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Professor Andrew Lowe

Telephone +61 8 8313 1149
Position Chair in Plant Conservation Biology
Building Schulz Building
Floor/Room 12
Campus North Terrace
Org Unit Ecology and Environmental Science

To link to this page, please use the following URL:

Biography/ Background

Current Position:
Joint position as Professor of Plant Conservation Biology and Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, at the University of Adelaide
and Head of Science, State Herbarium for South Australia and Science Resource Centre, South Australian Department of Environment and Natural resources.

At the University I lead a research team focused on a range plant ecological and evolutionary genetic questions and issues. Within DENR, my current responsibilities are to develop strategic research direction, capability and external linkages for the State Herbarium and Biological Survey.


Lecturer at the University of Queensland (2003-2006); Senior Scientist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh (1998-2003); Postdoctoral Researcher at BBSRC Long Ashton, Bristol (1998); Postdoctoral Researcher at Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Edinburgh (1996-1997); International Consultant, International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya (1996); Field Science Officer for Society for Environmental Exploration, Tanzania (1991-2)

PhD in Plant Evolutionary Genetics, St Andrews University (1992-1996); Bsc (Hons) in Applied Biology, Bath University (1987-1991)

Teaching Interests

I teach into third year courses on 'Australian Biota' and 'Conservation and Restoration' 

Current Higher degree students


Gareth Smith Belton (2010-ongoing) Taxonomy, phylogenetics and phylogeography of the Great Australian Bight macroalgae: biodiversity and the relict species concept. PhD, University of Adelaide (Gurgel F, Lowe AJ)

Bianca Dunker (2009-ongoing) Seed dispersal, landscape genetics and fire. PhD, Flinders University (Bull M, Lowe AJ, Driscol D, Keith D)

Austin Brown (2009-ongoing) Speciation mechanisms in Australasian Lachnagrostis. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Cross H, Cantrill D, Murphy D, Cross H)

Martin Breed (2009-ongoing) Restoration genetics in Murray mallee and Neotropical Forests: implications for management and planning. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Ottewell K, Gardner M)

Nuttanun Soisup (2009-ongoing) Molecular Systematics of Marine Macroalgae. PhD, University of Adelaide (Gurgel F, Lowe AJ)

Patricia Fuentes-Cross (2009-ongoing) Humans as agents of landscape change in Australia: vegetation turn over and domestication. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Ryder M, Gardner M)

Craig Costion (2008-2012) The great Australasian floral interchange; developing phylogenetic methods for biogeography and conservation. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Crayn D)

Jolene Scoble (2008-2012) Identifying historic and contemporary refugia for arid avifauna threatened by climate change in South Australian mallee ecotonal vegetation. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Gardner M, Smyth A, Joseph L)

Fran MacGilvary (2008-2012) Tracking phenological shifts and evolutionary impacts due to climate change. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Conran J, Hudson I)

Rohan Melick (2008-2012) The affect of Quaternary climate change on the distribution of a rainforest gymnosperm (Podocarpus elatus) along the east coast of Australia using palynological and molecular evidence. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Rossetto M, Hill R)

Margaret Heslewood (2007-ongoing) Phylogeography and biogeography of genera in the family Cunoniaceae in Australia. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Rossetto M, Crayn D)

Ellie Dormontt (2007-ongoing) Why do only some exotics become inasive? Combining ecological and genomic approaches to address alternative hypotheses in a recent Australian weed. PhD, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Prentis P, Ostendorf B, Gardner M)


Kimberly McCallum (2011) A multidisciplinary approach to conserving Callistemon teretifolius in a changing climate. BSc Hons, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Guerin G)

Taj Arndell (2012) Conservation genetics of the endangered terrestrial orchid Caladenia rigida in the Mount Lofty Ranges. BSc Hons, University of Adelaide (Lowe AJ, Biffin E) 

Research Interests

My main research focus is in plant ecological and evolutionary genetics:

Biodiversity discovery and ecosystem monitoring

I coordinate 2 new large-scale ecosystem monitoring and associated data access programmes for Australia (within the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, $19.5M) and South Australia (a continent transect along a climatic gradient, TREND, $1.5M). I have integrated these programmes with other major Australian investments in biodiversity science (BushBlitz and the Atlas of Living Australia $45M) to establish a multi-partner, multi-agency program in biodiversity and ecosystem science for Australia. The use of novel monitoring, data capture and genetic analysis (DNA barcoding) of field collected samples is also in development. For DNA barcoding I am leading the development of this technology for Australia. I have coordinated the establishment of GrassBoL (with Dr Hugh Cross, Adelaide, and Ass. Prof Sean Graham, Canada) an international consortium to DNA barcode the globes grasses. I am an Australian representative on TreeBoL, an initiative to DNA barcode all of Australasia’s trees (with Prof Darren Crayn, Cairns and Dr Brett Summerill, Sydney).

