2001: March

Herpo's hodown

HoS Report

SOBS 2000 Prize Awards


Olney Odyssey


FYB Citation for Outstanding Teaching

Herpetologists Hodown

Meetings of Herpetologists

Herpetologists within the School have reached a critical mass. No, we are not getting obese, we are increasing in numbers. The recent appointment of Frank Seebacher, and the not quite so recent appointment of Simon Hudson, significantly swelled the ranks of staff who work primarily on reptiles. Consequently, we instituted weekly meetings of anyone in the School who is interested in any aspect of herpetology (however you want to define that).

Meetings are mostly in the Ilma Brewer Room in A12 at lunch time on Thursdays. People bring their lunch and their ideas, problems, aspirations and items of interest. So far, there has been no prearranged agendas, but we have discussed all sorts of issues from the mundane (e.g., where do you buy thermocouple wire?), to the practical (how is the best way to analyse?), the esoteric (is there species chauvinism in publication?) and the academic (who could we attract for a Federation Fellowship?).

The meetings are not exclusive. Everyone is welcome. Meetings prove to be a great forum for discussing ideas, problems and practice. In future, we will include semi-formal discussion of journal papers, manuscripts and practices of student presentations.

If you wish to be put on the circulation list, please e-mail

M. Thompson

Head of School's Report

Faculty grant for teaching improvement
Dr Mary Peat has received a grant of $85,000 from the Faculty Teaching Improvement Fund
to lead a project entitled: 'Building a responsive and effective service teaching program'.

Student prizes
Alison Mokany has won the Murray Littlejohn Prize for the best presentation by an Honours or Masters' student, at the annual meeting of the Australian Society of Herpetologists at Little Swanport, Tasmania in February 2001.

Biological Sciences Prize Awards for 2000


Mary Besly Memorial Prize for Invertebrate Zoology
Vita Maselli ,Victoria Jane Cole -shared
Ilma Brewer Prize for Biology Honours
Christine Faulkner
Eleanor Chase Memorial Prize in Zoology
Heather Elizabeth Mostman
Collie Prize for Junior Biology
Christopher C Lee
George Herbert Clarke Prize in Plant Morphology
Christopher Anderson
William John Dakin Memorial Prize in Zoology
Matthew Flood, Birgitta Lillemets- shared
Dental Alumni Society Prize No III for proficiency in Biology
Suzanne Chia
John H Elliott Memorial Prize in Animal Biology
Luke Halling, Birgitta Lillemets - shared
Professor Spencer Smith-White Prize in Biology Honours
Luke Halling
Haswell Prize For Biology
Heather Elizabeth Mostman
Jabez King Haydon Memorial Prize in Biological Sciences
To be advised in April/May 2001
E N (Ted) O'Reilly Memorial Prize in Biology (Plant Physiology)
Graeme Lachlan Cuthbert
Eva Saunders Memorial Prize in Botany
Rebecca Clare Griffin
Slade Prize in Junior Biology Practical
John Adam Chong, Zoe Commandeur -shared
Gabriella Wittman Prize for Genetics
Kylie Lopes Floro
G S Caird Scholarship (Zoology)
Adam Westley Skinner
G S Caird Scholarship (Botany)
Rebecca Elise Sinclair McIntyre



  • Lunney, D., Curtin, A., Ayers, D., Cogger, H., Dickman, C., Maitz, W., Law, B. & D. Fisher. (2000) . The threatened and non-threatened native vertebrate fauna of New South Wales: status and ecological attributes. NPWS


  • Franklin, S. & M. Peat. (2000) . Managing change: the use of mixed delivery modes to increase learning opportunities. 17th Annual Conference ASCILITE. Sims, R., O'Reilly, M. & S. Sawkins. Southern Cross University Press, Lismore, Australia. 167-174


