Areas of Research

Animal behaviour

A hive of bees

Animal behaviour is the study of the proximate (responses to the environment) and ultimate (evolutionary) causes of why animals behave as they do.

Researchers

Associate Professor Peter Banks
Peter's research focuses on the behavioural mechanisms that determine the impacts and dynamics of alien species. In particular, the interactions between predators and their prey and behavioural mismatches between native and alien species.
Professor Madeleine Beekman
Madeleine is broadly interested in evolutionary biology. In particular, the evolution and maintenance of sociality and decentralised-decision making. Her primary model organisms are the social insects, honeybees and ants, but she also works on acellular slime moulds.
Professor Maria Byrne
Maria investigates the behaviour of larval and adult marine invertebrates and their links with each other and to their environment.
Dr Jerome Buhl
By combining field biology, robotics and mathematics, Jerome studies how group living animals such as locusts aggregate, synchronise and migrate.
Dr Fiona Clissold
Fiona is interested in understanding the evolution of feeding and foraging behaviour from a nutritional perspective. Her research links animal physiology, morphology and behaviour to understand how these processes influences ecological outcomes. For example population dynamics, the role of plant defences and other traits in host plant choice by herbivores.
Associate Professor Ross Coleman
Ross studies the behavioural links between organisms and also between animals and their environments, with a special interest in marine animals.
Dr William Figueira
Will studies the effects of biotic and abiotic environmental factors on behavioural decisions by individuals and how these ultimately interact to determine population level demography.
Dr James Gilbert
James studies a tiny insect called thrips, that must decide whether to form groups and build nests cooperatively or to take the risk of nesting alone. As this decision is fundamentally based on resource allocation, he is studying whether this decision is affected by manipulating nutrition.
Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli
Dieter's research focuses on the ecology of terrestrial arthropods (e.g. spiders and ants). The central themes of his research include insect-plant interactions, community ecology and conservation biology.
Dr Tanya Latty
Tanya investigates invertebrate ecology with a focus on collective behaviour in bees, ants, and slime moulds.
Dr Mathieu Lihoreau
Mathieu is interested in insect social evolution. He uses experiments and models to investigate how complex collective behaviour such as mass migrations in locusts, aggregations dynamics in cockroaches, cooperative nutrition in bees or consensus building in fruit flies emerge from simple interactions between small-brained individuals, and may evolve.
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska
Gabriel’s primary research interest addresses the nutritional and sensory ecology of marine and terrestrial animals. His current research aims to understand the effects of nutrient balance on the behavior, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. Gabriel also applies these techniques to the conservation of endangered species and pest management.
Professor Ben Oldroyd
Ben studies the genetic basis of worker sterility in social insects, and the behaviour of bees in general.
Professor Mats Olsson
Mats' group researches ecology and genetics of traits such as animal behaviour in the wild and laboratory using reptiles and amphibians as model species.
Associate Professor Clare McArthur
Clare's research focuses on the foraging behaviour of mammalian herbivores. She investigates the choices the animals make when deciding where to go and what to eat, and how intrinsic characteristics (such as their personality) and extrinsic factors (such as plant diversity) influence these choices.
Professor David Raubenheimer
David is a comparative nutritional ecologist, with a particular interest in the ways that nutrients influence the behaviour, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. His work spans species from insects to fish, birds, rodents and large mammals, including non-human primates (monkeys, lemurs and gorillas) and humans, and includes both field and lab studies.
Professor Frank Seebacher
Frank investigates how physiological processes constrain ecology and behaviour in variable environments.
Professor Rick Shine
Rick and his students study reproduction, foraging, spatial ecology and cognition of reptiles and amphibians. The work is conducted both in the field (often based upon radio telemetry) and in the lab (where they spend a lot of time devising IQ tests for lizards).
Professor Steve Simpson
Steve works in the theory and practice of nutritional biology. He uses experimental organisms spanning insects to humans, and addresses questions from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. He also studies locust swarming from chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration.
Dr Ashley Ward
Ashley investigates social and collective behaviour. In particular, learning and information use, mating behaviour, sensory recognition and predator-prey interactions, using fish as the model organism.

