Meta-analytic tools to detect overlooked variance effects in biological systems

Friday 28 July, 2017
Mathews Theatre D, Mathews Building, UNSW Kensington Campus

Medically, the effects of a treatment on among individual variation in health have direct implications for personalized medicine. Ecologically, among-individual variation governs a species niche and is the grist of evolution by natural selection. However, experimental designs and analytical paradigms in biology are heavily focused on detecting the effects of treatments on population averages. As a result, we have a comparatively poor understanding of how environments and treatments affect among-individual variation. Over the last few years Dr Alistair Senior has been developing tools for meta-analysis, which allow the user to combine the results of published studies to assess the effects of treatments on variation. These methods require only those summary statistics that are reported as a matter of standard practice, and integrate easily with commonly used meta-analytic softwares. Alistair will present a summary of the methodology, as well as examples of its application that are pertinent to research goals of the University of Sydney's recently opened Charles Perkins Centre.


Alistair completed his undergraduate and masters degrees in the UK, where his research was primarily directed towards questions in ecology and evolution. In 2010 Alistair moved to the University of Otago to do a PhD on gene-environment interactions in determining phenotypic sex, with Shinichi Nakagawa. During this period, he developed an interest in the development and application of hierarchical statistics to questions in biology. After graduating, in early 2014 Alistair moved to Sydney where he began working with Profs Simpson and Raubenheimer to apply his quantitative skills to questions in nutritional ecology.