Using knowledge of genetic structure within species, particularly for valuable timber species (Cavers et al 2003; Lemes et al 2010), I have been developing specific markers to aid the tracking and identification of material from unknown or dubious sources, and work with forest certification companies to identify the species and source of origin of timber products (Lowe 2010; Lowe and Cross 2011).

Landscape, conservation and restoration genetics

I have developed laboratory and analytical techniques to describe gene flow between individuals and populations for a range of organisms and landscapes (Ward et al 2004; Lowe et al 2004; Pavlacky et al 2009). Such studies are fundamental to understanding the gene flow dynamics associated with land-use change (e.g. habitat fragmentation) and exploitation, and have lead to new extraction rate threshold setting, adopted by government agencies (e.g. Costa Rican and UK governments). I have used data describing the distribution and dynamics of genetic variation to develop management plans and best practice policies for a range of genetic resource issues (in the neotropics and Africa). Recommended habitat management and collection strategies have been implemented by end users internationally, driving a reassessment of the CITES conservation status of mahogany in Central and South America; nationally, Forestry Commission and English Nature have reassessed their oak seed sourcing strategy; and locally, by conservation groups seeking to replant native forest. Ongoing work is focusing on integrating landscape genetic and adaptation measures into conservation and restoration management and policy frameworks. By locating genetic refugia, quantifying landscape level gene flow and assessing the strength of local adaptation, new principles for corridor and restoration planning have been promoted (Breed et al 2011; Sgro et al 2010; Broadhurst et al 2008).

Historical range shifts and phenological change due to historical climate change

I have applied molecular and statistical procedures to examine species colonization dynamics since the last ice age for a range of plant and animal systems (Cavers et al 2003; Lowe et al 2010). I have participated in the largest ever continental-scale investigation of plant phylogeography (the screening of over 2500 populations; Petit et al 2002a,b; Cottrell et al 2003) to piece together the location of glacial refugia and post glacial colonization routes and dynamics for European oaks. I have also used simulation modelling procedures to examine the influence of long distance dispersal/migration on a species’ ability to respond to both past and future climate change scenarios (Davies et al 2004; Lowe et al 2006). Current work is trying to locate important historical refugia for a range of taxa and to determine the relative role of glacial oscillations and shorter term (e.g. el niño) climatic variability on underlying genetic structure within populations. Ongoing work is also documenting recent phenological shifts in plants due to anthropogenically-forced climate change over the last 50 years. Using novel multivariate statistics, I have published the first paper identifying a phenological shift in orchids from Australian herbarium records (MacGillivary et al 2009) and continuing work is analyzing other historical and contemporary monitoring data for evidence of major phenological desynchronisation in natural systems.

Interspecific hybridisation and weed evolution

Recent and continuing work is examining the genomic composition and gene expression changes in the invasive range of important Australian weeds (e.g. bellyache bush, cats claw creeper and fireweed). Proof of genetic admixture, hybridisation (Prentis et al 2007; 2009) and the role of rapid genomic changes in invasive compared to native ranges (Prentis et al 2010), has lead to a reappraisal of the role of genomic and evolutionary mechanisms in the field of invasive biology (Prentis et al 2008), an area previously dominated by ecological paradigms (Wilson et al 2008, 2009). Ongoing work is assessing the importance of gene expression changes in the invasive ranges of weeds and linking these to evolutionary and ecological processes.

