Current lab members

Jan Engelstädter (PI)

Jan EngelstaedterI am an evolutionary biologist broadly interested in the evolutionary biology of sexual processes, parasitism, and the interplay between these phenomena. I use a combination of mathematical modelling and experimental work to address fundamental questions within this exciting field.

I did my PhD with Greg Hurst at University College London, focusing on the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia. After postdoctoral positions at Harvard University (with David Haig) and ETH Zurich (with Sebastian Bonhoeffer) and a junior group leader position at ETH Zurich I moved to Australia to start my current position at UQ. In addition to research I am actively involved in teaching into various courses on evolutionary biology and modeling. I have been an Associate Editor for Evolution and I’m currently an Associate Editor for Proceedings B.

Links: Profile at UQ, Google Scholar, ORCID

Nicole Fortuna (PhD student)


My main research pursuit is trying to understand long-term evolutionary dynamics between coevolving host and parasite clades. In particular, I am interested in the phenomena of parasites shifting between different kinds of host species, and the macroeolutionary patterns that influence parasite distribution across different hosts. As part of my PhD, I am using statistical and mathematical modelling to study patterns of parasite distribution. By using simulations, I am able to analyse the possible contributions of the phylogenetic distance and clade effects to the dynamics of host-shifting. In my project, I will also attempt to account for the effects of missing data on our ability to detect patterns of coevolution in associated host-parasite clades. While applicable to many host-parasite systems, my project is inspired by the Wolbachia-arthropod system.

Ehsan Sanaei (PhD student)


Phylogenetics, population genetics, systematics, entomology and morphology were essential parts of my previous research at the University of Tehran (Tehran, Iran) and Chonnam National University (Gwangju, Korea). Now, here at UQ, Wolbachia is at the center of my PhD research. Wolbachia is a maternally inherited intercellular symbiont wildly distributed in arthropods and nematodes. However, more than abundant, the various phenotypes induced by Wolbachia on its host make this endosymbiont/parasite an attractive subject of study. Like many facultative symbiots, Wolbachia has a great ability to shift its host species, sometimes also referred to as horizontal transmission. In the story of Wolbachia, host shifts are my favorite facet, which enthused me to work on a review paper about this topic. In order to understand the Wolbachia host shift and the factors determine it, I adopted scale insects as a suitable model. An extensive Wolbachia survey in Australian scale insects is the first part of my Ph.D. Under the supervision of Jan Engelstädter and Lyn Cook, I am searching for Wolbachia infection among more than a thousand samples including nearly a hundred species of scale insects. In the next step, I am searching for Wolbachia strains in scale insect’s associate species such as parasitoids and ants to identify possible routes of horizontal transmission. Finally, by utilizing phylogenetic and niche modeling methodologies, I am trying to obtain a better picture to explain Wolbachia host shifts in scale insects.

Jack Price (PhD student)

I have previously worked on concepts such as cryptic genetic variation and the effects of environmental conditions on the adaptability of populations. I am now looking at how integrons behave in bacteria, both in respects to ajack.jpgntibiotic resistance and also in a more general evolutionary sense. Hopefully I will be able to gain some insight into what impact these prevalent genetic systems are having on the evolutionary behaviour of bacterial populations. More generally, I am interested in the possibilities and constraints placed on evolving populations. What exactly evolution can deal with and what restricts its adaptive potential is what motivates me to further explore and learn about this fascinating phenomenon.

Co-supervised PhD students:

  • Beth Brittain (primary supervisor: Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos)
  • Maddie James (primary supervisor: Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos)
  • Oleksandra Silayeva (primary supervisor: Andy Barnes)
  • Henry Arena-Castro (primary supervisor: Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos)


  • Ian Gooi: Honours student 2018
  • Hasan “Shimul” Chowdhury Mehedi: PhD student 2013-2017
    (now postdoc at the University of Liverpool, UK)
  • James Reeve: Honours student and lab technician 2015-2016
    (now Msc student at the University of Calgary, Canada)
  • Mark Chan: Honours student 2016
    (now PhD student at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Nick Smith: Honours student 2014
    (now PhD student at the University of Sydney)
  • Angie Nguyen Vu: lab manager
    (now research manager)
  • Danesh Mohadigaravand: PhD student 2011-2014
    (now Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, UK)

Some of our collaborators (present and past):