Kate Sanders

Associate Professor Kate Sanders

Associate Prof/Reader

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.


Kate's research focuses primarily on trait evolution and speciation in squamate reptiles, and the evolution of sensory systems in the transition to aquatic habitats in snakes. Her research has a substantial fieldwork component focused primarily in Indonesia and Western Australia; this has led to the discovery of new species, and generated ecological and distributional data that have contributed to conservation assessments.

Kate's research group focuses primarily on trait evolution and speciation in squamate reptiles. Current projects involve: 1) phylogenetic and population genomic approaches to understanding the biogeographic origins of sea snake diversity in the Indo-Australian marine biodiversity hotspot; 2) reconstructing morphological evolution in sea snakes, especially the remarkably frequent origin of ‘microcephalic’ burrowing-prey specialists and possible role in promoting reproductive isolation and rapid species diversification; 3) the evolution of sensory systems in the transition to aquatic habitats in snakes, including transcriptomic studies of tail (skin) photoreception and vomeronasal gene family evolution. Kate’s research has a substantial fieldwork component focused primarily in Indonesia and Western Australia. This has led to the discovery of new species, and generated ecological and distributional data that have contributed to conservation assessments. She co-chairs the IUCN/SSC Sea Snake Specialist Group.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2015 - ongoing Senior Lecturer University of Adelaide
    2014 - ongoing ARC Future Fellow University of Adelaide
    2009 - 2013 ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow (APD) University of Adelaide
    2006 - 2009 Postdoctoral Researcher University of Adelaide
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    Indonesian Can speak and understand spoken
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2000 - 2003 University of Wales Bangor United Kingdom PhD
    1995 - 1999 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom BSc (Honours) Zoology
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    2012 Tropical Basic Offshore Safety Induction & Emergency Training (TBOSIET, 5501) Accrete Australia
    2008 Working with venomous snakes Sonia Dewdney Australia
  • Research Interests

Investigating the genes and population histories that drive rapid adaptive change and speciation. Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (Level 1) 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016-17.

Biodiversity of critically endangered but poorly-known sea snakes in northwest Australia. Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), 2014, 2015, 2016.

Sea snake diversification: Why are certain taxa and regions species-rich. Australian Research Council Discovery Project with Mike Lee 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.

Investigating the impact of seismic surveys on threatened sea snakes in Australia's North West Shelf. Australia Pacific Science Foundation with Mick Guinea, 2012, 2013, 2014. http://apscience.org.au/projects/APSF_12_5/apsf_12_5.html

Tail photoreception: Discovering a novel sensory system in Australian sea snakes. Hermon Slade Foundation. 2015. http://www.hermonslade.org.au/projects/HSF_15_10/hsf_15_10.html

EVOLUTION AND PALAEOBIOLOGY III; Course co-coordination, lecturing, designing and running practicals, exam and assay assessment (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014).

ISSUES IN EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY III: Course co-coordination, project supervision, report and presentation assessment (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 Principal Supervisor Evolution and conservation genetics of sea snakes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Amelia Rose Pointon
    2021 Principal Supervisor Population connectivity and conservation of Australian sea snakes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Shannon Jeanice Coppersmith
    2021 Principal Supervisor Reproduction and genital morphology of snakes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Miss Megan Folwell
    2020 Principal Supervisor Evolution of Sea Snakes. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Isaac Henry Rossetto
    2020 Principal Supervisor Genomics of rapid speciation and adaptation in marine snakes (Elapidae) Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Alastair John Ludington
    2019 Principal Supervisor Evolution and Systematics of Sea Snakes (Hydrophiinae) Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr James Henry Nankivell
    2018 Principal Supervisor Study of Visual Evolution of Lizards Using Genetics and Anatomy/Histology Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Matthew John Robert Ford
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2016 - 2021 Principal Supervisor The Evolution of Sea Turtles Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Ray Chatterji
    2015 - 2019 Principal Supervisor The Evolution of Cutaneous Senses in Marine Snakes (Hydrophiinae) Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Jenna Crowe-Riddell
    2015 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Skull Evolution in the Australian Dragon Lizards Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Jaimi Ann Gray
    2010 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Systematics, Evolution and Biogeography of Viviparous Sea snakes of the Indo-Pacific Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Kanishka Dimithra Bandara Ukuwela
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 - ongoing Co-Supervisor Sensory Systems in Reptiles The University of Adelaide Bachelor of Science with Honours in Evolution and Palaeobiology Honours Full Time Gerard Hurles
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2016 - 2019 Member National Committee for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Australian Academy of Sciences Australia
  • Position: Associate Prof/Reader
  • Phone: 83135280
  • Email: kate.sanders@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 83134364
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: The Braggs, floor 2
  • Org Unit: School of Biological Sciences

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