Skip to Content UTAS Home | Contacts
University of Tasmania Home Page Site Title

Theoretical Phylogenetics Group


Phylogenetics is concerned with the problem of reconstructing the past evolutionary history of extant organisms from present day molecular data such as DNA. There is ongoing interest in further development of the mathematics that underlies computational phylogenetic methods. Hidden from view, in the software packages used by biologists, are algorithms performing statistical inference using Markov models on binary trees. The mathematics involved represents a wonderful confluence of stochastic methods and probability theory (Markov chain models), discrete mathematics (combinatorics of tree space), statistical inference (maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods) and, more recently, methods taken from algebraic geometry and the representation theory of finite and infinite (Lie) groups. There are many important theoretical problems that arise, such as statistical identifiability of models, consistency and convergence of methods. These problems can only be solved using a multi-disciplinary approach.

Research Projects

  • Algebraically informed models of biological sequence evolution (2015-2017: ARC Discovery, Holland, Sumner, Jarvis, Liberles)
  • Group theory and Phylogenetics: Using symmetry to uncover evolutionary history (2012-2015: ARC DECRA Fellowship, Sumner)
  • Developing new mathematical phylogenetic methods to model hybrid evolution (ARC Future Fellowship, Holland)
  • Mathematical modelling of microsatellite evolution (Human Frontier Science Programme, Lambert and Holland)
  • Markov invariants and phylogenetic tree reconstruction (2009-2011: ARC Discovery project, Sumner, Jarvis and Jarman)


We run a monthly seminar series for anyone with phylogenetics interests be they zoological, botanical, ecological or mathematical - across UTas and other Hobart based research institutes. To get on the mailing list for seminar announcements email





  • Jesus Fernandez-Sanchez, Mar-Jul 2010.
  • Elizabeth Allman and John Rhodes, Nov-Dec 2010.
  • Josh Collins, July-Dec 2010.
  • Sandra Meid, Nov-Feb 2010-11
  • Tom Nye, Nov 2011

For prospective students

Honours level lecture units on mathematical phylogenetics are available. There are also several project topics in the mathematical biology stream that would be suitable for an honours thesis.
At MSc and PhD level, research projects are typically available in one of the current fields of interest. The phylogenetics group has a well-established international reputation and can offer supervision of interesting research programs in these subjects and in related areas of mathematical biology. Typically, students become conversant with the required groundwork in their first few months by informal study and by attending occasional lecture series offered by members of the group, before focussing fully on their own topic.
If you are interested in post-graduate study within the theoretical phylogenetics group, feel free to contact anyone in the group to discuss possibilities and Barbara Holland for formal arrangements.


Click here for software associated with our publications.

Posters and talks

SMBE 2016, Goldcoast (Michael Woodhams presenting)