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Evolutionary biologist named Young Achiever Award finalist

Jenna Crowe-Riddell and her passion for sea snakes has been rewarded. The evolutionary biologist has been shortlisted as one of three finalists in the Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards’ ‘University of Adelaide - STEM Award’ category.

Jenna’s research explores the evolution of senses in sea snakes and she is fascinated by how animals sense their surrounding world.

“My area of interest is in the evolutionary biology of vertebrate sensory systems,” the School of Biological Sciences PhD candidate said.

“I have always been fascinated by the way that every living organism shares their environment with other organisms and yet, through their unique set of senses, forms an entirely different perception of their surrounding world.

“Pythons can sense infrared; many birds can see ultraviolet and a stingray can feel the electromagnetic field of its prey.”

Jenna’s research asks the broad question: 'how do these differences in sensory abilities shape the evolutionary trajectory of that species?'

“My PhD research is on the evolution of senses in sea snakes,” she said

“I’ve been focusing on a remarkable sensory ability called ‘dermal photoreception’. Olive sea snakes can sense light on their tails, which we think helps them hide under rocks during the day and avoid predators like sharks."

Jenna explained that sea snakes are fully-aquatic marine reptiles and are closely related to Australo-melansian venomous land snakes such as cobras, mumbas and tiger snakes.”

“They recently transitioned into the marine environments about 6 million years ago, and as such, they are an ideal group for understanding evolutionary novelty that arise in response to major ecological transitions.”

Jenna is a passionate communicator who frequently volunteers for South Australian museum events and was chosen as a 2017 Fresh Scientist.

The Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards acknowledge, encourage and promote the positive achievements of South Australian young people. The winners will be announced on May 11.

Evolutionary biologist Jenna Crowe-Riddell
Tagged in School of Biological Sciences, Evolutionary Biology, Research, Marine Biology, Biological Sciences

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