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Professor Hamish Spencer

Email hamish.spencer@otago.ac.nz

Phone 64-3-479-7981

Professor Hamish Spencer (HOD)

Google Scholar Profile

Teaching

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Research Interests

  • The maintenance of genetic and epigenetic variation in populations
  • The population genetics of genomic imprinting
  • Population-genetic models of maternal selection
  • New Zealand molluscs
  • Population-genetic theory for frequency-dependent selection
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • History of eugenics
  • Applications of phylogenetics to NZ taxa

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Public Outreach

Checklist of Living Mollusca Recorded from the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone

The Importance of Preserving Parasites: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Alison Ballance, Our Changing World, 14 April 2016

Science Outreach at Tolaga Bay: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Victor Walker and Lynn Freeman, Nine to Noon, 13 November 2015

Captain Robert FitzRoy: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Kathryn Ryan, Nine to Noon, 6 November 2013

Eugenics in New Zealand: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Kathryn Ryan, Nine to Noon, 12 September 2012

Mathematical Modelling of Genetics: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Kathryn Ryan, Nine to Noon, 19 June 2012

Cousin Marriage: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Kim Hill, Saturday Morning, 4 December 2010

Cousin Marriage: Radio New Zealand National Interview with Diane Paul and Alison Ballance, Our Changing World, 30 July 2009

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Possible PhD, MSc and BSc(Hons) Research Projects

Please contact me if you are interested in research projects in any of these areas.

  • Population-Genetic Models for Genomically Imprinted Loci
    Genomic imprinting describes the unequal expression of paternally and maternally inherited genes in mammals.  We are interested in the population-level consequences of this form of non-Mendelian expression. 
  • Evolutionary Origin of Genomic Imprinting
    There have been several hypotheses proposed for the evolution of the unequal expression of paternally and maternally inherited genes in mammals.  We are interested in examining these hypotheses rigorously, using novel mathematical models. 
  • Phylogeography of Molluscs
    Molluscs often provide ideal models to investigate questions in phylogeography, including questions about the importance of dispersal. New Zealand (and the South Pacific in general) has a diverse terrestrial and marine molluscan fauna that has already provided such model systems. We are interested in using novel DNA data sets in phylogeographic investigations.
  • Testing the Power to Detect Neutral Polymorphisms
    Many of the statistical tests of the neutral hypothesis of evolution do not detect non-neutral systems easily.  This project involves examining the power of a number of these tests for polymorphisms constructed by mutation and selection. 
  • Frequency-Dependent Selection and Genetic Variation 
    In theory, frequency-dependent selection can maintain large numbers of alleles in a population.  We are interested in quantifying this ability and seeing if, in fact, this form of selection might be responsible for the standing variation observed in natural populations. 
  • Evolutionary Genetics of Parental Effects
    It is becoming increasingly clear that parents pass on more than just their genes to the offspring.  For example, experiments with a species of weedy cress have shown that non-genetic factors inherited from grandparents can even alter the genetic constitution of individual plants.  This project will construct mathematical models that show how various parental effects can have long-term evolutionary implications.

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Current Appointments

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Current & Recent Projects

Sea Mollusc

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Recent and Current Postdocs and Students

Keywords

  • population-genetic theory, genomic imprinting, phylogenetics, plasticity, molluscs, epigenetics

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Publications

Spencer, H. G., & Priest, N. K. (2016). The evolution of sex-specific dominance in response to sexually antagonistic selection. American Naturalist, 187(5), 658-666. doi: 10.1086/685827

Spencer, H. G., & Zuk, M. (2016). For host's sake: The pluses of parasite preservation [Forum]. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 31(5), 341-343. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.02.021

Paul, D. B., & Spencer, H. G. (2016). Eugenics without eugenists? Anglo-American critiques of cousin marriages in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In S. Müller-Wille & C. Brandt (Eds.), Heredity explored: Between public domain and experimental science, 1850-1930. (pp. 49-79). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Donald, K. M., Winter, D. J., Ashcroft, A. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2015). Phylogeography of the whelk genus Cominella (Gastropoda: Buccinidae) suggests long-distance counter-current dispersal of a direct developer. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 115(2), 315-332. doi: 10.1111/bij.12529

Geoghegan, J. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). Exploring epiallele stability in a population-epigenetic model. Theoretical Population Biology, 83, 136-144. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2012.09.001

Chapter in Book - Research

Paul, D. B., & Spencer, H. G. (2016). Eugenics without eugenists? Anglo-American critiques of cousin marriages in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In S. Müller-Wille & C. Brandt (Eds.), Heredity explored: Between public domain and experimental science, 1850-1930. (pp. 49-79). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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Journal - Research Article

Donald, K. M., & Spencer, H. G. (2016). Phylogeographic patterns in New Zealand and temperate Australian cantharidines (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Trochidae: Cantharidinae): Trans-Tasman divergences are ancient. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 100, 333-344. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.04.029

Spencer, H. G., & Priest, N. K. (2016). The evolution of sex-specific dominance in response to sexually antagonistic selection. American Naturalist, 187(5), 658-666. doi: 10.1086/685827

Spencer, H. G., & Chiew, K. X. (2015). The maintenance of single-locus polymorphism by maternal selection. Genes Genomes Genetics, 5, 963-969. doi: 10.1534/g3.115.017392

Donald, K. M., Winter, D. J., Ashcroft, A. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2015). Phylogeography of the whelk genus Cominella (Gastropoda: Buccinidae) suggests long-distance counter-current dispersal of a direct developer. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 115(2), 315-332. doi: 10.1111/bij.12529

