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Extreme close up of ant army

Integrative Ecology Lab

Examining what drives the ecology of animals and plants
We bridge the divides between different approaches to doing ecology – integrating behaviour and physiology with patterns and processes at community and landscape scales.
View of native habitat with view of Sydney Harbour

Our aims

Our work focuses on the ecology of terrestrial arthropods and their interactions with plants. We are currently working on a diverse range of research questions related to both community ecology and landscape ecology.

Our projects ideally include an experimental component, feature arthropods as main the study taxa, and are situated in the terrestrial environment.

Our research

Urban ecology and nature-based solutions for growing cities

Over half the world’s population now live in urban areas, and about 80 per cent will by 2050, so understanding how urban ecosystems work is vital to our sustainability. Sydney’s remnant vegetation is an ideal model system to work in allowing us to examine the impacts of urbanisation and how we can manage what we still have as well as restore degraded systems.  This work examines how we can best conserve biodiversity in urban ecosystems and how we can manage the challenges that come with rewilding the city, ultimately linking these to how nature can contribute to making future cities more liveable and resilient.  

Animal-plant interactions

We use multi-species, multi-scale approaches to give us a leaf to landscape understanding of animal-plant interactions. We’re currently examining herbivory, pollination and seed dispersal by insects in a number of contexts, looking at everything from the mechanistic underpinnings of the relationships to how landscape disturbances change the integrity of these interactions.

Our people

  • Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli, Lead
  • Dr Helen Smith, Research Associate
  • Dr Caragh Threlfall, research Associate
  • Dr Oisin Sweeney, Sydney Policy Lab fellow
  • Margot Law, Research assistant
  • Joanna Haddock, PhD candidate
  • Matthew Hall, PhD candidate
  • Jayne Hanford, PhD candidate
  • Ryan Keith, PhD candidate
  • Casey Taylor, PhD candidate
  • Caitlyn Drayton-Taylor, PhD candidate
  • Daniel Jin, PhD candidate
  • Manuel Eduardo Lequerica Tamara, PhD Candidate
  • Ryan Leonard, PhD candidate (under examination)
  • Henry Lydecker, PhD Candidate (under examination)
  • Lucy Taylor, PhD candidate (under examination)


From the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney:

From the University of Sydney:

Key external collaborators:

  • Dr Caragh Threlfall (The University of Melbourne)
  • Associate Professor Stephen Livesley (The University of Melbourne)
  • Dr John Martin (Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney)
  • Dr Alicia Burns (Taronga Zoo)
  • Dr Dave Kendal (The University of Tasmania)
  • Professor Lisa Given (Swinburne University of Technology)
  • Dr Brad Law (Department of Primary Industries)


For information about opportunities to work or collaborate with the Social Insects lab, contact Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli on Research Supervisor Connect.

Dieter Hochuli

Associate Professor
  • +61 2 9351 4119
  • Room 401 Heydon-Laurence Building (A08) The University of Sydney, NSW, 2006