Research Interests

While my research interests are broad and my background diverse, I am currently focused on three major fields:

Behavioural Ecology

Studying animal behaviour in relation to a species' ecology, evolution, and natural history is a focus of our research.

 

 I am currently involved in projects investigating sociality and family-living in reptiles, and what factors may have driven the evolution of sociality in vertebrates. Also, we are researching how cognition and behavioural traits affect an individual's morphology and survival. We also often work on research that seeks to understand an animal's behaviour within nature.

Myself and collaborators are currently studying sociality in the Australian Egernia-group of lizards. We are using this model system to understand how sociality impacts these lizards' behaviour and evolution, and well as to investigate what ecological and life history traits selected for the evolution of sociality in this group.

Evolutionary Ecology

We also study the ecology of animals in a way that explicitly integrates their evolutionary trajectory.

 

Most of our research focuses on how the interaction between an animal and its environment (i.e., urbanisation, characteristics of the incubation or developmental setting) shapes its evolutionary adaptations. But, we also investigate how interactions between animals have affected selection on morphology and behaviour (i.e., colour signaling). Seeking to understand the interplay between an animal’s ecology and evolution, and how this benefits the species, leads to some fascinating discoveries!

The embryonic, and initial developmental environment profoundly influences individuals in ways that persist throughout their lives. These developmental conditions produce morphological and behavioural variation that, in turn, affects ecological and evolutionary dynamics. I am part of a research team working to summarize how incubation environment affects reptile development. Check out our dynamic database, and recent work at repdevo.com

Conservation Biology

Conservation can benefit greatly from our knowledge of animal behaviour and ecology. We link these three fields in our research. Also, one of conservation’s overall aims is to alleviate negative, human impacts on ecosystems, flora, and fauna. Much of our work uses the scientific method to test the efficacy of conservation actions empirically to enable adaptive management and improvements in conservation techniques.

We have assessed protective turtle nest caging, comparing across multiple styles, in order to test their impact on hatchling turtles and inform their conservation. We’ve also studied predation patterns of turtle nests, and found they vary depending on the local diversity of predators and how they perceive the world. This can inform the placement timing and length of turtle nest protection measures.