Herman, J. J., Spencer, H. G., Donohue, K., & Sultan, S. E. (2014). How stable 'should' epigenetic modifications be? Insights from adaptive plasticity and bet hedging. Evolution, 68(3), 632-643. doi: 10.1111/evo.12324

Spencer, H. G., & Clark, A. G. (2014). Non-conflict theories for the evolution of genomic imprinting. Heredity, 113, 112-118. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.129

Kennedy, M., & Spencer, H. G. (2014). Classification of the cormorants of the world. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 79, 249-257. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2014.06.020

Cumming, R. A., Nikula, R., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2014). Transoceanic genetic similarities of kelp-associated sea slug populations: Long-distance dispersal via rafting? Journal of Biogeography, 41, 2357-2370. doi: 10.1111/jbi.12376

Geoghegan, J. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). Exploring epiallele stability in a population-epigenetic model. Theoretical Population Biology, 83, 136-144. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2012.09.001

Kennedy, M., Taylor, S. A., Nádvorník, P., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). The phylogenetic relationships of the extant pelicans inferred from DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 66(1), 215-222. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.09.034

Nikula, R., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2013). Passive rafting is a powerful driver of transoceanic gene flow. Biology Letters, 9(1), 20120821. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0821

Waters, J. M., Trewick, S. A., Paterson, A. M., Spencer, H. G., Kennedy, M., Craw, D., Burridge, C. P., & Wallis, G. P. (2013). Biogeography off the tracks. Systematic Biology, 494-498. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syt013

Star, B., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). Effects of genetic drift and gene flow on the selective maintenance of genetic variation. Genetics, 194, 235-244. doi: 10.1534/genetics.113.149781

Marshall, B. A., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). Comments on some taxonomic changes affecting marine Bivalvia of the New Zealand region recently introduced in Huber's Compendium of bivalves, with some additional taxonomic changes. Molluscan Research, 33(1), 40-49. doi: 10.1080/13235818.2012.754147

Geoghegan, J. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). The adaptive invasion of epialleles in a heterogeneous environment. Theoretical Population Biology, 88, 1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2013.05.001

Geoghegan, J. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). The evolutionary potential of paramutation: A population-epigenetic model. Theoretical Population Biology, 88, 9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2013.05.003

Paul, D. B., Stenhouse, J., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). The two faces of Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle and governor of New Zealand. Quarterly Review of Biology, 88(3), 219-225. doi: 10.1086/671485

Trotter, M. V., & Spencer, H. G. (2013). Models of frequency-dependent selection with mutation from parental alleles. Genetics, 195(1), 231-242. doi: 10.1534/genetics.113.152496

Geoghegan, J. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2012). Population-epigenetic models of selection. Theoretical Population Biology, 81(3), 232-242. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2011.08.001

Donald, K. M., Preston, J., Williams, S. T., Reid, D. G., Winter, D., Alvarez, R., … Spencer, H. G. (2012). Phylogenetic relationships elucidate colonization patterns in the intertidal grazers Osilinus Philippi, 1847 and Phorcus Risso, 1826 (Gastropoda: Trochidae) in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 62(1), 35-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2011.09.002

Nakagawa, S., Lagisz, M., Hector, K. L., & Spencer, H. G. (2012). Comparative and meta-analytic insights into life extension via dietary restriction. Aging Cell, 11(3), 401-409. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2012.00798.x

Santure, A. W., & Spencer, H. G. (2012). Genomic imprinting leads to less selectively maintained polymorphism on X chromosomes. Genetics, 192, 1455-1464. doi: 10.1534/genetics.112.145607

Nikula, R., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2011). Evolutionary consequences of microhabitat: Population-genetic structuring in kelp- vs. rock-associated chitons. Molecular Ecology, 20, 4915-4924. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05332.x

Williams, S. T., Donald, K. M., Spencer, H. G., & Nakano, T. (2010). Molecular systematics of the marine gastropod families Trochidae and Calliostomatidae (Mollusca: Superfamily Trochoidea). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 54(3), 783-809. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.11.008

Holland, B. R., Spencer, H. G., Worthy, T. H., & Kennedy, M. (2010). Identifying cliques of convergent characters: Concerted evolution in the cormorants and shags. Systematic Biology, 59(4), 433-445. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syq023

Nikula, R., Fraser, C. I., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2010). Circumpolar dispersal by rafting in two subantarctic kelp-dwelling crustaceans. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 405, 221-230. doi: 10.3354/meps08523

Fraser, C. I., Thiel, M., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2010). Contemporary habitat discontinuity and historic glacial ice drive genetic divergence in Chilean kelp. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10, 203. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-203

Fraser, C. I., Nikula, R., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2009). Kelp genes reveal effects of subantarctic sea ice during the Last Glacial Maximum. PNAS, 106(9), 3249-3253.

Kennedy, M., Valle, C. A., & Spencer, H. G. (2009). The phylogenetic position of the Galápagos Cormorant. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 53(1), 94-98. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.06.002

Fraser, C. I., Spencer, H. G., & Waters, J. M. (2009). Glacial oceanographic contrasts explain phylogeography of Australian bull kelp. Molecular Ecology, 18(10), 2287-2296. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04201.x

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Journal - Research Other

Spencer, H. G., & Zuk, M. (2016). For host's sake: The pluses of parasite preservation [Forum]. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 31(5), 341-343. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.02.021

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