Dr Bruce Deagle — molecular ecologist

Scientists of the Antarctic: Dr Bruce Deagle

Video transcript

My role at the Australian Antarctic Division is a molecular ecologist, so I lead a small group of geneticists who do research on the ecology of organisms in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

A lot of the things we’re doing are brand new, so people have never seen these sorts of data before. And the ability to really answer questions that nobody else has been able to address before is quite exciting.

So the type of work that we do ranges from things like looking at penguin diet using DNA markers to characterise prey that we get in faecal samples, so in scat samples, to looking at communities of microscopic organisms that are found in seawater.

Just recently started working on a collaboration with international scientists to get a whole bunch of different countries and different Antarctic stations collecting poo samples from Adélie penguins to start doing a larger project on the diet of the species all around Antarctica.

I think more generally genetics will be used in the future to do a lot of the monitoring work that we right now use a microscope to do and I think that’s a really bright area for genetics research.

[end transcript]

Dr Bruce Deagle: BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Research interests

I've been fortunate to be involved in a wide range of interesting research projects that have used molecular genetic techniques to learn about animal population ecology. I started my university education in Canada, followed by a few years working in a laboratory investigating population genetic structure in Pacific salmon. After moving to Australia I enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Tasmania. My thesis focused on studying the diets of various marine predators by characterising the prey DNA present in faecal samples. This included research on the foraging ecology of macaroni penguins as part of the Antarctic Division’s 2003–04 Heard Island ecosystem study. On completing my PhD (2006) I held an NSERC post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Victoria, Canada (2008–2011) and then an RJL Hawke post-doctoral fellowship at the Antarctic Division (2011-2014). In these positions I primarily worked on evolutionary genetics of stickleback fish and the genomics of Antarctic krill, respectively.

Since 2014 I have been working as a research scientist within the ecological genetics group at the Antarctic Division. I am currently involved in continuing studies of animal diet (primarily penguins and seals) and Antarctic krill ecological genetics (population structuring and genetic responses to CO2-induced stress). I am also excited to be coordinating a new Australian Antarctic Science project that is investigating Southern Ocean plankton biodiversity using high-throughput DNA sequencing. This will include studies characterising communities of single-celled protists and zooplankton, and the bycatch species component of the Antarctic krill fishery.

Current projects


  • NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2008–2011)
  • RJL Hawke Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Antarctic Environmental Science (2011–2014)

Key outcome areas

  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

Related links

Selected publications

See Dr Bruce Deagle’s publications on Google Scholar.