  • Downes, S. & R. Shine. (1999). Do incubation-induced changes in a lizard's phenotype influence its vulnerability to predators? Oecologia,120:9-18
  • Banks, P.B. & C.R. Dickman. (2000) . Effects of winter food supplementation on reproduction, body mass, and numbers of small mammals in montane Australia. Can. J. Zool. 78:1775-1783
  • Blomberg, S.P. & R. Shine. (2000) . Size-based predation by kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) on lizards (Eulamprus tympanum: Scincidae): what determines prey vulnerablity? Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 48 4:84-489
  • Bonnet, X., Naulleau, G., Shine, R. & O. Lourdais. (2000) . Reproductive versus ecological advantages to larger body size in female snakes, Vipera aspis. Oikos. 89:509-518
  • Bonnet, X., Naulleau, G., Shine, R. & O. Lourdais. (2000) . What is the appropriate timescale for measuring costs of reproduction in a 'capital breeder' such as the aspic viper? Evol. Ecol. 13:485-497
  • Gibson, L.A. & I.D. Hume. (2000) . Digestive performance and digesta passage in the omnivorous greater bilby, Macrotis lagotis (Marsupialia: Peramelidae). J. Comp. Physiol. B. 170:457-467
  • Greer, A.E. & R. Shine. (2000) . Relationship between mass and length in Australian elapid snakes. Mem. Qld. Mus. 45:375-380
  • James, C.D. & R. Shine. (2000) . Why are there so many coexisting species of lizards in Australian deserts? Oecologia 125:127-141
  • Klingenbock, A., Osterwalder, K. & R. Shine. (2000) . Habitat use and thermal biology of the "land mullet" Egernia major, a large scincid lizard from remnant rain forest in southeastern Australia. Copeia. 4:931-939
  • Madsen, T., Olsson, M., Wittzell, H., Stille, B.,Gullbereg, A., Shine, R., Andersson, S. & H. Tegelstrom. (2000) . Population size and genetic diversity in sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) and adders (Vipera berus). Biol. Conserv. 94:257-262
  • Madsen, T. & R. Shine. (2000). Energy versus risk: costs of reproduction in free-ranging pythons in tropical Australia. Austral Ecol. 25:670-675
  • Madsen, T. & R. Shine. (2000) . Rain, fish and snakes: climatically driven population dynamics of Arafura filesnakes in tropical Australia. Oecologia. 124:208-215
  • Madsen, T. & R. Shine. (2000). Silver spoons and snake body sizes: prey availability early in life influences long-term growth rates of free-ranging pythons. J. Animal Ecol. 69:952-958
  • Olsson, M. & R. Shine. (2000) . Ownership influences the outcome of male-male contests in the scincid lizard, Niveoscincus microlepidotus. Behav. Ecol. 11:587-590
  • Olsson, M., Shine, R. & E.Ba'K-Olsson. (2000) . Lizards as a plant's 'hired help': letting pollinators in and seeds out. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 71:191-202
  • Qualls, F.J. & R. Shine. (2000) . Post-hatching environment contributes greatly to phenotypic variation between two populations of the Australian garden skink, Lampropholis guichenoti. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 71:315-341
  • Robert, K.A. & M.B. Thompson. (2000) . Influence of feeding on the metabolic rate of the lizard Eulamprus tympanum. Copeia. 2000(3):851-855
  • Robert, K.A. & M.B. Thompson. (2000) . Energy comsumption by embryos of a viviparous lizard, Eulamprus tympanum, during development. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A. 127:469-474
  • Shine, R. (2000) . Vertebral numbers in male and female snakes: the roles of natural, sexual and fecundity selection. J. Evol. Biol. 13:455-465
  • Shine, R. (2000) . The ecology and evolution of reptilian viviparity. J. Reproduct. Dev. 46:55-56
  • Shine, R., Harlow, P., Lemaster, M.P., Moore, I.T. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . The transvestite serpent: why do male garter snakes court (some) other males? Anim. Behav. 59:349-359
  • Shine, R., Harlow, P.S., Elphick, M. J., Olsson, M.M. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . Conflicts between courtship and thermoregulation: the thermal ecology of amorous male garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis, Colubridaae). Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 73:508-516
  • Shine, R., O'Connor, D. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . The problem with courting a cylindrical object: how does an amorous male snake determine which end is which? Behav. 137:727-739
  • Shine, R., O'Connor, D. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . Female mimicry in garter snakes: behavioural tactics of "she-males" and the males that court them. Can. J. Zool. 78:1391-1396
  • Shine, R., O'Connor, D. & R.T. Mason. (2000). Sexual conflict in the snake den. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 48:392-401
  • Shine, R., Olsson, M.M., Lemaster, M.P., Moore, I.T. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . Effects of sex, body size, temperature, and location on hte antipredator tactics of free-ranging gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis, Colubridae). Behav. Ecol. 11:239-245
  • Shine, R., Olsson, M.M., LeMaster, M.P., Moore, I.T. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . Are snakes right handed? Asymmetry in hemipenis size and usage in gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis). Behav. Ecol. 11:411-415
  • Shine, R., Olsson, M.M., Moore, I.T., Lemaster, M.P., Greene, M. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . Body size enhances mating success in male garter snakes. Anim. Behav. 59:F4-F11
  • Shine, R., Olsson, M.M. & R.T. Mason. (2000) . Chastity belts in gartersnakes: the functional significance of mating plugs. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 70:377-390
  • Shine, R. & X. Bonnet. (2000) . Snakes: a new ;model organism' in ecologocal research. Trends Ecol. Evol. 15:221-222
  • Webb, J.K. & R. Shine. (2000). Paving the way for habitat restoration: can artificial rocks restore degraded habitats of endangered reptiles? Biol. Conserv. 92:93-99
  • Webb, J.K., Shine, R., Branch, W.R. & P.S. Harlow. (2000) . Life-history strategies in basal snakes: reproduction and dietary habits of the Sfrican thread snake Leptotyphlops scutifrons (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae). J. Zool. Lond. 250:321-327
  • Webb, J.K., Shine, R., Branch, W.R. & P.S. Harlow. (2000) . Life underground: food habits and reproductive biology of two Amphisbaenian species from Southern Africa. J. Herpetol. 34:510-516
  • Whitaker, P.B., Ellis, K. & R. Shine. (2000) . The defensive strike of the Eastern Brownsnake, Pseudonaja textilis (Elapidae). Funct. Ecol. 14:25-31
  • Whitaker, P.B. & R. Shine. (2000) . Sources of mortality of large elapid snakes in an agricultural landscape. J. Herpetol. 34:121-128
  • Adcock, G.J., Dennis, E.S., Easteal, S., Huttley, G.A., Jermiin, L.S., Peacock, W.J. & A. Thorne. (2001). Mitochondrial DNA sequences in ancient Australians: implications for modern human origins. PNAS. 98:537-542
  • Mitakakis, T.Z., Barnes, C. & E. R. Tovey. (2001). Spore germination increases allergen release from Alternaria. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 107:388-390
  • Sun, L-X., Shine, R., Debi, Z. & T. Zhengren. (2001). Biotic and abiotic influences on activity patterns of insular pit-vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae) from north-eastern China. Biol. Conserv. 97:387-398

