Ms Amy Slender

Casual Professional

College Services, Science and Engineering

place Physical Sciences Building (2303A)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I am currently undertaking research for my PhD under the supervision of Prof Sonia Kleindorfer in the BirdLab and Assoc. Prof Michael Gardner in the LEGS Lab. My research interests is to understand ecological factors that affect hybridisation between divergent populations that are in contact. I am currently studying a threatened and endemic bird species, the thick-billed grasswren. This species is very difficult to find and see and lives in the arid regions of South Australia. Collecting samples and data for this species has given me some very unexpected skills like how to plan for a 3 month camping trip.

I previously completed my undergraduate degree in Sydney, NSW, where I collaborated on a couple of research projects in wildlife health such as in the Rufus-hare Wallaby and the Koala. I gained further experience in immunological research and labwork as an assistant on a research project investigating in the immunological response of Aboriginal people with the crusted form of scabies. I was also an assistant in the UK at the Centre of Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University where I worked on projects to determine the efficacy of Streptoccocal vaccines in adults and children.

Prior to coming to Adelaide, I worked at the National Institute of Medical Research, London (now the Francis Crick Institute). There I helped create and test transgenic mouse models to determine the genetic basis of phenotypes seen in Down's Syndrome. This research has been very lucrative and includes collaborations with many other labs and has resulted in a large number of publications.


PhD Candidate in Population Genetics, 2013 - present (Flinders University): The ecology of gene flow between two subspecies of thick-billed grasswren (Amytornis modestus).

Honours in Biological Science, 2002, (Western Sydney University): Immunological parameters of the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus).

Bachelor of Science, 1999 - 2001 (Western Sydney University): Immunohistochemistry of lymphoid tissue in the rufous hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus).
Subjects: Microbiology, Biochemistry, Animal Physiology, Plant Physiology, Immunology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Environmental Biology.

Adventure 4WD Certificate, 2013, (Red Belly Pty Ltd) Adelaide, SA

Phlebotomy Certificate, 2005, (Macri International Pty Ltd) Darwin, NT

Honours, awards and grants

2013 - 2016 - Flinders University Research Scholarship

2016 - ABRS Student Travel Grant

2016 - Reserach Student Conference Travel Grant

2016 - Graduate Women SA Centenary Bursary, AFUW-SA

2016 - FUSA Development Grant

2015 - Project Grant, Nature Foundation SA

2015 - Lirabenda Endowment Fund Research Grant, Field Naturalists of SA

2015 - Travel Grant, Centre for Biodiversity Analysis

2014 - Birds SA Conservation Fund

2014 - Emu - Austral Ornithology Award, Birdlife Australia

2014 - Small Research Grant, Royal Society SA

2013 - Conservation Biology Grant, Nature Conservancy of SA

Key responsibilities

I have been working as a demonstrator/marker on a number of topics since 2014. These include Animal Behaviour, Biodiversity and Conservation, the Ecology Field Trip, Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology, Plant and Algal Diversity and Integrative Physiology of Animals and Plants.

I am currently working as a research assistant for Assoc. Prof. Michael Gardner where I am inducting students into the lab and helping them learn genetic techniques.

Research expertise
Evolutionary biology
Molecular biology
Research interests

My research interests are to apply genetic and immunological techniques to increase our understanding of factors that contribute to speciation and to protect biodiversity. More specifically, I am interested in how hybridisation increases genetic diversity which can improve persistence of threatened populations and perhaps lead to divergence of populations that are distinct from the parental (originally hybridising) populations.

I am currently working on a project to determine ecological factors that may be affecting gene flow between two subspecies of thick-billed grasswren. A threatened bird of the arid zone of South Australia. For the first time, we have detected a region of parapatry between the subspecies that indicates there is asymmetric gene flow betwen the subspecies. The data suggests that habitat heterogeneity within the region of parapatry may have facilitated secondary contact and subsequent gene flow. We have also compared behavioural responses to song from the local foreign subspecies and found that the subspecies that has greater introgression is likely to be less aggressive, which may contribute to the gene flow asymmetry. Although the subspecies are hybridising, gene flow is limited to within a narrow region of parapatry. Local adaptation to different habitat types may be restricting further gene flow in the allopatric ranges of the subspecies while, within the region of parapatry, individuals are likely to have higher genetic diversity.

These findings have important implications for conservation management. They support the current taxonomic classification of the two subspecies and indicate birds in the region of parapatry may be important for long term persistence of the species.