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Byrne, Phillip G. Associate Professor

Senior Lecturer

  • Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health
  • Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions
  • School of Biological Sciences

Research Overview


  • I am an Evolutionary Biologist with an interest in Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Biology.

    My interest in Behavioural Ecology revolves around understanding how the process of sexual selection can shape reproductive traits that determine fitness. My research in the field of sexual selection primarily uses frogs and insects as model systems to test predictions made by theoretical models. At present, I am particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary causes and consequences of mate choice, polyandry and sperm competition.

    My interest in Conservation Biology is focussed on using Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) as a tool for managing endangered species. However, I am also interested in assessing the impacts of human mediated environmental change on evolutionary processes that affect population viability.

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2019

    Published In
    Behavioral Ecology
    Volume
    30
    Pages
    1273 - 1282
    ISSN
    1045-2249
    2019

    Published In
    Conservation Physiology
    Volume
    7
    Pages
    1 - 11
    2019

    Published In
    Behavioral Ecology
    Volume
    30
    Pages
    928 - 937
    ISSN
    1045-2249
    2019

    Published In
    Evolution
    Volume
    73
    Pages
    1972 - 1985
    ISSN
    0014-3820
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
     

Impact Story


  • <p>Environmental change is responsible for unprecedented rates of species extinction for all vertebrate classes, and amphibians have been most severely affected. Current estimates indicate that over 34 per cent of amphibian species globally are now threatened with extinction. The emerging methods being developed here at UOW integrate sophisticated Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) with traditional captive breeding methods to enhance the propagation and genetic management of threatened frog species.</p><p>This project began when UOW biologists Dr Phillip Byrne and Dr Aimee Silla were approached by the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage to develop ART for one of Australia’s most critically engendered vertebrates, the Southern Corroboree frog (<em>Pseudophryne corroboree</em>). Our research team has since developed ART for a number of model frog species as well as other species of high conservation value, including the critically endangered Booroolong frog (<em>Litoria booroolongensis</em>) and the Northern Corroboree frog (<em>Pseudophryne pengilleyi</em>).</p><p>Taronga Conservation Society Australia have adopted ART protocols developed by the researchers to hormonally induce spawning to enhance the captive breeding and release program for the Northern Corroboree frog. Overall, in excess of 800 viable eggs have been generated using ART over the past 3-years, and these eggs have been reintroduced into their natural environment by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, contributing significantly to the on-ground conservation efforts for this species. Our research team has also recently completed experiments at Taronga Zoo to develop protocols for the topical application of hormones to induce breeding so that ART technologies can be more widely adopted by global amphibian captive breeding facilities, without the need for specialist training in administering animal injections.</p><p>Our partner organisations have pledged additional funding over the next three years to further support these important avenues of research for improving endangered species captive breeding and reintroduction programs and ultimately, species recovery in the wild.</p>
  • <p>Research led by Dr Aimee Silla and Dr Phillip Byrne at the University of Wollongong (UOW) has enabled the generation of hundreds of offspring of the critically endangered Northern Corroboree Frog, using hormone application to induce reproduction.</p><p> </p><p>Although the northern corroboree frog has been bred successfully in captivity for a number of years, captive populations display strong mating bias with less than a third of available males contributing to mating success annually. Over time, such captive mating biases may lead to a loss of genetic variation and adaptive potential that could compromise long-term re-introduction success. In an attempt to boost breeding success and increase the genetic diversity of offspring, reproductive biologists Silla and Byrne teamed up with Michael McFadden from Taronga Conservation Society Australia to trial the use of hormone-induced breeding protocols to assist the genetic management of the species.</p><p> </p><p>The reproductive hormone GnRH-a was administered to male and female Corroboree frogs prior to putting pairs in breeding tanks. The hormones help encourage the frogs to mate, getting them in the right ‘mood’ for courtship and reproduction. Overall, in excess of 800 viable eggs have generated using hormone-assisted breeding techniques over the past four years.  Offspring of different developmental stages (eggs, tadpoles and juvenile frogs) have been released into natural sites in the Northern Brindabella Ranges by herpetofauna experts from UOW and Taronga Zoo. The research has been conducted with the support of Senior Threatened Species Officer Dr David Hunter from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), who oversees the recovery program for Corroboree frogs.  </p><p> </p><p>In a world first, our team has also effectively applied the reproductive hormones topically to the abdomen of the frogs. Amphibians have highly permeable skin, so we were able to administer the hormones non-invasively. Topical application of reproductive hormones eliminates the need for specialised training in amphibian injection, which has been one of the main reasons that reproductive technologies have not yet been widely adopted by captive facilities, particularly in developing countries. We hope that by developing user-friendly, cost-effective  methods for hormone application will lead to more captive facilities using hormone treatment to boost the breeding success of endangered frogs, particularly in developing countries within Neotropical, Afrotropical and Indomalayan regions (collectively harbouring >82% of rapidly declining amphibians).</p>

