Dr Dan Dashevsky

Daniel is a Research Scientist within the Australian National Insect Collection whose research focuses on venoms and their evolution.

Daniel joined CSIRO as a postdoc to study the venoms of modern spider wasps to understand how their stings are able to paralyze spiders and inflict significant pain on would-be predators. His approach combines the power of transcriptomics and proteomics to pinpoint the critical toxins, functional assays to discover their effects, and the application of phylogenetics and genomics to unravel their origins and evolutionary pathways.

In his latest position with the Environomics FSP, Daniel’s research is expanding to new methods for extracting venom data from specimens that are already preserved in natural history collections. Just as there are many methods to preserve animals for posterity, there will need to be equally many approaches to tease out molecular information from those animals. Employing a range of techniques tailored to different taxa, including spider wasps, honeybees, and snakes, Daniel will dissect the contents and composition of historical venoms.

The allure of venom research lies in its multifaceted significance. First there are the obvious health implications for people and pets who are envenomated across Australia and the rest of the globe; less obviously, venoms are an incredibly rich source of molecules that are evolved to carry out specific biological functions outside the original organism which makes them promising fronts in the search for new medicines and pesticides. Since venoms are nature’s tools for one organism to directly influence others in its ecosystem, they offer an accessible window onto complex questions about how genetic sequences can translate into ecological impacts. Consequently, even relatively modest molecular data from preserved specimens provides us with a direct window into the historical interactions between these creatures and their environment. These insights from the past become increasingly valuable as the environment around us continues to change.