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Dr Vicki Thomson

Vicki Thomson
ARC Postdoctoral Researcher
School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Sciences

I am an evolutionary biologist who uses DNA to investigate how Australasian animals have adapted / will adapt to changing environments. An animal's DNA sequence can tell us about how many of them there were in the past (did they decline almost to the point of extinction?) and about how low their genetic diversity got (did they lose individuals with important versions of genes that would otherwise have allowed them to adapt, for example, to aridity via increased desiccation resistance?).

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External Profiles

Dr Vicki Thomson

I am an evolutionary biologist who uses DNA to investigate how Australasian animals have adapted / will adapt to changing environments. An animal's DNA sequence can tell us about how many of them there were in the past (did they decline almost to the point of extinction?) and about how low their genetic diversity got (did they lose individuals with important versions of genes that would otherwise have allowed them to adapt, for example, to aridity via increased desiccation resistance?).

I am interested in how animals have adapted to different environments over time. This means that I use tools from a range of disciplines depending on when and at what scale the adaptation occurred (i.e. epigenetics for detecting very recent adaptation; population genetics and phylogeography for population-level adaptation, evolutionary genetics and ancient DNA for very old adaptation).

I was recently awarded an ARC DECRA to study the role of epigenetic modifications in tiger snake adaptation. I will investigate the mechanisms underlying animal adaptation to future environmental change by examining the molecular basis for phenotypic plasticity in snakes. I will specifically examine variation in genetic/epigenetic profiles and compare against important fitness traits, such as variable head size, bite force and swallowing performance to identify relationships between molecular change and physiology. Such research is a critical first step in improving our knowledge of the mechanisms whereby animal populations may adapt to environmental change, allowing us to facilitate such processes or concentrate conservation effort where species are unable to adapt via epigenetic modification.

I was awarded my PhD in 2013 on ‘Using ancient DNA as an essential tool to explore past Australian biodiversity’ utilizing modern and ancient DNA (at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide) to answer phylogenetic, phylogeographic, population and conservation genetic questions.  I investigated issues in archaeology and ancient human migration using commensal chicken phylogeography (Thomson, Lebrasseur, Austin, et al. 2014 PNAS), phylogeography of commensal rodents (Thomson, Aplin, Cooper et al. 2014 PLoS One), conservation of a declining rodent species (Thomson, Ford, Rowe et al. in prep.), evolutionary history of Emu species, population genetics of a declining bat species (Thomson, Armstrong, Medlin, & Cooper in prep.), and phylogenetics of rare rodents (Thomson, Aplin, Donnellan et al. in prep).  This research has allowed me to conduct fieldwork in outback Australia, learn morphological identification and morphometric skills, gain ancient DNA laboratory skills, develop relationships with collaborators, museum staff, and other researchers internationally, and learn many cutting-edge analysis methods. I have also recently developed skills in the extraction of high molecular weight genomic DNA for RAD sequencing and exome capture, and in R and bash scripting.

Appointments

Date Position Institution name
2018 ARC DECRA Fellowship University of Adelaide
2016 - 2017 ARC Post-doctoral Research Associate University of Adelaide
2013 - 2016 ARC Post-doctoral Research Associate University of Adelaide
2012 - 2013 Research Assistant Australian National University

Awards and Achievements

Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
2017 Distinction Edith Dornwell Medal for Female Early Career Researcher Excellence University of Adelaide Australia $1000
2015 Award University of Adelaide's Environment Institute small grant award University of Adelaide Australia $10,670
2015 Invitation Presentation to Birds SA Australia
2014 Invitation E-science magazine article University of Adelaide Australia
2014 Invitation Presentation to Royal Society of South Australia Australia
2014 Award Asia Pacific Science Foundation grant Asia Pacific Science Foundation $43,672
2014 Invitation Radio interview with Radio Adelaide University of Adelaide Australia
2014 Invitation Radio interview with Radio New Zealand Australia
2013 Award Sir Mark Mitchell Research Foundation grant Sir Mark Mitchell Research Foundation Australia $6,200

