Academics

Dr. Andrew Barron – Cognitive Neuroethology

Portrait Photo of Andrew Barron

Cognitive neuroethology describes the study of neural mechanisms underlying complex natural behaviour. Even ‘simple’ animals frequently demonstrate remarkable behavioural abilities and adaptability just to solve the problems they encounter in their daily lives. Cognitive neuroethology explores how animals do this.

Core questions that motivate my research are:

  1. How do animals with tiny brains solve complex problems?
  2. How do innovative forms of behaviour (like new forms of social behaviour or the honey bee dance language) evolve?
  3. How do the key behavioural systems underlying learning, memory and motivation work?
  4. How have these systems been adapted by evolution for specialised forms of behaviour?

Lab web site | E-mail: andrew.barron@mq.edu.au

Dr. Culum Brown – Behavioural Ecology and Evolution of Fishes

Portrait Photo of Culum Brown

I’m primarily interested in Behavioural Ecology and in particular predator avoidance behaviour, learning and memory in freshwater fishes. I have conducted comparative research on the behavioural ecology of predator avoidance in Australian freshwater fishes (Uni. Queensland) as well as examining social learning in guppies at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge. I also have an interest in the evolution of cognition and worked at the University of Edinburgh and the Smithsonian Institute on tropical poeciliids. In addition to this theoretical work, I have interests in applied research in conservation biology and fisheries management. These interests include conducting research aimed improving life skills in hatchery reared fishes utilising social learning protocols and environmental enrichment.

Lab web site | E-mail: culum.brown@mq.edu.au

Professor Ken Cheng – Animal Cognition and Learning and Spatial Navigation

Portrait Photo of Ken Cheng

My research is on cognition and learning, with an emphasis on spatial navigation. Both functional and mechanistic questions form topics for research. I have studied diverse species over the years, from insects to humans. Current research focuses on comparing navigation and learning in desert ant species.

Lab web site | E-mail: ken.cheng@mq.edu.au

Dr. Jennifer Clarke – Animal Communication and its Application in Conservation

Portrait Photo of Jennifer Clarke

My lab group focuses on the form and function of animal communication and its application in conservation – particularly in highly social species (elk, bison, coatis, wolves, dingos, bats, and white-tailed ptarmigan). Understanding animal communication not only sheds light on critical aspects of a species’ evolution and biology but it can also be an invaluable tool to aid in conservation, management, and species’ preservation.

Currently, we are studying the of communication in grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) to identify the impact of uban noise pollution on the species’ communication system. We are also quantifying the vocalizations of Australian dingos (Canis lupus dingo) to investigate applications of motivation-structural rules in developing harmless but effective auditory deterrents. I also study alarm calling, food calling, acoustic signatures, and the role of vocalizations in social transmission of information.

Lab web site | E-mail: jennifer.clarke@mq.edu.au

Dr. Darrell Kemp – Evolution and Ecology of Sexual Reproduction

Portrait Photo of Dr. Darrell Kemp

I am broadly interested in the evolution and ecology of sexual reproduction. My research blends quantitative genetics, developmental biology, physiology and behavioural ecology and addresses questions relating to the evolution of mating strategies, contest behaviour, mate choice and sexual signalling. I choose model organisms appropriate to answering these questions, and have worked particularly with butterflies, wasps, flies and guppies. I use a range of observational and experimental methods designed to test theoretical hypotheses, and incorporate quantitative genetics and interdisciplinary conceptual perspectives (i.e., life history perspectives of sexual selection) to illuminate the evolution of sexual traits and behaviours.