Conservation

Sydney Bush Rat researchers

Conservation biology is concerned with the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Researchers

Associate Professor Peter Banks
Peter's conservation research aims to develop novel ecologically-based solutions to better manage the impacts of invasive species. His particular focus is on understanding the behavioural components of alien species impacts.
Professor Maria Byrne
Maria investigates the biological diversity of fished taxa with focus on tropical beche-de-mer sea cucumbers. She also works on the genetics and connectivity of marine invertebrate populations.
Associate Professor Ross Coleman
Ross works to understand and quantify the human impact on coastal ecosystems. This understanding will enable better protection and conservation.
Dr Mathew Crowther
Mathew's research is in the development of quantitative methods to study the ecology and conservation of vertebrates, particularly small mammals such as rodents and dasyurids.
Dr William Figueira
Will studies the management and sustainability of commercial and recreational fisheries.
Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli
Dieter's research focuses on the ecology of terrestrial arthropods (e.g. spiders and ants). The central themes of his research include insect-plant interactions, community ecology and conservation biology.
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska
Gabriel’s primary research interest addresses the nutritional and sensory ecology of marine and terrestrial animals. His current research aims to understand the effects of nutrient balance on the behavior, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. Gabriel also applies these techniques to the conservation of endangered species and pest management.
Associate Professor Clare McArthur
Clare's research applies an understanding of the foraging ecology of herbivores to determine which factors limit endangered native herbivore species, such as rock-wallabies. Her research aims to define and reduce the impact of invasive abundant herbivores, such as deer, on ecological communities.
Professor David Raubenheimer
David is a comparative nutritional ecologist, with a particular interest in the ways that nutrients influence the behaviour, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. His work spans species from insects to fish, birds, rodents and large mammals, including non-human primates (monkeys, lemurs and gorillas) and humans, and includes both field and lab studies.
Professor Rick Shine
Rick and his team are conducting an ambitious, multifaceted research program on invasive cane toads, on their impacts on Australian ecosystems, and on innovative approaches to reducing toad impacts. That work has involved native animals from a wide range of phylogenetic lineages, and has produced the first positive results in Australia's long and mostly futile fight against this warty invader.
Professor Steve Simpson
Steve works in the theory and practice of nutritional biology. He uses experimental organisms spanning insects to humans, and addresses questions from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. He also studies locust swarming from chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration.
Professor Mike Thompson
Mike is interested in the ecology of freshwater turtles. In particular, factors that influence their conservation with a focus on predation by introduced foxes. Other invasive species research that Mike conducts involves the Australian skink, Lampropholis delicata, which is invasive on islands across the Pacific.

Development

Central and peripheral nervous systems in a juvenile sea star

The formation of plants and animals is studied via the cellular and molecular processes that underpin development.

Researchers

Professor Maria Byrne
Maria investigates the generation of biological novelty through changes in development, also called 'evolutionary developmental biology' or 'Evo-Devo'. She also aims to understand the formation of animal body plans with a focus on the development of the central nervous system in echinoderms (marine animals such as sea stars and urchins).
Honours Project Opportunities
Dr Mary Byrne
Plant shoot development is investigated in Mary’s lab. She uses molecular genetics to study plant shoot meristems, leaf patterning and the role of ribosomes in plant development.
Dr Jenny Saleeba
Jenny investigates the interplay of multiple genes and the environment using plant root phenotypes as the study system.
Professor Rick Shine
Rick and his collaborators use experimental studies, both in the laboratory and the field, to understand how incubation conditions affect developmental processes and thus, characteristics of hatchling reptiles such as size, shape, sex, speed and learning ability. In related work, he has been examining how reptile embryos can move about within their eggs to exploit local thermal gradients.
Dr Penelope Smith
Penny studies the development of the symbiosome membrane. This is the membrane interface between bacteria and plants in the legume-rhizobia symbiosis.
Professor Mike Thompson
Mike is investigating the evolution of viviparity (live birth) in lizards. In particular, the role of a growth factor (VEGF111) found in both the uterus of lizards and in human cancer cells.