Biogeography and macroevolution

A continuing debate in the Australasian region and globally has been the role of long distance dispersal in speciation and adaptive radiations on new and ancient (Gondwanan) land masses. A review of published literature found that New Caledonia has acted as a previously unrecognized source of origin for many South Pacific island taxa (Keppel et al 2009). Work on the Araucariaceae southern conifer group identified that the species radiation in the genera Agathis and Araucaria has been much more recent than previously identified, and that these genera have experienced a long and sustained period of extinction and re-evolution of morphotypes similar to contemporary taxa. Proof of this recent radiation means that the New Zealand kauri is a relatively recent floral element (30MY) that dispersed to this Gondawanan fragment after the Oligocene marine inundation (Biffin et al 2009). Ongoing work is examining the timing and adaptive evolution of the Podocarpaceae southern conifer group. The Podocarpaceae are one of the few conifer lineages that radiated at the same time as the massive Angiosperm radiation (post KT boundary), and is the only conifer group to be competitive within lowland rainforest habitats. The timing of this radiation and expression of ecophysiological characters that increase light harvesting and water transfer in highly competitive rainforest ecosystems has huge consequences for the macroevolution of these basal lineages (Biffin et al 2011). This work is being conducted in collaboration with the NSF funded conifer tree of life program.


Current fellows, postdocs and technical support working on these project include: Dr Laurence Clarke, Mr Duncan Jardine, Dr Greg Guerin, Dr Hugh Cross (State Herbarium of South Australia), Dr Ed Biffin, Dr Mike Gardner (Flinders University)


For more information goto:


Research Funding

Since 2000, I have been lead PI on 17 research grants worth more than $30M (equivalent), and has been a partner on a further 16 grants with a total income in excess of $78M (total combined income ~$108M), and has included roles as scientific coordinator (7 projects >$1M, PSRF, EU, TERN), and partner in major national and international programs (TERN, NCCARF and EU). 

Large collaborative or International grants

Lowe AJ, Lindenmayer D, Liddell M (2011-2014) Long-term Australian Multi-scale Plot System (LAMPS), incorporating Ausplots, LTERs and Supersites. Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), EIF-DIISR ($12M)

Lowe AJ, Hayman P, Bradshaw CJ, Brook B, Cooper A, Gurgel F, Ophel-Keller K, Tanner J, Foulkes J, Hamden R (2010-2013) TRansect for ENvironmental monitoring and Decision making (TREND): Adaptive management of productive and native systems for climate change. Premier's Science and Research Fund ($1.35M)

Lowe AJ, Foulkes J et al (2009-2012) National Scientific Reference Site Network - Australian Rangeland Ecosystems. Component of South Australian consortium application (coordinators Meyer W and Lowe AJ) for Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network. NCRIS-DEST ($3M)

Lowe AJ, Pillman S, Coddington P, Jenkins C et al (2009-2012) Eco-informatics - integrating and visualizing ecosystems information. Component of South Australian consortium application (coordinators Meyer W and Lowe AJ) for Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network. NCRIS-DEST ($4.5M)

Williams, S, Hughes L, Stafford-Smith M, Possingham H, Hoffman A, Brook B, Lowe A, Pressey B, Williams D, Garnett S, Kitching R, Thomas C, Moritz C (2009-2013) Terrestrial Biodiversity - Adaptation Research Network - National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility ($1.6 M)

Meyer W, Stringer R, Lewis M, Brook B, Bryan B, Connor J, Hayman P, Fisher A, Johnson J, Lowe A, Williams S (2009-2012) Climate Change, Communities and Environment: Building Research Capability to Identify Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Options for South Australian Landscapes. Premier's Science and Research Fund ($1.26M)

Richardson DM, Wilson JR, Lowe AJ, Hedderson TAJ, Hoffman JH, Sheppard AW, Witt ABR, Foxcroft LC (2007-2010) Research for integrated management of invasive alien species; Using genetic techniques to improve understanding and management of invasive alien plant species in South Africa. Working for Water Programme, South African Government (South African R 1.4 M ~ $200K).

Lowe AJ, Boshier D, Kremer A, Degen B, Finegan B, Vendremin G, Gribel R, Margis R, Navarrete H, Dick C, Parolin P (2006-2010) Developing best practice for seed sourcing for planting and natural regeneration in the neotropics, SEEDSOURCE. EU (€2.6 M). After move to Adelaide, resigned coordinating role, but still maintain project partner status.

Lowe AJ, Finegan B, Kremer A, Degen B, Gribel R, Margis R, Gheysen G (2002-2005) Sustainable Management of Neo-Tropical Tree Genetic Resources: Combining molecular and modelling methods to understand the structure and dynamics of gene diversity, GENEO-TROPECO. EU-FP5 contract (€1.2 M; £225,000 to my group).

