Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

Mathieu Quenu

I started picking up an interest in evolution as an undergraduate student and it pushed me to carry on to a master degree in evolution biology and genetics at the University of Lille 1 in Paris, France. During the masters degree programme I had the opportunity to work on different research projects, providing an opportunity for me to travel abroad and start doing some research-related work. My first research project dragged me to Scotland and the University of Stirling, where I studied polyploidy and speciation in the introduced plant genus Mimulus (monkeyflower). It was an interesting time for me and it confirmed by desire to pursue an academic career and study evolution. Then in 2016 I firstly came to New Zealand for a second research project, where I met Mary and Steve for the first time. My work here concerned coevolution of feather lice living on the hybrid grey duck/mallards of New Zealand. I kept contact with Mary and Steve afterwards and one year later an opportunity arose for a PhD position in their lab.

PhD research
My PhD project aims at looking at the relationship between the giant snail Placostylus and its environment, with the objective to provide a better understanding of the evolutionary ecology of this endangered taxon.

The first part of the project will involve the analysis of geometric morphometric and genetic data of two sympatric Placostylus species living on New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines (Placostylus fibratus and Placostylus porphyrostomus). Because these two species share the same environment in the locations sampled, differences in shape, size and genetic data will offer us insights on the patterns of natural selection / phenotypic plasticity at work on these two species of snails.

The second part of the project will involve gathering oxygen isotope data from Placostylus shells, with the objective to develop an environmental proxy that is useful for interpreting past and future climate change. This part of the project requires developing a relevant sampling strategy of the Placostylus snails across the Pacific and finding useable relationship between the oxygen isotope ratio and different climatic variables.  

Finally the last part of the project will use data collected in the first two parts of the project in concert with fossil records of Placostylus snails. This will involve a combination of geometric morphometric and oxygen isotope data aligned with paleoenvironmental information gathered from other proxies. One of our main interests here is to try to explain morphological stasis observed in populations of Placostylus ambagiosus in the north of New Zealand.

2016 Master degree in evolution biology and genetics, Universite de Lille 1
2014 Bachelor degree in biology and ecology, Universite de Lille 1

Academic Publications
Vallejo-Marin, M., M. Quenu, S. Richie, and S. Meeus. In press. Partial inter-fertility between independently originated populations of the neo-allopolyploid Mimulus peregrinus. Plant Systematics and Evolution. doi: 10.1007/s00606-017-1426-7