Charlotte Oskam  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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Dr Charlotte Oskam
BBiomedSc, MSc, PhD

Senior Lecturer - Anatomy

About me

In 2013 I graduated with a PhD in Biological Sciences and Biotechnology from Murdoch University under the supervision of Prof Mike Bunce & Dr James Haile. My research and expertise previously focused on DNA isolation, amplification and sequencing of highly degraded specimens (paleontological and archaeological eggshell and bone), some of great antiquity (up to 20,000 years old).

My PhD and recent research outputs provided me with a unique training for my current field of microbial ecology and vector-borne disease. My expertise in retrieving DNA from often-hostile environments, unfavourable for DNA survival and my extensive understanding of genetic profiling, next-generation sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics, are invaluable for the study of arthropod-associated bacteria. Since my PhD, I have actively collaborated with Prof. Una Ryan and Prof. Peter Irwin, co-directors of the Vector and Water-borne Pathogen Research group (VWBPRG). I have led research published in Veterinary Microbiology, IJSEM and Parasites & Vectors specifically on tick-borne diseases and novel bacteria.

My undergraduate learning (BBiomedSc & MSc – Otago University, Dunedin New Zealand) has given me a solid foundation in human anatomy and biological anthropology.

Teaching area

Unit Coordinator 

  • BMS101 Introduction to the Human Body (August 2013 onwards)


  • BMS101 Introduction to Human Body
  • BMS213 Forensic Anatomy and Anthropology
  • VET260 Veterinary Anatomy I
  • VET271 Veterinary Anatomy II
  • VET273 Veterinary Anatomy III
  • VET274 Veterinary Anatomy IV

Research areas

  • aDNA
  • paleoecology and paleodiets
  • next generation sequencing
  • pathogen detection
  • blood meal analysis
  • forensic facial approximation

Current projects


The control of emerging infectious diseases in humans and animals constitutes one of the most important objectives of global economies. About one fourth of the last pandemics have been associated with the spread of vector-borne pathogens [1]. Ticks transmit a greater variety of pathogenic microorganisms than any other arthropod group, and are among the most important vectors of diseases affecting humans, livestock and companion animals, yet despite this there is little known about the situation in Australia. This project brings together a multidisciplinary team together with Partner Organization (Bayer Animal Health) to conduct, for the first time, a nationwide molecular-based survey to determine which pathogens ticks transmit to people, companion animals, and native wildlife in Australia.


Q fever is a worldwide zoonosis, characterised by severe acute febrile illness that is caused by the obligate intracellular Gram negative bacterium Coxiella burnetii.  Cattle, sheep and goats are the main reservoirs of infection for humans, which is usually acquired by contact with, or inhalation of, contaminated material from infected livestock. In addition, evidence of exposure to Coxiella burnetii has been reported from serological studies in a wide range of wildlife species in Australia. The specific aim of this study is to determine the presence and identity of Coxiella spp. in Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks collected from dogs in multiple locations in northern Australia.


Haematophagous micro predators and carrion flies are major vectors of disease in humans and animals, and are responsible for one fourth of the world’s pandemics. Pathogens that are transmitted to the host can cause serious human and animal health issues. This pilot study aims to explore parasites found within biting arthropods ticks (Arachnid: Ixodidea)) from rural and urban Western Australia and to provide insight into host species through blood meal analysis. This research will provide the first step to understanding disease transmission in Western Australia

DNA & Isotopic Profiles of Fossil Eggshell: A Tool to Investigate Palaeoecology, Archaeology and Extinction Processes 

Avian eggshells are commonly found in fossil deposits around the globe and have been extensively utilised in geochronology and palaeodietary studies. However, without important information such as species identification, radiocarbon dates and stable isotopic profiles studies almost seem redundant. In my project, I investigated many different methodologies to optimise the extraction of ancient DNA from the matrix of fossil eggshells. So far we have successfully extracted aDNA from fossil emu eggshell dated 19 ka old. We now plan to use this technology to investigate species composition from key archaeological sites in New Zealand, in collaboration with Chris Jacomb (Otago University). Following this, using genetic profiles with 14C radiocarbon dates and stable isotopic profiles we will examine the interaction between the Polynesians and the moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes), which ultimately lead to the extinction of the moa 500 years ago.