Ecology

An image of a chytrid colony

Ecology is the study of interactions between organisms and their environment.

Researchers

Associate Professor Peter Banks
Peter's research focuses on native and alien mammals and their behavioural and population ecology. For example studies of invasive species such as black rats and their impact on native rodents. Peter investigates the interactions between predators and their prey, mammals as urban wildlife and social signalling in mammals.
Dr Jerome Buhl
By combining field biology, robotics and mathematics, Jerome studies how group living animals such as locusts aggregate, synchronise and migrate.
Dr Fiona Clissold
Fiona is interested in understanding the evolution of feeding and foraging behaviour from a nutritional perspective. Her research links animal physiology, morphology and behaviour to understand how these processes influences ecological outcomes. For example population dynamics, the role of plant defences and other traits in host plant choice by herbivores.
Associate Professor Ross Coleman
Ross uses shallow water marine systems as models for ecological questions. He is investigating why animals and plants are where they are and what impact humans have on their habitats.
Dr Mathew Crowther
Mathew's research is in the development of quantitative methods to study the ecology and conservation of vertebrates, particularly small mammals such as rodents and dasyurids.
Dr William Figueira
Will researches the population ecology of marine organisms at local and metapopulation scales. His work includes consideration of demography and connectivity using field and computer simulation studies.
Dr James Gilbert
James studies a tiny insect called thrips, that must decide whether to form groups and build nests cooperatively or to take the risk of nesting alone. As this decision is fundamentally based on resource allocation, he is studying whether this decision is affected by manipulating nutrition.
Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli
Dieter's research focuses on the ecology of terrestrial arthropods (e.g. spiders and ants). The central themes of his research include insect-plant interactions, community ecology and conservation biology.
Dr Tanya Latty
Tanya investigates invertebrate ecology with a focus on collective behaviour in bees, ants, and slime moulds.
Dr Osu Lilje
Osu aims to understand how fungi interact with and respond to their biotic and abiotic environment.
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska
Gabriel’s primary research interest addresses the nutritional and sensory ecology of marine and terrestrial animals. His current research aims to understand the effects of nutrient balance on the behavior, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. Gabriel also applies these techniques to the conservation of endangered species and pest management.
Associate Professor Clare McArthur
Clare's research delves into ecological interactions of herbivores with plants and predators. She asks how herbivores solve the problem of eating without being eaten? how plants defend when they can't escape? and how the fear of predators modify these interactions?
Professor Mats Olsson
Mats' group researches ecology and genetics of traits such as animal behaviour in the wild and laboratory using reptiles and amphibians as model species.
Professor David Raubenheimer
David is a comparative nutritional ecologist, with a particular interest in the ways that nutrients influence the behaviour, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. His work spans species from insects to fish, birds, rodents and large mammals, including non-human primates (monkeys, lemurs and gorillas) and humans, and includes both field and lab studies.
Professor Rick Shine
Rick runs a major program on the evolution and ecology of Australian reptiles, with a special focus on snakes and lizards (but occasional ventures into crocodiles, and even a frog or two). For the last 25 years, much of this work has been based at Rick's field station between Kakadu and Darwin.
Professor Steve Simpson
Steve works in the theory and practice of nutritional biology. He uses experimental organisms spanning insects to humans, and addresses questions from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. He also studies locust swarming from chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration.
Professor Mike Thompson
Mike is particularly interested in the evolution of viviparity (live birth) in reptiles and mammals. Those studies have included measuring the thermal biology, behaviour and energetic of viviparous and oviparous lizards. Additionally, he is interested in the ecology of freshwater turtles. In particular, factors that influence their conservation with a focus on predation by introduced foxes. Other invasive species research that Mike conducts involves the Australian skink, Lampropholis delicata, which is invasive on islands across the Pacific.
Associate Professor Charles Warren
Charlie's group investigates how plants interact with their environment, and the role of plants in ecosystem processes.
Dr Shawn Wilder
Shawn uses nutritional ecology to examine connections between the physiology, behavior and ecology of carnivorous arthropods.

