Biological Sciences researchers at UQ have access to world-class infrastructure and proximity to stunning natural habitats and biodiversity. UQ’s tropical-subtropical location contributes to this unique working environment. Evolutionary Biology, Plant Biology, and Zoology all rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise.

Our research spans the scales of biological organisation, from molecules and cells to organisms, populations, species and communities. Research occurs across a wide range of disciplines, including; evolution; global change biology; ecology; aquaculture; physiology; entomology; zoology; botany; genomics; development and conservation biology. Fundamental research in microbiology, including bacteria and viruses, plant biology and genetics, and physiological studies of human disease – provides the knowledge support for a range of medical and technical sciences.

UQ biological scientists are of outstanding calibre, with numerous accolades including Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowships; Australian Professorial Fellowships; Future Fellowships; and Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science. Academic alliances have been forged with leading global universities as part of a suite of collaborative research projects tackling some of the world’s most challenging biological and environmental problems.

UQ also boasts access to one of the world’s principal coral reef research stations at Heron Island, supporting cutting-edge Biological Sciences research right on the Great Barrier Reef: this is in addition to the ultra-modern Moreton Bay Research Station. Lying on the convergence of the eastern Australian sub-tropical and temperate zones, the waters of Moreton Bay support an incredibly diverse range of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems.

Research occurs at:

  • Faculty of Science
  • Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • Queensland Brain Institute
  • UQ Diamantina Institute
  • Global Change Institute
  • Sustainable Minerals Institute
  • Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Plant Biology
  • Zoology

Biological Sciences in brief

  • More than 190 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including Agriculture and Food Sciences, Nanotechnology and Bioengineering, and Ecology and Environmental Science.
  • More than 620 PhD and MPhil students in 2014
  • More than 2330 publications since 2008
  • More than $137 million in research funding since 2008
  • Evolutionary Biology, Plant Biology, and Zoology research all rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise

Some highlights of UQ Biological Sciences

Understanding the roles and interactions of microorganisms in health and the environment

  • The School of Biological Sciences has strong expertise in host-microbial interactions, particularly bacteria and viruses infecting insects and aquatic animals. Through taking a variety of approaches ranging from molecular immunology to evolution and ecology, its research addresses important applied issues including animal health in aquaculture, antibiotic resistance evolution and the control of insect-borne diseases such as Dengue Fever.
  • The Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre comprises the largest contingent of infectious disease researchers in the Southern Hemisphere and concentrates its activities on finding solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing humankind such as multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • The Australian Centre for Ecogenomics applies cutting edge culture-independent molecular methods (metagenomics) to characterise microbial communities of clinically and environmentally important ecosystems. It is recognised as a leading centre in this field and attracts researchers from around the world for training and collaborative research. 

Plant biology research at UQ underpins agricultural innovation

Plant Sciences at UQ encompasses the full spectrum of research from molecular to ecosystems and from the laboratory to the consumer’s table.

  • The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at UQ seeks to improve the competiveness and sustainability of tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors through high-impact science.  Plant biology research within QAAFI’s Centre for Plant Science (CPS) has identified novel genes controlling wheat quality, and is exploring development of novel technologies using clay nanoparticles for more effective delivery of RNAi technology to protect crops from disease. Scientists at UQ have devised innovative new methods to produce crops resistant to important diseases, reducing the need for chemical sprays.
  • Plant scientists in the School of Biological Sciences are employing their breakthrough discovery of a new plant hormone, strigolactone (which controls shoot architecture, wood production, cellular potential for root induction, nutrient uptake, plant developmental responses to nutrients and symbiosis with microbes), to understand how plants optimise growth and development to handle constraints of limited resources. Researchers are using this breakthrough to develop new methods for propagating horticultural, forestry, rare and endangered plants, and discovering genetic tools to improve nutrient uptake, yield, and plant responses to parasitic weeds. 

Leadership in animal development and human disease research

UQ is a hub for excellence in physiological research, with leading research teams in areas including cardiovascular health, diabetes, respiratory disease and foetal development. World-leading physiological research provides the basis for new treatments as well as informing governments on public health issues. UQ researchers have collaborative links across the world, in countries including Germany, USA and China. In Australia, our researchers are members of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Academy and panels, and are key members of the Council of the Australian Physiological Society.

  • UQ researchers are using compounds derived from marine organisms to specifically target neuronal ion channel receptors that are validated but clinically underutilised targets for chronic pain. These drugs will kill pain but will be devoid of side-effects. This project involves collaborations between natural product chemists at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and neurophysiologists at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute.
  • The School of Biomedical Sciences and newly-formed Small Animal Phenotyping Facility, jointly with UQ Biological Resources, have expertise in Integrative Physiology and Pathophysiology of human disease animal models, with strong links to NHMRC initiatives including the prevention and treatment of endocrinology and metabolic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neuronal degenerative diseases, respiratory diseases, neuromuscular diseases, and cancers. 
  • UQ biological scientists are combining modern genomic approaches with classical quantitative genetics to solve the riddles of the evolution of behaviour, sexual reproduction, respiration and host defences against parasites. Through the integration of genetics and ecology, researchers in the School of Biological Sciences are solving evolutionary riddles, such as the evolution of recognition systems in insects, the evolution of dispersal in pests, and how insects regulate light emissions across environments. The genomics revolution has fundamentally revised the questions posed by Darwin, such as how species originate and how organisms adapt to their environment. Through this modern lens, researchers are revisiting the evolution of Dengue Fever vectors, the replicated origin of forms, and the continued coevolution of insects and their plant hosts.