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy The evolutionary causes of sequential polyandry in terrestrial toadlets from the genus Pseudophryne O'Brien Jones, Daniel
    Doctor of Philosophy The influence of dietary carotenoids on the performance of captive southern corroboree frogs (Pseudophryne corroboree): Implications for conservation McInerney, Emma
    Doctor of Philosophy The evolution of cuticular hydrocarbons in blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) Butterworth, Nathan
    Doctor of Philosophy The Influence of Temperature on the Growth, Development and Fitness of the Endangered Baw Baw Frog Gilbert, Deon
    Doctor of Philosophy Improving the Output of Australian Ex-Situ Conservation Breeding Programs for Threatened Amphibian Recovery McFadden, Michael
    Doctor of Philosophy Understanding patterns of intersexual selection and individual behavioural variation to assist with the captive breeding and reintroduction of the critically endangered corroboree frog Kelleher, Shannon
    Doctor of Philosophy What Lies Beneath the Surface: Quantifying Differences in Social Behaviour and Living Systems of Burrowing Shrimp Kirby, Renae

Research Overview


  • I am an Evolutionary Biologist with an interest in Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Biology.

    My interest in Behavioural Ecology revolves around understanding how the process of sexual selection can shape reproductive traits that determine fitness. My research in the field of sexual selection primarily uses frogs and insects as model systems to test predictions made by theoretical models. At present, I am particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary causes and consequences of mate choice, polyandry and sperm competition.

    My interest in Conservation Biology is focussed on using Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) as a tool for managing endangered species. However, I am also interested in assessing the impacts of human mediated environmental change on evolutionary processes that affect population viability.

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2019

    Published In
    Behavioral Ecology
    Volume
    30
    Pages
    1273 - 1282
    ISSN
    1045-2249
    2019

    Published In
    Conservation Physiology
    Volume
    7
    Pages
    1 - 11
    2019

    Published In
    Behavioral Ecology
    Volume
    30
    Pages
    928 - 937
    ISSN
    1045-2249
    2019

    Published In
    Evolution
    Volume
    73
    Pages
    1972 - 1985
    ISSN
    0014-3820
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
     

