Human mediated impacts on the environment are placing increasing pressure on species worldwide. As a direct result of these anthropogenic effects, a large proportion of the Earth’s biodiversity is threatened with extinction. A fundamental challenge for biologists is therefore to understand how species will respond to ongoing environmental change and use this understanding to generate accurate predictions of species distribution and abundance.

Addressing this challenge is not easy. It is becoming increasingly evident that understanding species responses to climate change requires an approach which considers the multifaceted nature of the organism-environment interaction. This includes considering both the intrinsic (behaviour, physiological plasticity) and extrinsic (biotic interactions, the nature of climatic change) factors that may mediate this interaction. To achieve this we take an integrated approach that combines detailed field and laboratory experiments that allow us to measure individual responses to variation in key climatic factors with demographic and climatic modelling that allows us to incorporate this information into a predictive framework.

The majority of our research focuses on lizards, and in particular the snow skinks. Snow skinks are a particularly interesting case because they represent a group of lizards that evolved under highly divergent climate conditions (particularly the thermal environment) both within and among species. Such differences in historic selective regimes are likely to impact on the species respective abilities to cope with contemporary climate change.

If you want to know more:

Caldwell, A., While, G. M. and Wapstra, E. (2017) Plasticity of thermoregulatory behaviour in response to the thermal environment by widespread and highland reptile species. Animal Behaviour. 132:217-227.

Pecl, G.T., Araújo, M.B., Bell, J.D., Blanchard, J., Bonebrake, T.C., Chen, C., Clark, T.D., Colwell, R.K., Danielsen, F., Evengård, B., Falconi, L., Ferrier, S., Frusher, S., Garcia, R.A., Griffis, R.B., Hobday, A.J., Janion-Scheepers, C., Jarzyna, M.A., Jennings, S., Lenoir, J., Linnetved, H.I., Martin, V.Y., McCormack, P.C., McDonald, J., Mitchell, N.J., Mustonen, T., Pandolfi, J.P., Pettorelli, N., Popova, E., Robinson, S.A., Scheffers, B.A., Shaw, J.D., Sorte, C.J.B., Strugnell, J.M., Sunday, J.M., Tuanmu, M-N., Vergés, A., Villanueva, C., Wernberg, T., Wapstra, E., Williams, S.E. (2017) Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. Science, 355: eaai9214.

Caldwell, A.J., While, G.M., Beeton, N.J., and Wapstra, E. (2015) Potential for thermal tolerance to mediate climate change effects on three members of a cool temperate lizard genus, Niveoscincus. Journal of Thermal Biology, 52: 14-23.

While, G.M. and Uller, T. (2014) Quo vardis Amphibia? Global warming and breeding phenology in Frogs, Toads and Salamanders. Ecography, 37, 921-929

Cadby, C.D., While, G.M., Hobday, A., Uller, T., Wapstra, E. (2010) Multi-scale approach to understanding climate effects on offspring size at birth and date of birth in a reptile  Integrative Zoology (invited contribution), 5: 163-174