucalypt Woodlands of Southern Australia Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Nick Gellie
    2012 - 2016 Principal Supervisor Assessing genomic variation in the hopbush, Dodonaea viscosa, to investigate micro-evolution and adaptation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Matthew Christmas
    2010 - 2017 Co-Supervisor The Taxonomy of the Green Macroalgal Genus Caulpera: A Framework for the Application of Old Species Names in DNA-Based Taxonomies Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Gareth Smith Belton
    2009 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Molecular Systematics of Selected Australian Brown Algae Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Nuttanun Soisup
    2009 - 2015 Principal Supervisor New approaches to explore the past and present diversity of Australian sandalwood species -- from palaeobotany to next generation sequencing. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Ms Patricia Fuentes-Cross
    2009 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Delimitation, diversification and adaptation in Lachnagrostis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Austin James Brown
    2009 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Restoration Genetics of Murray Mallee and Neotropical Forests Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Martin Breed
    2008 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Tracking Phenological Shifts and Evolutionary Impacts Related to Climate Change Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Phyllis MacGillivray
    2008 - 2012 Principal Supervisor Plant Biodiversity Science, Discovery, and Conservation:
    Case Studies from Australasia and the Pacific
    Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Craig Mitchell Costion
    2008 - 2012 Principal Supervisor No Place to go and Nowhere to be? Characterising Demography of the Southern Scrub Robin (Drymodes Brunneopygia) Using Molecular and Modelling Tools for Conservation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Jolene Scoble
    2007 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Invasive Fireweed in Australia: Exploring the Invasion Dynamics of Senecio madagascariensis using Population Genetics Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Eleanor Dormontt
    2007 - 2012 Principal Supervisor Quaternary Climate Change and Podocarpus elatus Podocarpaceae Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Rohan Mellick
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 - ongoing Co-Supervisor Ground Observers: Surface estimations and sampling errors The University of Adelaide MSc Master Part Time Matthew Pearson
    2016 - 2016 Co-Supervisor Conservation of sandalwood (genetics, biogeography and population modelling) The University of Adelaide BSc (Hons) Honours Full Time Marlee Crawford
    2011 - 2011 Co-Supervisor Conservation recommendations for Callistemon teretifolius based on genetic analysis and bioclimatic distribution modelling The University of Adelaide BSc (Hons) Honours Full Time Kimberly McCallum
  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2009 - ongoing Member Atlas of Living Australia - -
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2014 - ongoing Member UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) - -
    2012 - ongoing Co-Founder Global Timber Tracking Network - -
    2012 - ongoing Member International Global Genome Biodiversity Network - -
    2009 - ongoing Member International Barcode of Life - -
    2008 - 2013 Member Terrestrial Biodiversity Node of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility - -
    2007 - ongoing Chair Australian Barcode of Life Network - -
    2003 - 2011 Advisory Board Member International Union of Forest Research Organisations - -
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2007 - ongoing Board Member Diversity and Distributions: a journal of conservation biogeography - -
    2006 - ongoing Board Member Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens - -
    2004 - ongoing Board Member Silvae Genetica: Zeitschrift fuer Forstgenetik und Forstpflanzenzuechtung - -
  • Industry Partnerships

    Date Engagement Type Partner Name
    2014 - 2014 Consultant New Zealand Natural Heritage
  • Position: Director, Environment Institute
  • Phone: 83131149
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Benham, floor Ground Floor
  • Room: G05
  • Org Unit: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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