Key Info

Email Dr Frank Köhler

Frank is a taxonomist specialised in Molluscs. He is particularly interested in non-marine snails and his research in the past years has heavily focussed on improving our knowledge and understanding of Australia’s land snails. Frank uses molecular and morphological methods to address questions relating to taxonomy, systematics, biogeography, speciation and radiation of freshwater and land gastropods. He has described more than 100 new species of land snail and his work has been instrumental to better understand their evolution and conservation.

Frank's research interests include:

  • Phylogenomic studies of Gastropoda
  • Evolution and Diversity of Australasian land snails: Camaenidae, Pupillidae
  • Phylogeny and systematics of Southeast Asian freshwater snails: Pachychilidae, Semisulcospiridae
  • Speciation, hybridisation and radiation in non-marine gastropods
  • Biogeography of Asian and Australasian non-marine gastropods
  • Molecular approaches in systematic zoology


  • Dr. rer. nat. (equivalent Ph.D) - 2004, Humboldt University, Berlin
  • Diplom-Biologe (equivalent M.Sc) - 1998, Humboldt University, Berlin

Selected research projects

The land snails of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands

Both Lord Howe and Norfolk Island have remarkably diverse and endemic land snail faunas. Many of these species are poorly known and several of them are endangered. This project aims to comprehensively revise the taxonomy of the faunas of both islands using morphological and molecular methods, to describe new and poorly known species, to unravel their evolutionary and biogeographic relationships, and to provide critical data to aid conservation management.

Australia's Rainforest Snails: the Helicarionidae

Helicarionidae have radiated into a taxonomically and morphologically highly differentiated group of rainforest snails and semislugs. They are of conservation concern and have the potential to serve as indicators in reserve management for their habitat fidelity and pronounced endemism. We aim to unravel their evolutionary relationships and describe new and poorly known taxa by employing morphological and molecular tools.

Pacific Island land snails

Pacific islands are home to a vast diversity of land snails; most spectacularly seen in Hawaii with >750 species, 99% of which are endemic. However, while these islands harbour a higher diversity than equivalent mainland areas, they are also extremely vulnerable. An estimated 50-95% of all Pacific Island land snails are considered extinct or critically endangered. Yet, because survey work on most islands is infrequent, their current conservation status is often unknown.

This project aims to survey land snails at five locations in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia to providing a baseline for conservation assessments and to develop genomic resources to foster research and conservation and to reconstruct the temporal, spatial and ecological dimensions of several independent island radiations.

Phylogenomic studies of Gastropoda

Using the information from genome-scale DNA sequences is revolutionizing the field of evolutionary research. We are using transciptomics and target enrichment strategies to simultaneously sequence hundreds of genes in a quest to better understand the evolutionary relationships among the gastropods at different taxonomic levels.

Previous research projects include:

  • Australia’s Desert Snails: Systematics and Evolution of the Camaenidae in arid Australia
  • Australia’s land snail hotspot: Evolution and Systematics of the Kimberley Camaenidae
  • Documenting a radiation of camaenid land snails in the Victoria River District, NT (ABRS)
  • Land snail fauna of Timor-Leste: systematics and consveration
  • Phylogeny and systematics of Southeast Asian Pachychilidae (Brotia, Sulcospira)
  • Molecular vs. morphological differentiation and species limits in Semisulcospira from Korea and Japan
  • The land snail fauna of the Kimberley: Systematics, diversity, evolution (Kimberley Island Survey, DEC)


Professional background:

  • 2014 - present: Senior Research Scientist (Australian Museum)
  • 2011-2014: Research Scientist (Australian Museum)
  • 2008-2011: Senior Research Scientist (Dept. Environment & Conservation, WA)
  • 2003-2008: Research Scientist (Museum of Natural History Berlin)

Memberships and Associations:

  • Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW
  • Editorial boards: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Malacologia, Molluscan Research, ZooKeys, Zoosystematics and Evolution, Molluscabase.
  • Malacological Society of Australasia
  • UNITAS Malacologia
  • IUCN Species Survival Commission - Mollusca


  • UNSW student course BIOS3221 'Tree of Life' (comprises lectures, pracs, tutorials, student projects and field work)
  • USyd student projects in Advanced Zoology

Research Grants and funding

Research Grants and funding since 2010:

2020 – Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program: Impact of megafires on priority land snail species in south-eastern Australia (Joint Investigator)

2020 – Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program: Building support for resilience and recovery of threatened ecological communities (Joint Investigator)

2020 – National Geographic Foundation: Saving threatened Norfolk Island land snails from extinction through an ex-situ breeding program (Joint Investigator)

2020 – Australia Pacific Science Foundation: Evolutionary history and systematics of Pacific Island land snails, the world’s most endangered animals (Joint Investigator)

2020 – Australian Museum Foundation: Saving critically endangered land snails on Norfolk Island (Joint Investigator)

2016 – Bush Blitz Tactical Taxonomy Grant (ABRS): A systematic revision of the eastern Australian land snail Austrochloritis.

2015 – Australian Biological Resources Study: Evolutionary systematics and conservation biology of rainforest snails and semislugs of the family Helicarionidae in Queensland

2014 – Bush Blitz Tactical Taxonomy Grant (ABRS): Assessing the conservation status of an invertebrate model group, Australia's camaenid land snails.

2013 – Australian Biological Resources Study: Australia’s Desert Snails: Systematics and Evolution of the Camaenidae in arid Australia

2011 – Australian Biological Resources Study: Australia’s land snail hotspot: Evolution and Systematics of the Kimberley Camaenidae

2010 – Australian Biological Resources Study: Radiation of camaenid land snails in the Northern Territory