Zoology and Ecology Staff

Across our research and teaching, we have a wide range of expertise. Our researchers, your lecturers, are listed here with various networking and contact options available.

Head of Academic Group

A/Prof Will Edwards

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Academic Staff

Dr. Lucas Cernusak

Plant Ecophysiology - Cairns campus

How will tropical rainforests respond to changing climate and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide?  Answering this question is critical for understanding the human perturbation to the global carbon cycle, and for conserving the unique biodiversity of tropical rainforests.  I seek to find new ways to help answer this overarching question.

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Dr Brad Congdon

Ecological & evolutionary biologist - Cairns campus

Brad Congdon is a field ecologist who applies ecological and evolutionary theory to the management and conservation of animal and plant species. He has a special interest in seabird conservation and has worked extensively with seabirds both in Australia and overseas. His current research is focused on understanding how changing ocean conditions impact seabird breeding success throughout the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea ecosystems. His research group was the first to demonstrate that seabirds are sensitive indicators of multiple climate-change impacts on top predators in these areas and have established rising sea-surface temperatures as a major conservation issue for seabirds of the Great Barrier Reef.

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Prof. Darren Crayn

Botanist - Cairns campus

Professor Crayn’s career has involved studies of the origins, evolution and classification of plants and deals broadly with the questions: how many plant species exist, where do they occur, how are they related and how have they evolved? These objectives have taken him to a broad range of biomes and countries including the Republic of Panama, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

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Dr Megan Higgie

Evolutionary Biologist - Townsville campus

My research is field- and laboratory-based in evolution, ecology, and genetics, with a focus on animal adaptation, natural and sexual selection, and speciation. In particular, I am interested in how new species arise through premating isolation; and how species interactions cause selection, particularly in relation to climate change and speciation.

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Dr Ben Hirsch

Behavioural ecologist - Townsville campus

I am interested in the intersection of animal behavior and ecology: how does ecology affect the behavior of animals and how can the behavior of animals affect their ecosystems? To this end, I’ve studied a variety of mammal species such as: ring-tailed and white-nosed coatis, beach mice, agoutis, raccoons, and capuchin monkeys. My work has focused on social behavior, predator-prey interactions, seed dispersal, urban ecology, movement ecology, and disease ecology. My current research seeks to understand basic and applied behavioral ecology questions in the Queensland wet tropics region.

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Prof Joe Holtum

Botanist - Townsville campus

I am a plant ecophysiologist interested in the mechanisms that permit plants to survive when times are tough. I have a particular focus on how the roughly 6% of plant species that exhibit a water-conserving type of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) respond to temperature, water-limitation and to changing concentrations of atmospheric CO2. I study Australian CAM clades, species in Central America (in collaboration with Klaus Winter at STRI, Panama), and most recently, SE Asian and New Guinea groups with collaborators in Singapore, PNG and Oxford. Australian species with CAM include many epiphytic orchids and hoyas, ant-plants, succulents of coastal and inland saline areas, temperate and tropical Calandriniafrom across the continent, and a few fresh-water species.

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Dr Conrad Hoskin

Ecological & evolutionary biologist - Townsville campus

My research program consists of two broad, overlapping components: 1. evolution, ecology and conservation, and 2. systematics and taxonomy. Needless to say my interests are broad and I incorporate a variety of field, lab and experimental techniques in my research. I am particularly interested in processes of population divergence (particularly in mating traits) and the formation of new species. My main study system is hybrid zones between lineages of Green-eyed Treefrogs (Litoria serrata and L. myola) in rainforests of the Wet Tropics region of north-east Australia. These hybrid zones are fascinating and current projects revolve around determining the importance of reinforcement (increased premating isolation due to selection against maladaptive hybridisation) in speciation. Other projects I am currently working on include: targeted surveys for ‘missing’ and declined frogs; ecology and systematics of dipteran parasites of frogs; conservation of highly localised Queensland frogs and reptiles; and the invasion and impact of the Asian House Gecko in Australia.

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Dr Lori Lach

Ecologist - Cairns campus

I am interested in how human-induced environmental changes, such as biological invasions, affect interactions among species. Much of my research has investigated invasive social insects – their interactions with other species, their role in the environment, and how their resource use and behavior affect their success.

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A/Prof Susan Laurance

Community ecologist - Cairns campus

I study how human activities impact tropical rainforest plant and wildlife communities.  I am especially interested in how vulnerable wildlife and plant species are affected by major land-use and climate change.  My work spans much of the tropical world, including the Amazon and tropical Australia.

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Distinguished Professor William Laurance

Conservation biology - Cairns campus

Bill Laurance is a tropical conservation biologist who works in the Asia-Pacific, Amazonia, and African ecosystems.  He is the author of nearly 600 scientific and popular publications.

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Dr Tobin Northfield

Ecologist - Cairns campus

Tobin is broadly interested in the evolutionary ecology and interactions between species. His main areas of focus are improving natural pest control and pollination by insects and related animals, and describing arms races between interacting species. He combines experiments and mathematical models to understand these complex processes.

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Heather Robson

Associate Dean Learning & Teaching - Townsville campus

My research is in an exciting new field of genetics which uses environmental DNA (eDNA) and metabarcoding to monitor tropical freshwater biodiversity.  I am particulary interested in using eDNA to detect invasive fish and rare and critically endangered species.  I mainly work on fish and frogs.

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Professor Simon Robson

Behavioural ecologist - Townsville campus

A behavioural ecologist interested in the evolution and organisation of complex systems, concentrating mainly on the behaviour of social insects and bats. Enjoy fieldwork and teaching in a variety of tropical countries.

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Dr Tasmin Rymer

Animal Behaviourist - Cairns campus

I am passionate about the living world, particularly the mammals that live in it, and enjoy passing on this love to my students. I teach plant and animal diversity, fundamentals of biology and evolutionary biology. I have a fondness for rodents and am actively investigating various aspects of their behaviour.

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Prof Lin Schwarzkopf

Vertebrate Ecologist - Townsville campus

Lin studies a wide variety of questions related to vertebrate ecology. She examines  very applied questions on invasive species biology and control, and effects of anthropological activities such as grazing and introduced vegetation on vertebrate ecology, as well as purer theoretical studies of habitat use and predator-prey dynamics in vertebrates.

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Prof Stephen Williams

Conservation biodiversity - Townsville campus

My research is focused on understanding biodiversity, assessing the vulnerability of biodiversity to global climate change and using this knowledge to maximise the positive benefits of conservation management and adaptation. My research group is currently examining a diverse range of research topics on climate change and biodiversity (vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and ecosystem processes) including biodiversity patterns and processes, population genetics, thermal physiology, paleo-modelling of habitats and species distributions, extinction proneness, phenology, nutrient cycling, climatic seasonality, trophic interactions, net primary productivity, vegetation structure, resilience and estimating the relative vulnerability of species and habitats

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Research Staff

Zoology & Ecology maintains an active community of Research Staff across the Centre for Tropical Environmental & Sustainability Science and Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change.

Adjunct Staff

Zoology & Ecology maintains valuable links with many Adjunct academic staff. Visit our JCU Research Portfolio to find out more.

Research Students

Zoology & Ecology typically supports over 125 research students (Honours, Diploma, MSc, MPhil, PhD) each year.