Lowe AJ, Indira EP, Sudarsono, Volkaert H, Van Der Straeten D, Wellendorf H (2002-2004) Developing know-how for the improvement and sustainable management of teak genetic resources, TEAKDIV. EU-FP5 contract (€1.25 M; £200,000 to my group).

Nationally competitive funding
AJ Lowe, C Bradshaw, A van den Hengel, B Brook, A Cooper (2011-2014) Multi-model predictions of ecosystem flux under climate change based on novel genetic and image analysis methods. ARC Super Science Fellowships, FS1102 00051 ($556K)

Breed M, Ottewell K, Lowe AJ (2010-2012) Developing best practice approaches for restoring River Murray forest ecosystems that are resilient to climate change. Native Vegetation Research Grant ($45K)

Lowe AJ, Keppel G (2007-2009) Genetic dynamics of lowland rainforest trees on islands in the tropical Southwest Pacific. Australian and Pacific Science Foundation ($24.5K).

Lowe AJ, Clarke AR, Schenk PM, Rieseberg LH, Abbott RJ (2006-2009) Why do some exotics become invasive? Using ecological and genomic approaches to test alternative hypotheses in an Australian weed, fireweed. ARC Discovery ($561K).

Lowe AJ, Rossetto M, Crayne D, Pole M, Lambert D, Hollingsworth P (2006-2009) Developing biogeographic know-how: Improving species divergence and dispersal estimations to examine geological and climatic evolutionary drivers. ARC Discovery ($282K).


Published more than 150 papers, in top international journals and book chapters.

For a ful list of recent publications goto:,+a 

Lead author of a book (Lowe et al 2004 Ecological Genetics; Design, Analysis and Application), which is now in its third print run and also available electronically through Blackwells.

Some publications:

Guerin GR, Wen HX, Lowe AJ (2012) Leaf morphology shift in response to climate change. Biology Letters. Published online 4th July, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0458.

Breed MF, Gardner MG, Ottewell KM, Navarro CM, Lowe AJ (2012) Changing trade-offs between inbreeding costs and reproductive assurance in Central American big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) Ecology Letters 15: 444-452.  

Biffin E, Brodribb TJ, Hill RS, Thomas P, Lowe AJ (2012) Leaf evolution in Southern Hemisphere conifers tracks the angiosperm ecological radiation. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Science. 279: 341-348. 


Lowe AJ, Cross HB (2011) The Application of DNA to Timber Tracking and Origin Verification. Journal of the International Association of Wood Anatomists 32(2): 251-262.

Biffin E, Hill R, Lowe AJ (2010) Did Agathis (Araucariaceae: Coniferales) really survive the Oligocene drowning of New Zealand. Systematic Biology 59: 594–602.

Scoble J, Lowe AJ (2010) A case for incorporating phylogeography and landscape genetics into species distribution modelling approaches to improve climate adaptation and conservation planning. Diversity and Distributions 16: 343-353.

Wilson JRU, Dormontt EE, Prentis PJ, Lowe AJ, Richardson DM (2009) Something in the way you move: dispersal pathways affect invasion success. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24: 136-144.

Pavlacky DC, Goldizen AW, Prentis PJ, Nicholls JA, Lowe AJ (2009) A landscape genetics approach for quantifying the relative influence of historic and contemporary habitat heterogeneity on the genetic connectivity of a rainforest bird. Molecular Ecology 18: 2945-2960.

Prentis P, Dormontt E, Wilson A, Richardson D, Lowe AJ (2008) Adaptive evolution in invasive species. Trends in Plant Sciences 13: 288-294.

Broadhurst, LM, Lowe, A, Coates, DJ, Cunningham, SA, McDonald, M, Vesk, PA and Yates, C (2008) Seed supply for broadscale restoration: maximising evolutionary potential. Evolutionary Applications 1: 587-597.

Prentis P, White EM, Lowe AJ, Clarke AR. (2007) Can hybridization cause local extinction: a case for demographic swamping of the Australian native Senecio pinnatifolius by the invasive Senecio madagascariensis? New Phytologist 176: 902-912.

Bacles CFE, Lowe AJ, Ennos RA (2006) Seed dispersal across a fragmented landscape. Science 311: 628.