Education

Scholarly investigations into student learning in Biology.

Researchers

Dr Rosanne Quinnell
Rosanne is exploring the 'maths problem' as it applies to undergraduate science programs. She is interested in examining the efficient and effective use of new technologies in teaching and learning, and determining the relationship between degree program, curriculum engagement and rigidity of student approaches to learning. Rosanne's science research is focused on symbiotic systems primarily those sustained by photosynthesis e.g. cnidarian-Symbiodinium.

Evolutionary genetics

Hatching skink, Saiphos equalis. Photo credit: Nadav Pezaro.

Evolutionary genetics is the study of inherited information underlying organism function and evolutionary processes.

Researchers

Professor Madeleine Beekman
Madeleine uses the slime mould Physarum polycephalum to study intergenomic conflict between mitochondria and nuclei.
Associate Professor Neville Firth
Neville investigates the molecular mechanisms of antibiotic resistance evolution in bacteria, such as 'golden staph'.
Dr Simon Ho
Simon studies the molecular ecology and evolution of animals, plants, and viruses.
Professor Eddie Holmes
Eddie is an evolutionary biologist whose research focuses on pathogens, particularly RNA viruses. His main research tool is the evolutionary analysis of pathogen gene sequence data.

Eddie’s current research program therefore sits at the interface of four disciplines – evolutionary biology, genomics, bioinformatics and infectious disease – and is designed to reveal the factors that are responsible for the successful cross-species transmission and emergence of pathogens.
Dr Nate Lo
Nathan's research combines molecular, genetic, and genomic approaches to investigate the biology of insects. These studies include the evolution and genetic basis of eusociality in termites, co-evolution with symbiotic microbes and phylogenetics and phylogeography of Australian taxa.
Professor Ben Oldroyd
Ben Oldroyd works on epigenetic factors related to conflict and worker sterility in insect societies.
Professor Mats Olsson
Mats' group researches ecology and genetics of traits such as animal behaviour in the wild and laboratory using reptiles and amphibians as model species.
Professor Rick Shine
Rick and his collaborators look at patterns of gene flow across landscapes, and use genetic approaches (such as paternity analyses) to understand mating systems of secretive and cryptic animals (such as many snakes). Current work is exploring the genetic basis for the cane toad's rapid evolutionary shifts in dispersal rate as it has colonised the Australian tropics.
Professor Mike Thompson
Mike is particularly interested in the evolution of viviparity (live birth) in reptiles and mammals. He has employed a variety of molecular techniques in these studies, including transcriptomics, qPCR, immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. He is investigating the role of VEGF111 in the uterus of lizards and in human cancer cells.

Marine biology

An aerial photo of One Tree Island

Marine biology is the study of marine organisms.

Researchers

Professor Maria Byrne
Maria's research is aimed at determining the impacts of climate change stressors, ocean warming and ocean acidification on tropical, temperate and polar marine invertebrates.
A/Professor Min Chen
My research centres on understanding the red-shifted chlorophyll, their function in photosynthesis and the regulatory mechanisms.
Associate Professor Ross Coleman
Ross researches the fundamental biology of marine organisms with a special interest in the ecology of invasive animals.
Dr William Figueira
Will studies the biology and ecology of marine fishes during larval and juvenile/adult stages in both tropical and temperate environments.
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska
Gabriel’s primary research interest addresses the nutritional and sensory ecology of marine and terrestrial animals. His current research aims to understand the effects of nutrient balance on the behavior, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. Gabriel also applies these techniques to the conservation of endangered species and pest management.
Professor David Raubenheimer
David is a comparative nutritional ecologist, with a particular interest in the ways that nutrients influence the behaviour, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. His work spans species from insects to fish, birds, rodents and large mammals, including non-human primates (monkeys, lemurs and gorillas) and humans, and includes both field and lab studies.
Professor Rick Shine
Rick and his French colleagues are conducting ecological studies on sea snakes in New Caledonia, mostly focused on capture-mark-recapture studies. These are by far the longest-running and most detailed ecological investigations ever conducted on any marine snakes.