Education

Date Institution name Country Title
2008 - 2012 University of Adelaide Australia PhD
2006 - 2007 University of Queensland Australia BSc(Hons)
2001 - 2005 University of Queensland Australia BSc
2001 - 2005 University of Queensland Australia BA

Research Interests

Journals

Year Citation
2018 White, L., Moseby, K., Thomson, V., Donnellan, S., & Austin, J. (2018). Long-term genetic consequences of mammal reintroductions into an Australian conservation reserve. Biological Conservation, 219, 1-11.
DOI
2018 Allen, L., Sanders, K., & Thomson, V. (2018). Molecular evidence for the first records of facultative parthenogenesis in elapid snakes. Royal Society Open Science, 5(2), 171901-1-171901-6.
DOI
2018 Bover, P., Mitchell, K., Llamas, B., Rofes, J., Thomson, V., Cuenca-Bescós, G., . . . Pons, J. (2018). Molecular phylogenetics supports the origin of an endemic Balearic shrew lineage (Nesiotites) coincident with the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 125, 188-195.
DOI
2018 Thomson, V., Mitchell, K., Eberhard, R., Dortch, J., Austin, J., & Cooper, A. (2018). Genetic diversity and drivers of dwarfism in extinct island emu populations. Biology Letters, 14(4), 20170617-1-20170617-4.
DOI
2017 Herrera, M., Thomson, V., Wadley, J., Piper, P., Sulandari, S., Dharmayanthi, A., . . . Austin, J. (2017). East African origins for Madagascan chickens as indicated by mitochondrial DNA. Royal Society Open Science, 4(3), 160787-1-160787-12.
DOI
2017 Rodriguez Lopez, C. M., konate, M., & thomson, V. (2017). MSAP In Tiger Snakes: Island Populations Are Epigenetically More Divergent. BioRxiv.
DOI
2017 Sasamori, S., Wiewel, A., Thomson, V., Kobayashi, M., Nakata, K., & Suzuki, H. (2017). Potential causative mutation for melanism in rats identified in the agouti signaling protein gene (Asip) of the Rattus rattus species complex on Okinawa Island, Japan. Zoological Science, 34(6), 513-522.
DOI
2017 Thomson, V. A., Wiewel, A. S., Chinen, A., Maryanto, I., Sinaga, M. H., How, R., . . . Suzuki, H. (2017). A perspective for resolving the systematics of Rattus, the vertebrates with the most influence on human welfare.. Zootaxa.
2016 Timm, R., Weijola, V., Aplin, K., Donnellan, S., Flannery, T., Thomson, V., & Pine, R. (2016). A new species of Rattus (Rodentia: Muridae) from Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Journal of Mammalogy, 97(3), 861-878.
DOI Scopus4 WoS4
2016 Wadley, J., Fordham, D., Thomson, V., Ritchie, E., & Austin, J. (2016). Phylogeography of the antilopine wallaroo (Macropus antilopinus) across tropical northern Australia. Ecology and Evolution, 6(22), 8050-8061.
DOI Scopus1 WoS1
2016 Coghlan, B., Seddon, J., Best, E., Thomson, V., & Goldizen, A. (2016). Evidence of male-biased dispersal in eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus). Australian Journal of Zoology, 64(5), 360-369.
DOI
2015 Llamas, B., Brotherton, P., Mitchell, K., Templeton, J., Thomson, V., Metcalf, J., . . . Cooper, A. (2015). Late Pleistocene Australian marsupial DNA clarifies the affinities of extinct megafaunal kangaroos and wallabies. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32(3), 574-584.
DOI Scopus6 WoS4 Europe PMC3
2015 Coghlan, B., Goldizen, A., Thomson, V., & Seddon, J. (2015). Phylogeography of eastern grey kangaroos, Macropus giganteus, suggests a mesic refugium in eastern Australia. PLoS One, 10(5), e0128160-1-e0128160-16.
DOI Scopus3 WoS3 Europe PMC2
2014 Thomson, V., Lebrasseur, O., Austin, J., Hunt, T., Burney, D., Denham, T., . . . Cooper, A. (2014). Using ancient DNA to study the origins and dispersal of ancestral Polynesian chickens across the Pacific. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(13), 4826-4831.
DOI Scopus48 WoS44 Europe PMC19
2014 Sheng, G., Soubrier, J., Liu, J., Werdelin, L., Llamas, B., Thomson, V., . . . Cooper, A. (2014). Pleistocene Chinese cave hyenas and the recent Eurasian history of the spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta. Molecular Ecology, 23(3), 522-533.
DOI Scopus18 WoS15 Europe PMC7
2014 Thomson, V., Lebrasseur, O., Austin, J., Hunt, T., Burney, D., Denham, T., . . . Cooper, A. (2014). Reply to Beavan, Bryant, and Storey and Matisoo-Smith: Ancestral polynesian "d" haplotypes reflect authentic pacific chicken lineages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(35), E3585-E3586.
DOI Scopus4 WoS3 Europe PMC1
2014 Thomson, V., Aplin, K., Cooper, A., Hisheh, S., Suzuki, H., Maryanto, I., . . . Donnellan, S. (2014). Molecular genetic evidence for the place of origin of the Pacific rat, Rattus exulanso. PLoS One, 9(3), e91356-1-e91356-11.
DOI Scopus12 WoS10 Europe PMC3
2009 Carter, A. J., Macdonald, S. L., Thomson, V. A., & Goldizen, A. W. (2009). Structured association patterns and their energetic benefits in female eastern grey kangaroos, Macropus giganteus. Animal Behaviour, 77(4), 839-846.
DOI Scopus40 WoS39