Impact Story


  • <p>Environmental change is responsible for unprecedented rates of species extinction for all vertebrate classes, and amphibians have been most severely affected. Current estimates indicate that over 34 per cent of amphibian species globally are now threatened with extinction. The emerging methods being developed here at UOW integrate sophisticated Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) with traditional captive breeding methods to enhance the propagation and genetic management of threatened frog species.</p><p>This project began when UOW biologists Dr Phillip Byrne and Dr Aimee Silla were approached by the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage to develop ART for one of Australia’s most critically engendered vertebrates, the Southern Corroboree frog (<em>Pseudophryne corroboree</em>). Our research team has since developed ART for a number of model frog species as well as other species of high conservation value, including the critically endangered Booroolong frog (<em>Litoria booroolongensis</em>) and the Northern Corroboree frog (<em>Pseudophryne pengilleyi</em>).</p><p>Taronga Conservation Society Australia have adopted ART protocols developed by the researchers to hormonally induce spawning to enhance the captive breeding and release program for the Northern Corroboree frog. Overall, in excess of 800 viable eggs have been generated using ART over the past 3-years, and these eggs have been reintroduced into their natural environment by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, contributing significantly to the on-ground conservation efforts for this species. Our research team has also recently completed experiments at Taronga Zoo to develop protocols for the topical application of hormones to induce breeding so that ART technologies can be more widely adopted by global amphibian captive breeding facilities, without the need for specialist training in administering animal injections.</p><p>Our partner organisations have pledged additional funding over the next three years to further support these important avenues of research for improving endangered species captive breeding and reintroduction programs and ultimately, species recovery in the wild.</p>
  • <p>Research led by Dr Aimee Silla and Dr Phillip Byrne at the University of Wollongong (UOW) has enabled the generation of hundreds of offspring of the critically endangered Northern Corroboree Frog, using hormone application to induce reproduction.</p><p> </p><p>Although the northern corroboree frog has been bred successfully in captivity for a number of years, captive populations display strong mating bias with less than a third of available males contributing to mating success annually. Over time, such captive mating biases may lead to a loss of genetic variation and adaptive potential that could compromise long-term re-introduction success. In an attempt to boost breeding success and increase the genetic diversity of offspring, reproductive biologists Silla and Byrne teamed up with Michael McFadden from Taronga Conservation Society Australia to trial the use of hormone-induced breeding protocols to assist the genetic management of the species.</p><p> </p><p>The reproductive hormone GnRH-a was administered to male and female Corroboree frogs prior to putting pairs in breeding tanks. The hormones help encourage the frogs to mate, getting them in the right ‘mood’ for courtship and reproduction. Overall, in excess of 800 viable eggs have generated using hormone-assisted breeding techniques over the past four years.  Offspring of different developmental stages (eggs, tadpoles and juvenile frogs) have been released into natural sites in the Northern Brindabella Ranges by herpetofauna experts from UOW and Taronga Zoo. The research has been conducted with the support of Senior Threatened Species Officer Dr David Hunter from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), who oversees the recovery program for Corroboree frogs.  </p><p> </p><p>In a world first, our team has also effectively applied the reproductive hormones topically to the abdomen of the frogs. Amphibians have highly permeable skin, so we were able to administer the hormones non-invasively. Topical application of reproductive hormones eliminates the need for specialised training in amphibian injection, which has been one of the main reasons that reproductive technologies have not yet been widely adopted by captive facilities, particularly in developing countries. We hope that by developing user-friendly, cost-effective  methods for hormone application will lead to more captive facilities using hormone treatment to boost the breeding success of endangered frogs, particularly in developing countries within Neotropical, Afrotropical and Indomalayan regions (collectively harbouring >82% of rapidly declining amphibians).</p>

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy The evolutionary causes of sequential polyandry in terrestrial toadlets from the genus Pseudophryne O'Brien Jones, Daniel
    Doctor of Philosophy The influence of dietary carotenoids on the performance of captive southern corroboree frogs (Pseudophryne corroboree): Implications for conservation McInerney, Emma
    Doctor of Philosophy The evolution of cuticular hydrocarbons in blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) Butterworth, Nathan
    Doctor of Philosophy The Influence of Temperature on the Growth, Development and Fitness of the Endangered Baw Baw Frog Gilbert, Deon
    Doctor of Philosophy Improving the Output of Australian Ex-Situ Conservation Breeding Programs for Threatened Amphibian Recovery McFadden, Michael
    Doctor of Philosophy Understanding patterns of intersexual selection and individual behavioural variation to assist with the captive breeding and reintroduction of the critically endangered corroboree frog Kelleher, Shannon
    Doctor of Philosophy What Lies Beneath the Surface: Quantifying Differences in Social Behaviour and Living Systems of Burrowing Shrimp Kirby, Renae
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