Nutrition

A locust eating another locust

Nutrition is the study of how organisms acquire and use the chemicals needed for growth, survival and reproduction.

Researchers

Dr Arianne Cease
Arianne is interested in how land management practices influence locust nutritional physiology, plasticity, and outbreaks.
Dr Fiona Clissold
Fiona is interested in understanding the evolution of feeding and foraging behaviour from a nutritional perspective. Her research links animal physiology, morphology and behaviour to understand how these processes influences ecological outcomes. For example population dynamics, the role of plant defences and other traits in host plant choice by herbivores.
Dr Alison Gosby
Alison works on nutrient regulation and factors affecting nutrient balance in humans.
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska
Gabriel’s primary research interest addresses the nutritional and sensory ecology of marine and terrestrial animals. His current research aims to understand the effects of nutrient balance on the behavior, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. Gabriel also applies these techniques to the conservation of endangered species and pest management.
Dr Fleur Ponton
Fleur is interested in better understanding the inter-relationships between nutrition, immunity, gut microbiota and the growth of pathogens populations using Drosophila melanogaster as a biological model.
Professor David Raubenheimer
David is a comparative nutritional ecologist, with a particular interest in the ways that nutrients influence the behaviour, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. His work spans species from insects to fish, birds, rodents and large mammals, including non-human primates (monkeys, lemurs and gorillas) and humans, and includes both field and lab studies.
Professor Steve Simpson
Steve works in the theory and practice of nutritional biology. He uses experimental organisms spanning insects to humans, and addresses questions from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. He also studies locust swarming from chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration.
Dr Shawn Wilder
Shawn uses nutritional ecology to examine connections between the physiology, behavior and ecology of carnivorous arthropods.

Phylogenetics & systematics

A photo of Cryptasterina hystera - small range endemic (from One Tree Island & central Queensland)

Phylogenetics and systematics are the way in which biologists study of the history of a species and its relationship to other species.

Researchers

Professor Maria Byrne
Maria is interested in the molecular phylogeny, taxonomy and cryptic species of echinoderms (marine animals such as sea stars and urchins).
A/Professor Min Chen
My research centres on understanding the red-shifted chlorophyll, their function in photosynthesis and the regulatory mechanisms.
Associate Professor Murray Henwood
Murray's group researches the field of plant systematics and evolution. They use a range of techniques including traditional herbarium taxonomy through to DNA-based approaches. Their aim is to identify the phylogenetic relationships amongst the plants that they study, and to investigate the insights these relationships can provide in understanding current and past plant distributions, morphological character evolution and what might have driven these changes.
Dr Simon Ho
As a computational evolutionary biologist, Simon’s research interests include molecular clocks, evolutionary rates, phylogenetic methods, calibration techniques and ancient DNA.
Professor Eddie Holmes
Eddie is an evolutionary biologist whose research focuses on pathogens, particularly RNA viruses. His main research tool is the evolutionary analysis of pathogen gene sequence data.

Eddie’s current research program therefore sits at the interface of four disciplines – evolutionary biology, genomics, bioinformatics and infectious disease – and is designed to reveal the factors that are responsible for the successful cross-species transmission and emergence of pathogens.
Dr Nate Lo
Nathan's research combines molecular, genetic, and genomic approaches to investigate the biology of insects. In particular, the evolution and genetic basis of eusociality in termites, co-evolution with symbiotic microbes and phylogenetics and phylogeography of Australian taxa.

Physiological ecology

Rainbow lizard

Physiological ecology is the application of physiological theory and approaches to provide a mechanistic understanding of ecological function.

