Bernie Degnan

Group Leader

PhD (Molecular Biology)

Australian Laureate Fellow and Professor

School of Biological Sciences

ph:  61-7-33652467

fax: 61-7-33651655

Goddard Bldg (8), Rm 322


I am a marine biologist with broad interests in the genomic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that underpin the formation, evolution and functioning of animals. My current and past studies encompass a wide range of marine invertebrates, some of which have traits of economic value and others that act as models to address fundamental questions in biology and biomedicine. Current research activities in my laboratory reflect these interests.

The origin of multicellular complexity. We are interested in the evolution of regulatory mechanisms underlying the coordination of cell proliferation, differentiation and patterning. Many of our studies focus on the analysis of gene structure, expression and function in the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica. By comparing the biology and genomics of sponges with that of other animals we can reconstruct the events that lead to the origin and early diversification of the animal kingdom. We are particularly interested in understanding on how cell decisions in a multicellular context evolved and are controlled by the genome.   

Functional genomics and evolution of biomineralization. Shells and skeletons of phenomenal strength, purity and beauty are produced by a wide range of animals. The formation of these highly-order crystalline structures is genetically encoded. We have found that the transcriptomes of cells responsible for fabricating these structures are highly complex and comprised of large batteries of rapidly evolving genes, many of which encode secreted proteins.  We are seeking to understand how these gene products come together to direct the formation of biominerals, how the rapid evolution of these products change the properties of these materials and how the regulation of the expression of the genes contribute to the formation and patterning of these complex structures at nano-, micro- and macro-scales. Some of these projects are in collaboration with industry partners particularly interested in understanding the genomic basis of programs the fabricate calcarious and siliceous materials of commercial value.

Marine invertebrate biology. We have a general interest in the functional biology and life cycles of coral reef invertebrates, including sponges, gastropods, cephalopods, urochordates, bryozoans and sipunculans. Current projects, often in collaboration with others, tend to try to understand organismal phenomena from a molecular, cell and/or developmental perspective. Larval biology and metamorphosis are long-standing points of focus.

Please contact me by email if you have an interest in the work we are doing, or in exploring options to come and work with us.



Research Interests