Kate Sparks’ current research interests focus on the systematics of Australian ants and in particular the delimitation of species in morphologically cryptic and taxonomically difficult complexes.
Her PhD project (current) is entitled ‘Systematics of Australian Monomorium and species delimitation in the M. ‘rothsteini’ (Forel) species complex’.
Kate is undertaking her PhD in Professor Andy Austin’s Lab Group at the University of Adelaide. Her research focuses on the systematics of the Australian species of Monomorium (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and, in particular, the taxonomically difficult but ecologically important M. ‘rothsteini’ species complex. Presently described as a single species, M. rothsteini is widespread over mainland Australia and shows marked morphological variation. Using both molecular and morphological techniques, Kate’s doctoral research aims to determine species boundaries in this difficult complex and develop methods that can be used for other taxonomically difficult ant groups. Her research will culminate in a taxonomic revision of the group and the description of new species.
In addition, Kate is working on the first molecular phylogeny of Monomorium. Focusing mainly on Australian species, this phylogeny will help clarify species group relationships and provide an insight into the extent of cryptic speciation within the genus.
Professor Andy Austin (University of Adelaide); Professor Steve Donnellan (South Australian Museum); Professor Alan Andersen (CSIRO); Dr Steve Shattuck (CSIRO)
Kate's PhD project is jointly funded by the University of Adelaide and the Australian Biological Resource Study.