Researchers

Professor Maria Byrne
Maria's work aims to understand the metabolic and biochemical responses of marine invertebrates to variable environmental conditions.
Dr Arianne Cease
Arianne is interested in how land management practices influence locust nutritional physiology, plasticity, and outbreaks.
Associate Professor Ross Coleman
Ross researches the fundamental biology of marine organisms with a special interest in the ecology of invasive animals.
A/Professor Min Chen
My research centres on understanding the red-shifted chlorophyll, their function in photosynthesis and the regulatory mechanisms.
Dr Fiona Clissold
Fiona is interested in understanding the evolution of feeding and foraging behaviour from a nutritional perspective. Her research links animal physiology, morphology and behaviour to understand how these processes influences ecological outcomes. For example population dynamics, the role of plant defences and other traits in host plant choice by herbivores.
Dr William Figueira
Will investigates the interaction of thermal physiology and performance with ecological processes such as competition and predation. He uses these studies to explain and predict changes in the distribution of marine organisms in the face of a changing climate.
Dr James Gilbert
James studies a tiny insect called thrips, that must decide whether to form groups and build nests cooperatively or to take the risk of nesting alone. As this decision is fundamentally based on resource allocation, he is studying whether this decision is affected by manipulating nutrition.
Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli
Dieter's research focuses on the ecology of terrestrial arthropods (e.g. spiders and ants). The central themes of his research include insect-plant interactions, community ecology and conservation biology.
Dr Osu Lilje
Osu's multi-disciplinary team aims to achieve an understanding of how fungi interact with and respond to their biotic and abiotic environments. She employs a broad spectrum of theoretical and analytical approaches to achieve this.
Dr Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska
Gabriel’s primary research interest addresses the nutritional and sensory ecology of marine and terrestrial animals. His current research aims to understand the effects of nutrient balance on the behavior, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. Gabriel also applies these techniques to the conservation of endangered species and pest management.
Professor Mats Olsson
Mats' group researches ecology and genetics of traits such as animal behaviour in the wild and laboratory using reptiles and amphibians as model species.
Dr Fleur Ponton
Fleur is interested in better understanding the inter-relationships between nutrition, immunity, gut microbiota and the growth of pathogens populations using Drosophila melanogaster as a biological model.
Professor David Raubenheimer
David is a comparative nutritional ecologist, with a particular interest in the ways that nutrients influence the behaviour, physiology, life history and fitness of animals. His work spans species from insects to fish, birds, rodents and large mammals, including non-human primates (monkeys, lemurs and gorillas) and humans, and includes both field and lab studies.
Professor Frank Seebacher
Frank investigates how physiological processes, such as thermoregulation, constrain ecology and behaviour in variable environments.
Professor Steve Simpson
Steve works in the theory and practice of nutritional biology. He uses experimental organisms spanning insects to humans, and addresses questions from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. He also studies locust swarming from chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration.
Professor Mike Thompson
Mike is particularly interested in the evolution of viviparity (live birth) in reptiles and mammals. He studies the ecological energetics of a variety of species using basic respirometry, bomb calorimetry and chemical analyses. Species that his group has studied in the past include lizards, snakes, cicadas, bats, spiders, turtles and the eggs of a variety of reptiles.
Dr Murray Thomson
Murray studies sensory and endocrine systems in a range of animals with an emphasis on understanding how animals reproduce and cope with stress.
Associate Professor Charles Warren
Charlie's group investigates how plants interact with their environment, and the role of plants in ecosystem processes.

Plant function

Wheat phragmoplast

Plant functional research investigates the acquisition of energy and nutrients and the co-ordination of their function by internal and external signals.

Researchers

Dr Mary Byrne
Mary investigates the molecular genetics of plant development, using the model species Arabidopsis thaliana. Projects
A/Professor Min Chen
My research centres on understanding the red-shifted chlorophyll, their function in photosynthesis and the regulatory mechanisms.
Dr Jenny Saleeba
Jenny investigates the interplay of multiple genes and the environment using plant root phenotypes as the study system.
Dr Penelope Smith
Penny conducts research into the molecular analysis of the legume-rhizobia symbiosis. She studies communication across the symbiosome membrane and performs molecular analysis of long-distance signalling in plants.
Associate Professor Charles Warren
Charlie's group investigates how plants interact with their environment, and the role of plants in ecosystem processes.