Conference Items

Year Citation
2017 Rodriguez Lopez, C. M., Konate, M., Sanders, K., & Thomson, V. A. (2017). Epigenetic divergence contributes to tiger snake adaptation to island environments. Poster session presented at the meeting of ComBio 2017. Adelaide, SA.

ARC DECRA ($365,058) - The role of epigenetic modifications in tiger snake adaptation.

ARC Linkage grant ($164,427) - Testing co-evolutionary processes driving venom diversity in tiger snakes.

Environment Institute small grant award ($10,670) - Tiger snake venom: evolution in response to prey type.

Environment Institute travel grant award ($2,500) to present at the International Council on Archaeozoology (ICAZ) conference in San Rafael, Argentina - Using ancient DNA to study the origins and dispersal of ancestral Polynesian chickens across the Pacific.

Australia Pacific Science Foundation grant ($43,672) - New Guinean Long-beaked Echidnas in the Kimberley, Western Australia: using ancient DNA analysis of skins and scats to confirm their presence and corroborate outstanding biodiversity discovery.

Sir Mark Mitchell Foundation grant ($6,200) - The status of New Guinean Long-beaked Echidnas in Australia's north west: survey by DNA analysis of scats.

In recent years I have supervised two 3rd year undergraduate research projects (ENVBIOL3550: Evolution of the Australian Biota III in 2016; ENVBIOL3123: Issues in Evolutionary Biology in 2014), presented a guest lecture on epigenetics (ENVBIOL3123 in 2015) and lectured/tutored on phylogenetic methods (ENVBIOL3550 in 2016).

Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
2013 - 2015 Co-Supervisor Genetic studies on prehistoric translocations of chickens in the Indo-Pacific Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Michael James Herrera

Memberships

Date Role Membership Country
2014 - ongoing Treasurer Postgraduate Association of the School of Biological Sciences Australia
2014 - ongoing Representative Biological Society of South Australia Australia
2014 - ongoing Co-Founder Statistical Solutions Australia
2013 - ongoing Australian Mammal Society Australia

Industry Partnerships

Date Engagement Type Partner Name
2016 - ongoing Consultant Museum Victoria
2016 - ongoing Consultant South Australian Museum
2016 - ongoing Consultant Venom Supplies Pty Ltd
Position
ARC Postdoctoral Researcher
Phone
83131466
Campus
North Terrace
Building
Benham, floor B
Room Number
B.12b
Org Unit
Genetics & Evolution

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