Luciano Beheregaray and his wife Luciana Möller have their own research interests – the former with fish and the latter with whales and dolphins – but they also have much in common, carving out a new understanding of aquatic genetics.
“Genetics can tell you a lot about the diversity of life. Another part of our research examines climate change and how it may affect various species. For example, we can look at the DNA of tropical fish and assess whether they will cope better or worse with climate change than fish from colder regions,” Professor Beheregaray said.
“The next stage of our research is exciting, as technology now makes it possible for us to look at the entire DNA of a species, so we can look at huge amounts of data. We will crunch the data in supercomputers to identify trends that will tell us about the past and future of many types of aquatic life.”
Research partners and life partners, the couple know each other well enough to be able to leverage off each other’s strengths and speak up if they feel the other is headed in the wrong direction.
This dialogue fast tracks their genetic research progress – which is also casting new light on the future of blue whales.
“Our genetic research has found the blue whales that reside in Australian waters have very little genetic diversity, likely because of the way they responded to historical changes in climate,” Associate Professor Möller said.
She has tracked whales moving between Australia and tropical waters around Indonesia – identifying their location, and how fast and deep they travel.
“Blue whales are an endangered species, so our research is important to guide conservation and management of their habitat along the coast to ensure human actions don’t have a negative impact on them,” she says.