Dr Claire Brandenburger
Research Assistant
Field of Research: 
Ecology, Evolution, Introduced plants
Contact details:
+61 400 313 852
Claire Brandenburger

Member of the Big Ecology Lab


Unwanted weeds or unique new Australians? A study of rapid evolution in introduced plants.

When Darwin first described the process of evolution, it was thought to occur over thousands or millions of years. But we now know that a wide range of taxa can undergo ‘rapid evolution’. To study rapid evolution, I have been conducting a series of ‘common-garden’ glasshouse experiments where I grow beach daisies (Arctotheca populifolia) from South Africa side-by-side with beach daisies introduced to Australia about 100 years ago.

My work is uncovering an astonishing array of evolutionary changes in the introduced plants – they look very different, flower earlier than the native plants, have smaller flowers and have even evolved the ability to produce seeds without pollinators.

With so many evolutionary changes, could these unwanted weeds be evolving into a unique Australian species?  This exciting idea has never been tested before - and could potentially revolutionise the way we consider and manage introduced species.


Professor Angela Moles


Associate Professor Stephen Bonser

Professor William Sherwin



Rollins, L.A., Moles, A.T., Lam, S., Buitenwerf, R., Buswell, J.M., Brandenburger, C.R., Flores-Moreno, H. ,Nielsen, K.B., Couchman, E., Brown, G.S., Thomson, F.J.,  Hemmings, F., Frankham, R. & Sherwin, W.B. 2013. High genetic diversity is not essential for successful introduction. Ecology and evolution 3:4501-4517.


(Maiden name Volchansky)

Hoffmann, J.H., Impson, F.A.C. & Volchansky, C.R. 2002. Biological control of cactus weeds: implications of hybridization between control agent biotypes. Journal of Applied Ecology 39: 900-908.

Volchansky, C.R., Hoffmann, J.H. & Zimmerman, H.G. 1999. Host-plant affinities of two biotypes of Dactylopius opuntiae (Homoptera: Dactylopiidae): Enhanced prospects for biological control of Opuntia stricta (Cactaceae) in South Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology 36: 85-91.