Awards and grants

  • 2018 VLS Outstanding Teaching Award
  • 2016 ‘FreshSci’ regional finalists and the first to have their research profile published online (
  • 2015 Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Research Award for Early Career Development and Achievement in Science.
  • 2015 CASS Foundation ECR travel award
  • 2010  Student manuscript award – Combined Biological Sciences Meeting, Perth WA for ‘Fossil avian eggshell preserves ancient DNA’
  • 2010 Top 10 most downloaded journal articles in 2010 for ‘Fossil avian eggshell preserves ancient DNA’ in ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’
  • 2010 Conference Travel Award – Murdoch University
  • 2006 Departmental award – (Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology, University of Otago)


  • 2019 NHMRC Targeted Research Call, APP119949, Troublesome ticks: Determining the aetiology of DSCATT in Australia. Murdoch CIs: Peter Irwin, Charlotte Oskam, Una Ryan; $1.9M
  • 2018 School of Veterinary & Life Sciences Small Grant Scheme, Equipment Grant; $3,884
  • 2017 School of Veterinary & Life Sciences Small Grant Scheme, CI: Charlotte Oskam; $7,400
  • 2016 ARC Linkage, LP160100200, Tiresome ticks: Ecology and transmission of tick-borne disease in Australia. CIs: Peter Irwin, Una Ryan, Charlotte Oskam, Peter Banks, Roy Hall, Liisa Ahlstrom, Sonja Hall-Mendelin and Bettina Schunack; $290,679
  • 2016 School of Veterinary & Life Sciences Small Grant Scheme, CI: Charlotte Oskam; $9,000
  • 2015 Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, supercomputer data allocations 2015-2016. CI: Charlotte Oskam
  • 2015 Murdoch University Small Grant Scheme, CIs: Charlotte Oskam, Peter Irwin and Una Ryan; $14,240
  • 2014 Canine Research Fund, CIs: Peter Irwin, Charlotte Oskam and Una Ryan; $22,114
  • 2013 Australian Companion Animal Health Fund, CIs: Peter Irwin and Charlotte Oskam; $7,330
  • 2013 ARC Linkage, LP130100035, Innovative approaches to understanding and limiting the public health risks of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in animals in Australian catchments. CIs: Una Ryan, Charlotte Oskam, David Halliwell, Andrew Ball, Andrew Bath, Lihua Xiao and Andrew Watkinson; $274,536
  • 2013 VLS start-up fund
  • 2008-2011 Murdoch University Research Scholarship
  • 2007 University of Otago Postgraduate Publishing Bursary


Events and speaking engagements

TV appearances 

Invited presentations

  • Oskam CL. Do we need to rethink tick-borne infections in Australia? 2nd December 2018. Australasian Society for Immunology, Perth, Australia.
  • Oskam CL. The search for Borrelia and other tick-borne pathogens down under. 8th November 2018. Pathwest Infectious Diseases Breakfast Meeting Series, Perth, Australia.
  • Oskam CL.  Challenging the paradigm of Australia Ticks and Tick-borne diseases. 18th August 2017. Global Microbiome, Perth, Australia.
  • Oskam CL. Australian ticks in the Lyme-light. 3rd-6th July 2016. Australian Society of Microbiology, Perth, Australia.
  • Oskam CL. Troublesome ticks: the troublesome bacterial microbiome of ticks. 20th April 2016. Infectious Disease Department, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, WA, Australia.
  • Oskam CL. From troublesome ticks to the troublesome bacterial microbiome of ticks. 31st July 2015. Western Australian State Agriculture Biotechnology Centre Seminar (SABC) Series, Perth, Australia.
  • Oskam CL. Investigating the microbiome of Australian ticks. Bioinformatic Petascale Pioneers Program Symposium. 21st April 2015. Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, Perth, WA, Australia.
  • Oskam CL. The hidden microbiome of ticks. Microbiome on the Swan. 20th April 2015. Preconference workshop to Science on the Swan, Perth, WA, Australia.
  • 2010 (July) Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Departmental Seminar, Murdoch University, Perth, talk titled: Fossil avian eggshell preserves ancient DNA.
  • 2010 (November) Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation & Analysis, UWA Seminar Series, Perth, titled: egg-ceptional ancient DNA preservation: how fossil avian eggshell can provide insights into extinction processes.
Conference presentations
  • Oskam CL, Gofton A, Greay T, Doggett S, Ryan U, & Irwin P. Molecular investigation reveals novel Coxiella sp. in Australian brown dog ticks. 18-22nd September 2016. International Congress of Tropical Medicine and Malaria (ICTMM), Australian Society of Parasitology (ASP), Australasian Society for Infectious Disease (ASID), Brisbane, Australia.
  • Oskam CL, Greay T, Loh K, Gofton A, Ryan U & Irwin P.  Non-destructive sampling and Next Generation Sequencing reveal zoonotic pathogens in archived ticks. 16-20th August 2015. World Association in the Advancement in Veterinary Parasitology, WAAVP, Liverpool, UK.
  • Oskam CL, Gofton A, Greay T, Paparini A, Ryan U, Lo N & Irwin P. The hidden microbiome – the use of blocking primers to reveal zoonotic pathogens in ticks. 16-20th August 2015. World Association in the Advancement in Veterinary Parasitology, WAAVP, Liverpool, UK.
  • Oskam CL, Gofton A, Greay T, Paparini A, Ryan U, Lo N & Irwin P. Unveiling the microbiome of Australian ticks. 12-15th July 2015. Australian Society of Microbiology, ASM, Canberra, Australia.
  • Oskam CL, Greay T, Gofton A, Loh K, Ryan U & Irwin P. Using Next Generation Sequencing to reveal zoonotic pathogens in archived ticks. 29th June – 2nd July 2015. Australian Society of Parasitology, ASP, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • 2013 (September) CAVEPS (14th), Adelaide, Titled: Ancient DNA and Stable Isotope profiles from eggshell gives insight into moa biology and extinction.
  • 2013 (April) Society for American Archaeology (78th), Hawaii, titled: Biomolecules preserved in eggshells provides insights into archaeology.
  • 2010 (September) International Symposium of Biological Archaeology, Copenhagen, titled:  Ancient DNA from fossil avian eggshell: insights into moa hunter sites in New Zealand.
  • 2010 (August) Combined Biological Sciences Meeting, Perth, titled: Molecular gastronomy: ancient DNA from eggs in archaeological sites provides insights into hunting practices and extinction processes.
  • 2007 (December) Australasian Society for Human Biology titled: Bizygomatic breadth determination in damaged skulls.