FYB Citation for Outstanding Teaching




Group Category Awards
The First year Biology Group:
Associate Professor Mary Peat, Dr Sue Franklin, Dr Charlotte Taylor, Ms Alison Lewis,
Dr Murray Thomson

Biological Sciences

Chancellor, Members and Guests of the University

The Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Excellence in Teaching provide public and university-wide recognition of those members of staff judged outstanding for their contributions as teachers. The focus of the year 2000 awards was on teaching in the first year of undergraduate study. The first year at University presents significant challenges to many students. Often it is difficult to provide adequate support for first year students, given the large numbers who enrol for first year subjects. The challenges are academic and social. The contributions made by staff who are recipients of these awards demonstrate the intertwining of scholarship, research, personal commitment and the desire to encourage inquiry that is central to all good teaching. It is my pleasure to introduce to you the First Year Biology Group who have been selected as recipients of a Group Award for the year 2000 Vice-Chancellor's Special Awards for Outstanding Teaching: First Year Teaching.

One of the pleasures of my job as Chair of the Academic Board is the opportunity to deliver citations that recognise excellence in teaching. The First Year Biology Group comprising Associate Professor Mary Peat, Dr Sue Franklin, Dr Charlotte Taylor, Ms Alison Lewis, and Dr Murray Thomson has an impressive record of dedication to teaching and to research and scholarship in teaching. Its members have succeeded in improving the first year Biology units of study which have been recognised nationally and internationally. They have become leaders in promoting student centred learning.

The group has demonstrated its excellence over time; their work is underpinned with a strong understanding of educational principles derived from the relevant research literature. Much of their innovation has successfully overcome the disadvantages and barriers created by large first year classes. They have achieved a shift in focus to the educational needs of the students, who have responded very well to the initiatives undertaken.

One innovation worth highlighting is the development of small group activities to provide a better supported learning environment for the diverse group of students, not all of whom have encountered biology.

Students' progress is supported by a large range of activities designed to match their different learning styles and backgrounds. The virtual learning environment on the web, the self assessment modules and the other resources offer different ways for students to learn interactively. These strategies encourage students to become more independent and confident in their own learning strategies.

The first year biology group aims at continually improving the quality of their teaching. They evaluate their work rigorously and modify their approaches in the light of these evaluations. The group is actively involved in scholarship for teaching and has been successful in publishing their work in refereed publications. Another indicator of the high esteem in which they are held by their peers is that they are frequently invited to present papers that detail their pedagogy and teaching approaches at scholarly conferences. Their work has clearly raised the profile of biology education within and outside the University of Sydney and offers a model for other first year groups. This is certainly a group of excellent and committed teachers.

Chancellor, may I present to you the recipients of the group award for the Vice Chancellor's Excellence in Teaching Award:

Associate Professor Mary Peat
Dr Sue Franklin
Dr Charlotte Taylor
Ms Alison Lewis
Dr Murray Thomson.

