Integrative Ecology Lab

Current Members of the Lab

Francesca van den Berg

Fran van den Berg

Position: PhD Candidate
Thermal ecology of Flat Rock Spiders Morebilus plagusius
Temperature is one of the fundamental drivers of ectotherm physiology and behaviour. The temperatures that are experienced can therefore affect an ectotherm’s ability to capture prey, escape from prey and assimilate and use energy. I investigate the thermal biology and physiological consequences of seasonal acclimation of flat rock spiders in the laboratory and relate these to field microhabitat observations.

Co-supervised by Professor Michael Thompson.



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Ryan Keith

Ryan Keith

Position: Honours Student
Wrack and Ruin: Impacts of coastal development on trophic interactions at the land-sea interface
Ecologists recognise that macrofaunal assemblages on wave-exposed beaches are primarily structured by beach morphodynamics. As a result, research continues to focus on the relative importance of these factors, treating sandy shores as simple geophysical structures and thus characterising them as non-functional ecosystems. This misrepresentation is persistent where ecological studies of beaches are underrepresented and oversimplified. Biological interactions between sandy beach organisms are likely to be pervasive and important, even in harsh environments.

Co-supervised by A/Professor Ross Coleman.

Ryan Leonard

Ryan Leonard

Position: Honours Student
Blowing in the wind; the influence of wind energy and dust accumulation on leaf traits and consequences for leaf palatability and insect herbivore performance.

Co-supervised by A/Professor Clare McArthur.


Petah Low

Petah Low

Position: PhD Candidate
The ecology and behavior of eucalypt-feeding caterpillars in relation to avoiding attack from natural enemies
Feeding is necessary for survival but often places an animal at greater risk of predation. I am interested in how insect herbivores balance this conflict between eating and not being eaten. Using Eucalyptus trees, eucalypt-feeding caterpillars and their natural enemies as a study system, my work investigates (i) some of the factors that influence levels of predation and (ii) how insects detect and respond to predation risk.

Co-supervised by A/Professor Clare McArthur.

Elizabeth Lowe

Elizabeth Lowe

Position: PhD Candidate
The effect of urbanization on the diversity, abundance and condition of spiders
The continual expansion of urban areas is drastically altering ecological processes and interactions making it critical to understand how urbanisation impacts native fauna. Spiders are widespread predators that utilise many different habitats and foraging strategies, making them ideal to study the effect of urbanisation on closely related groups with different niche requirements. I am studying the influence of urbanisation on the diversity and abundance of spider functional groups and investigate the effect of habitat and web traits on spider condition and development. This research will provide insight into the adaption of spiders to novel ecosystems and the underlying mechanisms which drive arthropod diversity in urban landscapes.

Co-supervised by Dr Shawn Wilder.

Claire MacAlpine

Claire MacAlpine

Position: Honours Student
The effects of exotic plants on the distribution and prey capture of Australian crab spiders (Thomisidae)

Co-supervised by Dr Shawn Wilder.


David McElroy

David McElroy

Position: PhD candidate
Historical contingencies in marine eco-toxicology
David McElroy is a Ph.D. candidate primarily-supervised by Associate Professor Ross Coleman. He does manipulative ecological experiments using subtidal macro-invertebrates and bio-films as his study system. He is interested in how historical contingencies such as contamination legacy affect succession and settlement. For a hobby he collects dust.

Co-supervised by A/Professor Ross Coleman (Primary).

Rodrigo Roman

Rodrigo Roman

Position: PhD candidate
Testing the marine bioregalisation of Australia using micro-gastropods as model fauna
My research consists to determine at different spatial scale if the marine intertidal gastropods really reflects the boundaries established by the Australian government. To do this, I am creating maps of distribution using the Australian museum records, performing intertidal experiments along the NSW coast and using DNA analysis to explore connectivity amongst micro-gastropod populations.

Co-supervised by A/Professor Ross Coleman (Primary) and Dr Melanie Bishop (Macquarie University).

James Schlunke

James Schlunke

Position: PhD Candidate
Ant assemblages and their environment
I am studying the interactions between ants and their habitat and what drives assemblages to differ over environmental and spatial gradients, looking at both species-level interactions with habitat structure, and also how habitat can influence intra-specific interactions. I’m looking at how best to predict ant assemblages from the plant species composition of vegetation, structural habitat factors and spatial characteristics of sites. The goal of this line of research is to determine how best to conserve for ant and other invertebrate species, both in terms of protected areas and under biodiversity conservation legislation.

Lucy Taylor

Lucy Taylor

Position: Phd Candidate
How residents value biodiversity and engage with wildlife in a major city

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Dan Watts

Daniel Watts

Position: Honours student
The effect of artificial night lighting on the ecology of nocturnal insects


'Spider' Mann

Peter Mann

Position: Lab manager
I'm in charge of motivating the graduate students. Even when they are completly exhausted they only have to look at me to see someone who's more stuffed than they are.

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Robert Blackburn

Rob Blackburn

Position: Research assistant
Currently working on the Benchmarks project and as the in-house internet filter. Spends time being a Curatorial Assistant in the Macleay Museum.