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Steven Smith, PhD

Konrad-Lorenz-Institut für Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung
Department für Interdisziplinäre Lebenswissenschaften
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Savoyenstr. 1a
A-1160 Wien


T +43 (1) 25077 7336
F +43 (1) 25077 94 7336

E-Mail an Steven Smith senden


My principle research interests lie in exploring the maintenance of adaptive variation in wild populations and, more specifically, the role of habitat variability in driving genetic diversity. This research aligns with the imperatives laid out in the Convention on Biological Diversity which states that genetic diversity within populations of wild and domesticated species must be maintained, safeguarding their adaptive potential. My research focus integrates, not only the monitoring of genetic diversity but, further, encompasses a “One Health” approach to ecosystem study and management.

I have a strong track record in adapting methodologies from human genetic research to studies of wildlife species. I use telomeres as a marker of biological ageing to assess levels of environmental and organismal stress. My work has highlighted the tight link between variation in life history traits and telomere attrition via the mechanism of oxidative stress. This is coupled with work in wildlife disease surveillance to create a broad research base which brings together ecosystem function and animal health into an overall environmental health theme.

Research Experience

  • - Feb 2013 – Present
    Head of Genetics, Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna
  • July 2011 – Feb 2013
    Research Fellow, Flinders University, School of Biological Sciences. The effect of changes in climate and habitat on expression patterns of functionally important genes in Australian rainbowfish.
  • July 2010 – June 2011
    Senior Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. Projects included: telomere dynamics related to torpor use and cold adaptation in Djungarian hamsters; trade-offs between MHC-related immune response and reproduction in male European brown hares; and the mtDNA basis for reduced sperm function and breeding success in brown hares.
  • Feb 2008 – Jun 2010
    Postdoctoral Researcher, Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, Vienna. FWF funded project: “MHC genes and endoparasites in brown hares, Lepus europaeus: a model for understanding the meaning and consequences of immunogenetic diversity for individual fitness in wild living mammals”
  • March 2001 – Jan 2003
    Research Assistant, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology Leipzig, Laboratory for Conservation Genetics.
  • July 1998 – March 2001
    Research Assistant, Griffith University Molecular Ecology Laboratory