Doctor Michaela Blyton

Holding Image - FemaleDr Michaela Blyton joined the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in October 2015 to work with Dr. Ben Moore within the Plants, Animals and Interactions theme. Her research is focused on how the Koala's gastrointestinal microbiome influences diet selection and nutrition.

Michaela completed her Bachelor's Degree at Macquarie University in 2008. She then moved to The Australian National University to undertake her Honours and PhD research with Dr. Sam Banks and Prof. Rod Peakall. Her PhD research used a combination of modelling techniques and empirical analyses to investigate two distinct but interrelated themes. The first theme examined how environmental factors, demography and life history traits influence population genetic structure, impact contemporary social interactions and shape the evolution of social systems. The second theme explored how host-symbiont interactions influence the genetic structure, population dynamics and transmission of the symbiont. The empirical component of her research centred on a field based study of mountain brushtail possums and their commensal E. coli in the central highlands of Victoria.

After submitting her PhD thesis in October 2013 Michaela joined Prof. David Gordon Laboratory at The Australian National University as a postdoctoral fellow. In this role Michaela used genomic analyses to investigate environmentally adapted E. coli strains in water distribution networks. During this time she was also involved in several projects investigating the relationship of E. coli with its hosts.

Areas of research

Population genetics, Behavioural ecology, Host-symbiont interactions, Microbiology, Nutritional ecology

Awards and Recogition

  • 2014 DG Catcheside Prize, awarded by the Genetics Society of Australasia. The prize recognises the achievements of the top Australasian doctoral student in the field of Genetics
  • 2009 Vice-Chancellors Commendation, awarded by Macquarie University for outstanding academic achievement

Potential Student Projects

I currently have several potential masters of research projects available to enthusiastic, diligent and talented students.

These projects include:

  • The role of pap feeding in the development of a koala joey's microbiome
  • Genetic identification of dietary eucalyptus species from koala scats
  • Bacterial strain transmission among wild koalas
  • Multiple projects comparing diet, bacterial strain transmission or the population genetics of common, short-eared and mountain brushtail possums


Vangchhia B, Blyton MDJ, Collignon P, Kennedy K, Gordon DM, (2018) 'Factors affecting the presence, genetic diversity and antimicrobial sensitivity of Escherichia coli in poultry meat samples collected from Canberra, Australia', Environmental Microbiology, vol.20, no.4, pp 1350-1361, Special Issue: SI

Blyton MDJ, Gordon DM, (2017) 'Genetic attributes of E. coli isolates from chlorinated drinking water', PLoS One, vol.12, no.1, Article no.e0169445

Blyton MDJ, Shaw RE, Peakall R, Lindenmayer DB, Banks SC, (2016) 'The role of relatedness in mate choice by an arboreal marsupial in the presence of fine-scale genetic structure', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol.70, no.3, pp 313-321

Banks S, Lorin T, Shaw R, McBurney L, Blair D, Blyton MDJ, Smith A, Pierson J, Lindenmayer D, (2015) 'Fine-scale refuges can buffer demographic and genetic processes against short-term climatic variation and disturbance: a 22 year case study of an arboreal marsupial', Molecular Ecology, vol.24, pp 3831–3845

Blyton MDJ, Banks SC, Peakall R, (2015) 'The effect of sex-biased dispersal on opposite-sexed spatial genetic structure and inbreeding risk', Molecular Ecology, vol.24, pp 1681-1695

Blyton MDJ, Herawati N, O'Brien C, Gordon DM, (2015) 'Host litter-associated gut dynamics affect Escherichia coli abundance and adhesion genotype in rats', Environmental Microbiology Reports, vol.7, pp 583-589

Blyton MDJ, Pi H, Vangchhia B, Abraham S, Trott D, Johnson JR, Gordon DM, (2015) 'The genetic structure and antimicrobial resistance of Escherichia coli and cryptic clades in birds with diverse human associations', Applied and Environmental Microbiology, AEM.00861-15

Blyton MDJ, Banks SC, Peakall R, Lindenmayer DB, Gordon DM, (2014) 'Not all types of host contacts are equal when it comes to E. coli transmission', Ecology letters, vol.17, pp 970-978

Blyton MDJ, Cornall SJ, Kennedy K, Colligon P, Gordon DM, (2014) 'Sex‐dependent competitive dominance of phylogenetic group B2 Escherichia coli strains within human hosts', Environmental Microbiology Reports, vol.6, pp 605-610

Blyton MDJ, Lindenmayer DB, Banks SC, (2014) 'Maternal lineages best explain the associations of a semi-social marsupial', Behavioral Ecology, vol.25, pp 1212-1222

Blyton MDJ, Shaw R, Banks SC, (2014) 'Development of a powerful microsatellite marker panel for Trichosurus cunninghami', Conservation Genetics Resources, vol.6, pp 95-97

Banks SC, Lindenmayer DB, Wood JT, McBurney L, Blair D, Blyton MDJ, (2013) 'Can Individual and Social Patterns of Resource Use Buffer Animal Populations against Resource Decline?', PloS One, vol.8, e53672

Blyton MDJ, Banks SC, Peakall R, Gordon DM, (2013) 'Functional genotypes are associated with commensal Escherichia coli strain abundance within host individuals and populations', Molecular Ecology, vol.22, pp 4112–4122

Blyton MDJ, Banks SC, Peakall R, Gordon DM, (2013) 'High temporal variability in commensal Escherichia coli strain communities of a herbivorous marsupial', Environmental Microbiology, vol.15, pp 2162–2172

Banks SC, Blyton MDJ, Blair D, McBurney L, Lindenmayer D, (2012) 'Adaptive responses and disruptive effects: how major wildfire influences kinship‐based social interactions in a forest marsupial', Molecular Ecology, vol.21, pp 673-684

Blyton MDJ, Banks SC, Peakall R, Lindenmayer D, (2012) 'Using probability modelling and genetic parentage assignment to test the role of local mate availability in mating system variation', Molecular Ecology, vol.21, pp 572-586

Banks SC, Lindenmayer D, McBurney L, Blair D, Knight E, Blyton MDJ, (2011) 'Kin selection in den sharing develops under limited availability of tree hollows for a forest marsupial, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol.278, pp 2768-2776