Prof Steve Cooper

Principal Research Scientist Evolutionary Biology Unit

+61 8 8313 5575


Steve did his PhD in the molecular evolution field at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1991, before taking up a post doctoral position at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. He moved to Adelaide in 1994 to take up a position as a research scientist in the Museum’s Evolutionary Biology Unit.


Position at Other Organisation

  • Affiliated Professor, Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide.


Research Interests   

Research involving the use of genetic analyses such as DNA sequencing to study the diversity and evolution of Australian fauna.  Particular research interest is the study of subterranean invertebrates of the Australian arid zone, including identifying species diversity, biogeographic history, modes of speciation and regressive evolution. Other research interests involve the supervision of several molecular ecological projects by PhD students of the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, on a range of organisms including marsupials, bats and lizards.           


Current Research Projects

Evolution and biogeography of Australian idiopid trapdoor spiders: implications for conservation biology and environmental assessment.  A. Austin, M. G. Rix, M.S. Harvey and S. Cooper. 2012–2015, ARC Linkage project, $276,368.

Next generation enhancement of the South Australian Regional Facility for Molecular Ecology and Evolution. A. D. Austin, A. J. Lowe, S. C. Donnellan, A. Cooper, M. G. Gardner, S. J. Cooper, P.  Weinstein, L. B. Beheregaray, M. Waycott, C. M. Bull, M. J. Wilkinson, M. I. Stevens, J. G. Mitchell and N. S. Watson-Haigh.  2013, ARC LIEF grant, $370,000.

Is regressive evolution associated with loss of gene function in subterranean animals? S. Cooper, W. Humphreys and A. Austin.  2012–2014, ARC Discovery project, $240,000.

Effects of fire on the reproductive ecology of terrestrial orchids and on their pollinators in fragmented landscapes of southern Australia.  J. Facelli, A. Austin, S. Cooper, M. Stevens and R. Faast. 2012–2014, ARC Linkage project, $$272,000.

Resolving the systematics of stygobitic Amphipoda (Crustacea) using morphology and genetic analyses – the Melitidae and Paramelitidae of central Western Australia, R. King, S. Cooper and W. Humphreys.  2011–2014, Australian Biological Research Study, $225,000.

Prioritising reserves to enable resilience to climate change. M. Gardner and S. Cooper.  2011–2013, Native Vegetation Council of South Australia, $80,450.

Exploring the taxonomy, distribution and evolution of a unique subterranean fauna: amphipod crustaceans from the Yilgarn region of central Western Australia. R. King and S. Cooper. 2011–2013, Hermon Slade Foundation, $53,380.

Biodiversity and population genetics of groundwater calcrete ecosystems of central Western Australia. A. Austin, S. Cooper, W. Humphreys, M. Harvey and M. Stevens, 2010–2013, ARC Linkage project, $320,000.


Awards & Achievements

  • Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Universität Hamburg, Germany (2003)

  • Visiting Conviron Fellow, Department of Animal and Plant Science, The University of Sheffield, UK

  • “2009 Titleholder Prize” from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences for a significant contribution to the school (2009)


Professional Associations           

  • Editor, Australian Journal of Zoology

  • Associate Editor, BMC Evolutionary Biology

  • President, Society of Australian Systematic Biologists

  • Member, European Society for Evolutionary Biology

  • Member, Genetics Society of Australasia



  • BSc (Hons), University of Adelaide (1985)
  • PhD, Department of Genetics, University of Adelaide (1990)



  1. Bradford T., Adams M., Guzik M., Humphreys W., Austin A., and Cooper S. J. B. (2013). Investigation of allopatric divergence in chiltoniid amphipods within the subterranean environment of an arid zone calcrete aquifer. Heredity (in press).
  2. Abrams, K. M., King R. A., Guzik M. T., Cooper S. J. B., and Austin A. D. (2013). Molecular phylogenetic, morphological and biogeographic evidence for a new genus of parabathynellid crustaceans (Syncarida: Bathynellacea) from groundwater in an ancient southern Australian landscape. Invertebrate Systematics (in press).
  3. Asmyhr M. G. and Cooper S. J. B. (2012). Difficulties barcoding in the dark: the case of crustacean stygofauna from eastern Australia. Invertebrate Systematics 26: 583–591.
  4. Jackson B., Kawakami, T., Cooper S. J. ., Galindo J., and Butlin R.K. (2012). A genome scan and linkage disequilibrium analysis among chromosomal races of the Australian grasshopper Vandiemenella viatica. PLoS One 7: 1–10.
  5. Cook, B. D., Abrams, K. M., Marshall J., Perna C. N., Choy, S., Guzik , M. T., and Cooper S. J. B. (2012). Species diversity and genetic differentiation of stygofauna (Syncarida: Bathynellacea) across an alluvial aquifer in north-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology 60: 152–158.
  6. Guzik, M. T., Adams, M. A., Murphy, N. P., Cooper, S. J. B., and Austin A. D. (2012). Desert springs: deep phylogeographic structure in an ancient endemic crustacean (Phreatomerus latipes). PLoS One 7: 1–13.
  7. Abrams, K. M., Guzik, M. T., Cooper, S. J. B., Humphreys, W. F, King, R. A., Cho, J.-L., and Austin A. D.(2012). What lies beneath: molecular phylogenetics and ancestral state reconstruction of the ancient subterranean Australian Parabathynellidae (Syncarida, Crustacea). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64: 130–134.
  8. Karanovic T. and Cooper S. J. B. (2012). Explosive radiation of the genus Schizopera Sars (Copepoda: Harpacticoida) in a small subterranean island in Western Australia; Unravelling the cases of cryptic speciation, size differentiation, and multiple invasions. Invertebrate Systematics 26: 115–192.
  9. Potter S., Eldridge M. D. B., Taggart D. A., and Cooper S. J. B. (2012). Multiple biogeographic barriers identified across the monsoon tropics of northern Australia: phylogeographic analysis of the brachyotis group of rock-wallabies. Molecular Ecology 21: 2254–2269.
  10. Murphy N. P., Breed M. F., Guzik M. T., Cooper S. J. B., and Austin A. D. (2012). Has Pleistocene climate change influenced the phylogeographic history of artesian spring snails in the Australian arid zone? Journal of Biogeography 39: 1573–1582.