Professor Thomas Robert Buckley

Ph.D. Victoria University of Wellington

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 a member of the Genomics Aotearoa Science Leadership Team. Together with Dr David Chagne from Plant and Food Research I am co-leading the project "High Quality Genomes" funded by Genomics Aotearoa.


Speciation and adaptation in New Zealand stick insects

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. Through a new Marsden Fund project we are using whole genomes, transcriptomes and epigenetics to understand how stick insects have adapted to different thermal environments, particularly the alpine zone. This involves the measuring of thermal performance among species from New Zealand and New Caledonia. We are also interested in speciation and the genomic changes that occur in stick insects when they adopt parthenogenesis as a reproductive mode. We are sequencing whole genomes from species that display different reproductive modes and investigating changes to genome structure and gene expression.


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. These studies predominantly use SNP markers to reconstruct population history and patterns of variation. 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)



Teaching | Current

BIOSC730 Entomology

Postgraduate supervision

Postdoctoral Fellows

Kate Augustine: Evolution of thermal performance in New Zealand and New Caledonian stick insects (RSNZ Marsden)

Ann Mc Cartney: High quality genome assembly and comparative genomics (Genomics Aotearoa)


Graduate Students

Claudio Cubillos (PhD): Evolution of thermal performance in New Zealand and New Caledonian stick insects

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

Morgane Merien (PhD): Ecology and diversity of camouflage in New Zealand stick insects

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

Kelly Wootton (MSc): Evolution of thermal performance in stick insects


Research Group Leader, Landcare Research


Research Leader, Invertebrate Systematics, Landcare Research

Science Leadership Team, Genomics Aotearoa

Areas of expertise

Entomology, evolution, genomics, conservation, biogeography

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Associate Editor, Systematic Biology

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Gemmell, N. J., Rutherford, K., Prost, S., Tollis, M., Winter, D., Macey, J. R., ... Grau, J. H. (2020). The tuatara genome reveals ancient features of amniote evolution. Nature, 584 (7821), 403-409. 10.1038/s41586-020-2561-9
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Newcomb
  • Buckley, T. R., Lord, N. P., Ramon-Laca, A., Allwood, J. S., & Leschen, R. A. B. (2020). Multiple lineages of hyper-diverse Zopheridae beetles survived the New Zealand Oligocene Drowning. JOURNAL OF BIOGEOGRAPHY, 47 (4), 927-940. 10.1111/jbi.13776
  • Langton-Myers, S. S., Holwell, G. I., & Buckley, T. R. (2019). Weak premating isolation between Clitarchus stick insect species despite divergent male and female genital morphology. Journal of evolutionary biology, 32 (5), 398-411. 10.1111/jeb.13424
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Greg Holwell
  • Twort, V. G., Newcomb, R. D., & Buckley, T. R. (2019). New Zealand Tree and Giant Wētā (Orthoptera) Transcriptomics Reveal Divergent Selection Patterns in Metabolic Loci. Genome biology and evolution, 11 (4), 1293-1306. 10.1093/gbe/evz070
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Newcomb
  • 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: Greg 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, Alexei Drummond, James Russell, Walter Xie, Sandra Anderson


Contact details

Alternative contact

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

Primary office location

COMMERCE A - Bldg 114
Level B, Room B02
New Zealand

Web links