Dr Todd McLay

Todd is a Research Scientist with the National Biodiversity DNA Library, and his research focuses on developing and using reference sequences for DNA based sequence identification, such as eDNA. Todd has a background in genomics, phylogenomics, population genomics, and taxonomy of plants. 


Why choose a career in science?

Growing up in New Zealand, I was surrounded by nature, which gave me a deep appreciation for the natural world. While my initial university path aimed at becoming a teacher, I quickly developed a interest in the intricacies of evolution, and especially botany, and changed tack to pursue a scientific career. This led me to undertake in a Master’s degree in Conservation Genetics on a threatened New Zealand species. My scientific journey then brought me to Australia, where I embarked on a Ph.D. on the evolution of Australian grass trees (Xanthorrhoea). What I love about science is that you are always learning, and in the natural world you are very likely to be the first person to discover something about that species or group. Evolution has created a endless diversity of species to study, and the most difficult thing is not trying to solve everything all at once. 


What is exciting about your project?

What’s particularly exciting about my project is its scope, which involves generating a comprehensive DNA sequence reference library encompassing all Australian taxa. The wide range of biodiversity covered within this undertaking is a significant point of interest, and the project requires collaboration with a substantial project team. With my background and experience working with botanical collections, I think I contribute a different point of view to the project team. Beyond its scientific intrigue, this research project holds practical significance, with direct applications in conservation, biosecurity, and an improved understanding of Australia’s biodiversity, positioning it as an exciting endeavour.