Associate Professor Thomas Robert Buckley

Ph.D. Victoria University of Wellington

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Associate Professor

Research | Current

I am a member of the Joint Graduate School for Biodiversity and Biosecurity and am employed by both Landcare Research and the University of Auckland. My role at Landcare Research involves leadership of invertebrate systematics and the New Zealand Arthropod Collection. At the University of Auckland I supervise graduate students within the Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour research section. I am also a Programme Leader for New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.


Understanding insect speciation and adaptation using genomics

New Zealand offers an ideal system from which to investigate speciation and evolution of adaptation due to the large degree of habitat variability that has developed rapidly within the recent geological past. We are using whole genomes, transcriptomes and SNP data to understand how insects have evolved adaptations to thrive in the recently formed alpine zone, particularly stick insects. This research also involves the coupling of genomic data such as RNA-seq with physiological studies. We are also interested in speciation on offshore islands and are applying whole genomes and SNP data to island species and populations of weta and stick insects.


Systematics and Biogeography of New Zealand invertebrates

The New Zealand terrestrial invertebrate fauna is interesting due its composite nature of ancient Gondwanan lineages and more recent lineages that have arrived via dispersal. However, little is known about the timing of arrival of many lineages, or where they came from. We are studying a range of diverse invertebrate groups with particular emphasis on species associated with dead wood, soil and leaf litter to reveal their timing of arrival and origins and well as the history of diversification within New Zealand. These studies involve specialised field work throughout New Zealand and phylogenetic analyses of nuclear and mitochondrial genes. We are also investigating the phylogeographic history of widespread insect species using mitochondrial DNA and coupling these patterns with ecological niche models. Study organisms include stick insects, earthworms, cicadas, beetles, and moths.


Conservation Genetics of New Zealand invertebrates

Some New Zealand invertebrate species are highly threatened due to large size, low fecundity, specialized habitat and susceptibility to predation. We are using genetic data to develop strategies for the management of these species. Or particular interest is the effect of translocation on levels of genetic variation. We are currently investigating giant weta (Deinacrida spp.), tusked weta (Motuweta isolata) and giant land snails. Conservation genetic studies underway are using microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA and increasingly SNP data. This research involves collaboration with the Department of Conservation.


An important aspect of our research is observing and collecting invertebrates in their natural environment and appreciating their natural history. We also believe it is important to have firm understanding of methods of analysis and we have published on phylogenetic methods, model selection, and tests of topology. We are also interested in coalescent models, molecular dating and the assembly and analysis of whole genomes, transcriptomes and gene expression data. Please contact me if you are interested in graduate research in invertebrate systematics and biogeography or insect comparative genomics (weta and stick insects).


See my web site at Landcare Research:


For more details on stick insect research see:



Major collaborators

Sven Bradler, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen


Chris Simon, University of Connecticut


Brent Sinclair, University of Western Ontario


1KITE (1K Insect Transcriptome Evolution)

Postgraduate supervision

Liam Salleh (MSc): Phylogenomics of New Zealand stick insects.

Brendan Hughes (MSc): Molecular population genetics of Micrarchus stick insects.

Talia Brav-Cubitt (MSc): Phylogeography of New Zealand weevils.

Seung-Sub Choi (MSc): Genotyping-by-sequencing and population genomics of New Zealand stick insects.

Victoria Twort (PhD): Genome evolution, speciation and molecular population genetics of giant weta. (co-supervisors: Richard Newcomb and Howard Ross)

Chen Wu (PhD): Genome evolution, speciation and molecular population genetics of stick insects. (co-supervisors: Richard Newcomb and Howard Ross)

Andrew Dopheide (PhD): Molecular ecology and metagenomics in a model ecosystem (supervisor: Richard Newcomb, co-supervisors: Thomas Buckley and Alexei Drummond)

Dave Seldon (PhD): Thesis topic: Systematics of Mecodema ground beetles (supervisor: Greg Holwell, co-supervisor: Thomas Buckley)


Research Group Leader, Landcare Research


Research Leader, Invertebrate Systematics, Landcare Research

Programme Leader, New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge

Areas of expertise

Entomology, evolution, genomics, conservation, biogeography

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Wu, C., Crowhurst, R. N., Dennis, A. B., Twort, V. G., Liu, S., Newcomb, R. D., ... Buckley, T. R. (2016). De Novo Transcriptome Analysis of the Common New Zealand Stick Insect Clitarchus hookeri (Phasmatodea) Reveals Genes Involved in Olfaction, Digestion and Sexual Reproduction. PloS one, 11 (6), 1-30. 10.1371/journal.pone.0157783
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Howard Ross, Richard Newcomb
  • Drummond, A. J., Newcomb, R. D., Buckley, T. R., Xie, D., Dopheide, A., Potter, B. C. M., ... Grosser, S. (2015). Evaluating a multigene environmental DNA approach for biodiversity assessment. GigaScience, 4.10.1186/s13742-015-0086-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Newcomb, Howard Ross, Alexei Drummond, James Russell, Walter Xie, Sandra Anderson
  • Buckley, T. R., Krosch, M., & Leschen, R. A. B. (2015). Evolution of New Zealand insects: summary and prospectus for future research. Austral Entomology, 54 (1), 1-27. 10.1111/aen.12116
  • Dennis, A. B., Dunning, L. T., Sinclair, B. J., & Buckley, T. R. (2015). Parallel molecular routes to cold adaptation in eight genera of New Zealand stick insects. Scientific reports, 510.1038/srep13965
  • Bradler, S., Cliquennois, N., & Buckley, T. R. (2015). Single origin of the Mascarene stick insects: ancient radiation on sunken islands?. BMC evolutionary biology, 1510.1186/s12862-015-0478-y
  • Misof, B., Liu, S., Meusemann, K., Peters, R. S., Donath, A., Mayer, C., ... Beutel, R. G. (2014). Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution. Science (New York, N.Y.), 346 (6210), 763-767. 10.1126/science.1257570
  • Dunning, L. T., Dennis, A. B., Sinclair, B. J., Newcomb, R. D., & Buckley, T. R. (2014). Divergent transcriptional responses to low temperature among populations of alpine and lowland species of New Zealand stick insects (Micrarchus). Mol Ecol, 23 (11), 2712-2726. 10.1111/mec.12767
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Newcomb
  • Murienne, J., Daniels, S. R., Buckley, T. R., Mayer, G., & Giribet, G. (2014). A living fossil tale of Pangean biogeography. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B: Biological Sciences, 281 (1175).10.1098/rspb.2013.2648


Contact details

Alternative contact

Phone: +64 9 574 4116
Post: Private Bag 92170, Auckland, New Zealand

Web links