Lab web site | E-mail: darrell.kemp@mq.edu.au

A/Professor Simon Griffith – Avian Behavioural Ecology

Portrait Photo of Simon Griffith

Research in my group is based on a variety of Australian birds in the wild and captivity in an effort to understand the diversity of species in terms of behaviour and morphology. Current work focuses on the evolution of social behaviour in colonially breeding species such as the zebra finch, coooperative breeding in two arid zone species, the apostlebird and chestnut-crowned babbler, and speciation and the evolution of polymorphism in the grass finches of Northern Australia. In addition to addressing questions of basic behavioural biology, we apply the concepts and techniques to practical conservation and in particular are making inroads into understanding the decline of the endangered Gouldian finch. Our research is carried out through active collaborations with a wide diversity of colleagues from Australia and overseas. We are very well equipped for behavioural research: facilities for holding and breeding around 2000 finches; optical reflectance spectrometry; video/acoustic recording, analysis and playback; molecular lab for microsatellite genotyping with access to a sequencing facility and well established study populations in central and tropical Australia.

Lab web site | E-mail: simon.griffith@mq.edu.au

Professor Robert Harcourt – Animal Behaviour and Ecology

Portrait Photo of Robert Harcourt

My main interests revolve around the importance of individual variation in behaviour to foraging, communication, mating tactics and life experience. Recently much of my research has focused on individual differences and evolutionary mechanisms, combining observation and experimental manipulation of behaviour in the field with genetic methods. My second major thrust has been the use of technology to ‘open a window’ into the world of large marine predators. We were the first team to successfully deploy satellite transmitters on otariid seals and wintering Adelie penguins and have developed methods of measuring and interpreting dive data in two and three dimensions. This research has helped transform our understanding of how warm-blooded animals cope with environmental extremes as they forage and breed in the marine environment. I am now Facility Leader Australian Animal Tagging and Monitoring System (AATAMS) a national initiative to observe large marine life.

Lab web site | E-mail: robert.harcourt@mq.edu.au

A/Professor Mariella Herberstein – Behavioural Ecology of Invertebrates

Portrait Photo of Mariella Herberstein

I investigate the behavioural ecology of invertebrates including spiders and insects within an evolutionary framework. I am interested in establishing spiders as significant models in behavioural and evolutionary research. My research interests include deceptive signals in spiders and orchids, and the mating behaviour and sexual selection of spiders and insects.

Lab web site | E-mail: marie.herberstein@mq.edu.au

A/Professor Phil Taylor – Behavioural Biology

Portrait Photo of Phil Taylor

Research in The Behavioural Biology Research Group (BBRG) is based on terrestrial invertebrates as convenient and tractable models for a wide diversity of ultimate (evolutionary) and proximate (mechanistic) questions. Current work focusses on reproductive and nutritional biology of Queensland fruit flies (Bactrocera tryoni, aka ‘Q-fly’), flexible predatory strategies of Stenolemus assassin bugs and communication, assessment and decision-making of jumping spiders. In addition to addressing questions of basic Behavioural Biology, we have a parallel interest in applying the concepts and techniques of Behavioural Biology to current issues of environmentally benign pest management. In particular, we provide valuable R&D support for environmentally benign management of Queensland fruit fly in Australia.

Lab web site | E-mail: phil.taylor@mq.edu.au

Dr. Adam Stow – Conservation Genetics

Portrait Photo of Adam Stow

My work investigates dispersal and mating systems of organisms with particular emphasis on the implications of these behaviours for conservation management. I am also interested in the evolution of social behaviours. I have many collaborators and make use of molecular technologies and field observations to address questions that have involved social hymenoptera, social lizards, sharks and marine mammals.

Lab web site | E-mail: adam.stow@mq.edu.au

A/Professor Martin Whiting – Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution of Lizards

Portrait Photo of Martin Whiting

My research is broadly focused on behavioural and evolutionary ecology, for which I use lizards as a model system. My research group studies both the proximate mechanisms governing behaviour and their consequences for fitness. In particular, we work on sensory ecology, visual and chemical signals, whole organism maximal performance, sexual selection and sociality. We also investigate spatial cognition and social learning in lizards and toads. More recently, a major focus is testing the social intelligence hypothesis for the evolution of large brain size and intelligence using the lizard genus Egernia as a model system.

Lab web site | E-mail: martin.whiting@mq.edu.au