Prepared by Professor Judyth Sachs, Chair, Academic Board, March 2001

Olney Odyssey

The Terrestrial Vertebrates course have just returned from the traditional weekend at Olney S.F. The weather was wet , the frogs plentiful (to Ricks disgust) and the leeches hungry. Fifty students attended and engaged in a variety of activities ranging from Elliot trapping antechinus to road driving (Rick hadn't caught his first snake at this stage so we had to let this one go) to doing whatever it is students do late at night on field trips. Whilst the overall number of individuals caught (animals not students) this year was low, the diversity was high for both mammals and reptiles.

Ricks dismay at the lack of snakes was so bad that at one stage he starting venting his frustration on the closest thing to a reptile we had. Mike then tried to placate him by showing him snake pictures. Rick calmed down later that day after catching the "highest form of vertebrate evolution" - a red-bellied black. You wouldn't believe how many rocks we had to slip it under before Rick finally turned one over and caught it. Jenny Taylor, the official bird person, displayed her versatility by talking about bandicoots (here with her beautiful mammalian assistant Michelle Cox). Maybe this switch had something to do with catching only one bird on the trip. Dave was lucky (or should that be stupid) enough to catch a juvenile ringtail on the road one night. Whilst common in Sydney, it was the first time many students had seen one close up, and there's always one student who just has to find out if those claws are as sharp as they look. Traditionally on the Olney Trips we take along a foreign expert to pass on his knowledge to the students. This year it was Markus from Patsy's lab. His talk was most enthusiastic and well received by the students. The fact he spoke entirely in German and was holding a crayfish at the time didn't seem to matter at all. The leeches weren't the only thing that were hungry on the weekend, something ate half of Simon Hudson's leg. Go on, ask him. Trust me, it's worth a look. Whatever it was also chewed his groin up too, but I haven't been game enough to have a look. So yet another Olney Trip has come and gone and with it its associated moments of idiocy and stupidity (and these just from the staff).


The TDU will be moving into new office in A12 during the Easter break. They will be located in room 208 adjacent to the Robert Brown Laboratory. The TDU will have the same phone number as before and looks forward to hearing about new and exciting teaching projects you all have stored in the deep dark recesses of your minds.

Andrew Ouilianoff's son James recently won an award for his art work in decorating paper recycling boxes for the local council.

Bill Allaway has sent this little piece on life in the frozen north living in a very interasting housing model—

News from the far North - why did we do this, I wonder?

We arrived in Lund, Sweden, from California in the middle of a snowstorm. Our plane was delayed some hours. The maximum temperature since then has been 4 deg C and most of the time it's been below freezing - minus 8 deg C typically overnight! Everything is centrally heated so we're warm while indoors. The whole of the city is in walking distance - quite a change from Sydney! The first evening of jet-lag we spent out in the streets of the old town taking photos on the tripod, of christmas-card scenes. After a week the snow has not so much melted but rather sublimed away. To cap this, last Sunday was the first day of daylight saving here - our first experience of this with snow on the ground! The denizens of Lund think the weather has been good this week, so we hope we never see any BAD weather.

On the brighter side, the Asilomar Fungal Genetics conference went very well. Both Anne's paper and my poster co-authored by Osu were well received - thanks to Malcolm for all the help with that! California was cold enough in its own right (a mere 15 deg C) but we did enjoy it very much. The Asilomar Confence Center is superb, you must go if you ever get the chance. We saw sea otters in the wild, and Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata) with some of their ectomycorrhizal mushrooms, in their native place.

In Lund we are living in a really nice little flat in an old building in the centre of the city. It is a collective house - not so common in Sweden now as they were in the '“sixties”, apparently, but very good for us because there are 40 people we have met right away. The nearest thing in Oz is 'company title', but in this case there are several rooms and facilities which are shared, and there is a tradition of shared meals in the large dining room four days a week. Our first one of these was Nettle Soup followed by a kind of brioche stuffed with marzipan, almonds and whipped cream - both traditional Swedish springtime fare, and prepared as it turned
out by the Swedish representative on the UN committee on Population. He disappeared two days later to New York to chair the Committee! We haven't yet found out what the other people do who are living in 'the Castle' as the house is called.

The lab here is excellent - Ecology is the biggest biological department, second in size only to Chemistry in the whole University. Also the group here is fantastic - a whole group of mycorrhizologists working with pine and birch trees as well as arbuscular mycorrhizas, a plant ecology group upstairs and a whole department of plant physiology next door. 'Ekologihuset', the ecology building, is only six years old and everything in it has the stamp of Swedish design. There is lots of new equipment including molecular biology gear, and many of the staff members are employing molecular approaches. We have already done our first set of observations so things look promising.

Best wishes to you all, stay warm!