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Dr. Libby Liggins

B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.


physical: Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences Building // Room 3.10 // East Precinct
tel: +64 9 4140800 ext 43196 // email: l.liggins(at)


2014 (4 months): Graduate Fellowship, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), Duke University, USA. Project: “Nestedness and turnover in the genetic diversity of marine species in the Indo-Pacific Ocean”, in association with the working group “Advancing genetic diversity research in the Indian and Pacific Oceans”. Principal Investigators: Dr. C Riginos, Dr. ED Crandall, and Prof. RJ Toonen.

2010-2014: PhD (Evolutionary Ecology), The University of Queensland, Australia. Thesis: “Seascape genetics of Indo-Pacific reef organisms: methodologies and case studies for an emerging discipline”. Supervisors: Dr. C Riginos, Dr. EA Treml, and Prof. HP Possingham.

2006-2008: MSc (Conservation Biology), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Thesis: “Phylogeography of the New Zealand common skink species complex, Oligosoma nigriplantare”. Supervisors: Dr. PA Ritchie and Dr. DG Chapple.

2002-2005: BSc (Ecology & Biodiversity; Environmental Studies), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.


My current research in collaboration with Prof. Marti Anderson aims to understand the role of evolutionary processes in determining spatial variation in the composition of New Zealand fish communities.

Patterns of biodiversity are generated via evolutionary and ecological processes, yet these two processes are often considered in isolation. In community ecology, species are typically treated as equivalent units of biodiversity, without reference to shared and derived evolutionary histories. However, the phylogentic relationships among constituent species can provide a temporal context for species turnover among communities; whether they be ‘basal’ in the phylogenetic tree or ‘terminal’. Hence, community phylogenies can help us to understand the roles of neutral processes (e.g. regional history and dispersal) and deterministic processes in influencing community composition and species turnover. I have been awarded an Allan Wilson Centre Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Profs. Marti Anderson and Paul Rainey to use a phylogeny of New Zealand fishes to help us understand patterns in fish community composition across latitudinal and depth gradients.

More broadly my research has two main themes:
1) macroecology/evolution - including the synthesis of multi-species genetic datasets, biogeography, and community ecology.
2) population demographics and genetics - including the roles of migration (connectivity), and local selection in population persistence.


Liggins L, Booth DJ, Figueira WF, Treml EA, Tonk L, Ridgway T, Harris DA, Riginos C (2015) Latitude-wide genetic patterns reveal historical effects and contrasting patterns of turnover and nestedness at the range peripheries of a tropical marine fish. Ecography (online early). doi: 10.1111/ecog.01398

Crandall ED, Treml EA, Liggins L, Gleeson L, Yasuda N, Barber P, Wörheide G, Riginos C (2014) Return of the ghosts of dispersal past: historical spread and contemporary gene flow in the blue seastar Linckia laevigata. Bulletin of Marine Science 90: 399-425.

Richards ZT, Liggins L (2015) Scleractinian corals and crown-of-thorns seastars of the Kermadec Islands. Bulletin of the Auckland Museum 20: in press.

Liggins L, Gleeson L, Riginos C (2014) Evaluating edge-of-range genetic patterns for tropical echinoderms, Acanthaster planci and Tripneustes gratilla, of the Kermadec Islands. Bulletin of Marine Science 90: 379-397.

Liggins L, Treml EA, Riginos C (2013) Taking the plunge: an introduction to undertaking seascape genetic studies and using biophysical models. Geography Compass 7: 173-196.

Huelsken T, Keyse J, Liggins L, Penny S, Treml E, Riginos C (2013) A novel widespread cryptic species and phylogeographic patterns within several giant clam species (Cardiidae: Tridacna) from the Indo-Pacific Ocean. PLoS One 8: e80858.

Riginos C, Liggins L (2013) Seascape genetics: populations, individuals, and genes marooned and adrift. Geography Compass 7: 197-216.

Torkkola J, Riginos C, Liggins L (2013) Regional patterns of mtDNA diversity in Styela plicata, an invasive ascidian, from Australian and New Zealand marinas. Marine and Freshwater Research 64: 139–145.

Mirams A, Treml E, Shields J, Liggins L, Riginos C (2011) Vicariance and dispersal across an intermittent barrier: population genetic structure of marine animals across the Torres Strait land bridge. Coral Reefs 30: 937–949.

Ryan K, Cowie R, Liggins E, McNaughtan D, Davy S (2009) The short-term effect of irradiance on the photosynthetic properties of Antarctic fast-ice microalgal communities. Journal of Phycology 45: 1290-1298.

Liggins L, Chapple D, Daugherty C, Ritchie P (2008) A SINE of restricted geneflow across the Alpine Fault: phylogeography of the New Zealand common skink (Oligosoma nigriplantare polychroma). Molecular Ecology 17: 3668-3683.

Liggins L, Chapple D, Daugherty C, Ritchie P (2008) Origin and post-colonization evolution of the Chatham Islands skink (Oligosoma nigriplantare nigriplantare). Molecular Ecology 17: 3290-3305.

Philippe Remigi