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

Seung-Sub Choi (PhD): Reconstructing the evolutionary history of New Zealand stick insect Acanthoxyla using genomics

Jiawei Shen (PhD): Systematics of New Zealand Pselaphinae beetles

Dave Seldon (PhD): Systematics of Mecodema ground beetles

Sridevi Bhamidipati (PhD): Evolution of insect sensory systems

Chloé Mathieu: Spatiotemporal variation in New Zealand microscopic communities

Elizabeth Farrington (MSc): Saproxylic beetle-fungi interactions across an environmental gradient

Heather McKey (MSc): Genomics of hybridisation in New Zealand stick insects


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., Twort, V. G., Crowhurst, R. N., Newcomb, R. D., & Buckley, T. R. (2017). Assembling large genomes: analysis of the stick insect (Clitarchus hookeri) genome reveals a high repeat content and sex-biased genes associated with reproduction. BMC genomics, 18 (1)10.1186/s12864-017-4245-x
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Newcomb
  • Wu, C., Jordan, M. D., Newcomb, R. D., Gemmell, N. J., Bank, S., Meusemann, K., ... Rutherford, K. (2017). Analysis of the genome of the New Zealand giant collembolan (Holacanthella duospinosa) sheds light on hexapod evolution. BMC genomics, 18 (1)10.1186/s12864-017-4197-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Newcomb
  • Myers, S. S., Holwell, G. I., & Buckley, T. R. (2017). Genetic and morphometric data demonstrate alternative consequences of secondary contact in Clitarchus stick insects. Journal of Biogeography, 44 (9), 2069-2081. 10.1111/jbi.13004
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Gregory Holwell
  • 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


Contact details

Alternative contact

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

Web links