Professional and community service

I have serviced in the following roles within the University:

  • 2017 – 2019             MU Research Committee (co-opted member)
  • 2017 – 2019             VLS Research Committee (Early Career Academic representative)
  • 2016 – present             VLS Safety Committee
  • 2015 – present             Several MU interview panels
  • 2014 – present             MU Chemical and Hazardous Substances Committee (elected VLS School representative)
  • 2014 – 2017                VLS Learning and Teaching Committee (co-opted member)
I have also made the following contributions to the following societies:
  • 2019 – present             NHMRC grant review panel
  • 2018 – present             Review Editor for Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
  • 2018 – present             Section Editor for Parasitology Research
  • 2018 – present             Combined Biological Sciences Meeting (CBSM) organising committee
  • 2018 – present             West Coast Microbiome Network committee
  • 2017 – 2019                 Executive Secretary for the Australian Society for Parasitology
  • 2017 – present             Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery & DECRA grant reviewer
  • 2015 – 2017                Events Secretary for the Royal Society of Western Australia
  • 2013 – present             General conference session chair: Analysing faunal responses to quaternary environmental changes – 2013 (September) Conference on Australasian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics (CAVEPS – 14th), Flinders University; Combined Biological Sciences Meeting (CBSM) 2016, 2018, 2019, Perth; Australian Society for Parasitology, Elsevier Invited Speaker Session Chair, 2018-2019 (Melbourne & Adelaide)
  • 2012 – present             Student oral/poster session judge – Combined Biological Sciences Meeting (CBSM), 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018, Perth, WA, Australia.
  • 2010 – present              Reviewer for peer-review journals including Journal of Medical Microbiology, Zoonoses and Public Health, PLOS One, Molecular Ecology Resources, Antiquity and Journal of Archaeological Sciences.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

I currently supervise 3 PhD students, 1 as a primary supervisor (listed with expected year of completion), and I have supervised 3 PhD students to completion.

  • 2016 Dr Dalal Haouchar
  • 2018 Dr Alireza Zahedi
  • 2019 Dr Siew-May Loh

Student (expected completion)
Primary Supervisor

  • Siobhon Egan 2021


  • Kamil Braima 2020

I have supervised 1 Masters student & 1 Veterinary Masters (DVM) student to completion:

  • 2018 Jessica Eldridge DVM
  • 2017 Jack Dowell-Curby

I have supervised 6 Honours students to completion:

  • 2018 Megan Evans
  • 2018 Jake Day
  • 2018 Sarah Munns
  • 2017 Siobhon Egan
  • 2017 Anna-Sheree Krige
  • 2014 Telleasha Greay 

I am currently supervising 4 honours students and 6 Veterinary Masters (DVM) students (listed with expected year of completion):

Student (expected completion)
Primary supervisor

  • Ruby McKenna 2019 S2 Hons
  • Wenna Lee 2019 S2 Hons
  • Ryan Kotas 2020 S1 DVM
  • Charmaine Tan 2020 S1 DVM


  • Samuel Bolland 2019 S1 Hons
  • Lauren Yates 2019 S1 DVM
  • Malvina Tan 2019 S1 DVM
  • Aimee Carpenter 2019 S2 Hons
  • Joyce Lin 2020 S1 DVM
  • Ben Soh 2020 S1 DVM