Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

Jo Fitness <>

About myself:

I grew up in New Plymouth, New Zealand, spending most of my childhood on the farm. Very early on in life I knew I wanted to work with animals in someway and decided to be a zoologist. Through high school I had a part-time job as a zoo keeper but realized zoo keeping wasn’t for me. I did an MSc studying a gecko hybrid zone. I am now into my first year of a PhD following one of my interests- systematics & taxonomy. When I’m not hard at work on PhD I am spending time with my family.

My Research:

I did my Masters project on the common gecko (Woodworthia maculatus). I looked at a potential hybrid zone between small sized geckos on the coast of Wellington (southern North Island, New Zealand) and larger size geckos at Ocean beach and inland. I found that although there was a difference in size and genetic alleles between populations only 15 km apart there was no evidence of assortative mating or hybrid disadvantage.

For my PhD I am looking at the systematics and taxonomy of cave weta (Orthoptera, Rhaphidophoridae), in particular the smaller species found predominately amongst leaf litter and on trees (rather than in cave systems). There is a huge gap in the knowledge of New Zealand cave weta with many undescribed or poorly characterised taxa. Almost nothing is known about the life history traits of these insects, nor their interactions with other members of forest communities. I am focusing on alpha taxonomy and the development of taxonomic tools for cave weta as well as contributing to our understanding of the variation that exist between populatations, species and genera. I will be using morphological and genetic tools to differentiate among taxa.

This research is funded by the Te Tipu Putaiao Fellowship.

Email: <>
Link: WetaGeta






Jo_cave weta