Lowe AJ, Boshier D, Ward M, Bacles CFE, Navarro C (2005) Genetic resource loss following habitat fragmentation and degradation; reconciling predicted theory with empirical evidence. Review. Heredity 95: 255-273.

Abbott RJ, Lowe AJ (2004) Origins, establishment and evolution of two new polyploid species of Senecio in the British Isles. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 82: 467-474.

Cavers S, Navarro C, Lowe AJ (2003) Chloroplast DNA phylogeography reveals colonisation history of a Neotropical tree, Cedrela odorata L., in Mesoamerica. Molecular Ecology 12:1451-1460.

Newton AC, Allnutt T, Gillies ACM, Lowe AJ, Ennos RA (1999) Molecular phylogeography, intraspecific variation and the conservation of tree species. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 14:140-145.


Professional Associations


Associate Science Director (2011-ongoing) and previously Adelaide node and Facility Director (Reference Site Network), and member of Host Synthesis Consortium, for Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN; 2009-2011).

Founding member of steering committee for Global Timber Tracking Network, established by Bioversity International (2012-onwards)

Australian co-representative on International Barcode of Life (IBOL) Science Steering Group (2009-ongoing)

Member of Board of the Atlas of Living Australia (2009-ongoing)

Chair and founding member of the Australian Barcode of Life Network, a national strategy group to provide leadership and integration across institutes (2007-ongoing, Chair since 2011)

Member of management committee of Terrestrial Biodiversity Node of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF, 2008-ongoing)


Coordinator of IUFRO working party on Population, ecological and conservation genetics (Unit 2.04.01) with Sally Aitken (Canada) and Wickneswari Ratnam (Malaysia), (2003-2011)

Member of Science Advisory Panel (SAP) for ClimateWatch (2008-2010)

On expert science panel to develop population genetics and phylogeny methodologies for GEO BON (2009-2010)

Member of Expert Science Panel supporting Premier’s Climate Change Council (2009-2011)

Member of the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria (CHAH, 2006-2011)

Report to Board of Botanic Gardens Adelaide and State Herbarium of South Australia (2006-2011)

On Technical Working Group of the Centre for Natural Resource Management to provide scientific advice and direction for associated research projects (2006-2009)

Selected for external advisory and development panel for the Science Technology and Innovation strategy for the Natural Resource Management Council (2007-8)

Selected for external advisory panel for the City of Onkaparinga’s Draft Climate Change Strategy, A Community Plan 2028 Initiative (2007-8)

Elected to coordinate scientific research objectives of Macadamia Conservation Committee by industry (Australian Macadamia Society) and government (EPA, CSIRO) (2004-6)


Community Engagement

Given 24 scientific presentations at international and public meetings in last 5 years, 11 of which were invited. Invited to give keynote at the Australian Society of Systematic Botany meeting (Brisbane 2005) and plenaries at IUFRO (Brisbane 2005) and the International Plant Molecular Biology Symposium (Adelaide 2006).

Awarded the 2004 Silvicultural prize by the British Institute of Chartered Foresters for "an original and much valued contribution to the genetics of oak and examination of the practical implications of the findings" for a publication in the journal Forestry.

My work on hybrid weed speciation (Lowe and Abbott 2004 Heredity) has been covered in The Times, Guardian, BBC radio, Yorkshire Post and Fife Times, caused strong debate in creationist vs. evolutionist websites, and inspired Young British Artists, Nick Relph and Oliver Payne, to exhibit an installation in the Finnish National Gallery (2005).

My work on population genetics of Irish oaks (Muir et al 2004 Annals of Botany) was covered in the Irish Times and on Irish National Radio.


Expertise for Media Contact

CategoriesEnvironment, Science & Technology
Expertiseevolution of plants invasive species DNA tracking illegal logging climate change adaptation landscape genetics genomics DNA barcoding ecosystem survey phylogeography speciation and hybridisation biodiversity corridor planning biodiversity refugia habitat restoration conservation planning
NotesAwarded Executive Dean?s prize for mid-career researcher (within 15 years of PhD) of the year (2010) in the Faculty of Science Finalist for South Australian Scientist of the Year (in Research Collaboration category), 2010 Since 2000, have been lead PI on 16 research grants worth more than $18M (equivalent), and have been a partner on a further 15 grants with a total income in excess of $78M
Mobile0434 607705

Entry last updated: Sunday, 25 Jan 2015

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