Dr Therésa Jones
My main area of research is in the field behavioural ecology with a particular focus on understanding the causes and consequences of variability in mating systems, the role of chemical cues, and most recently the impact of artificial night lighting on individual fitness and community structure. I completed my undergraduate at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (UK) and my PhD at the Institute of Zoology (UK). During my PhD, I spent a year at the Instituto Evandro Chagas in Belém, Brazil carrying out field observations and experiments. I commenced postdoctoral research in 1999 at Uppsala University (Sweden) exploring alternative male mating strategies in vertebrate (the ruff, Philomachus pugnax) and invertebrate (Hawaiian Drosophila) lekking species. In 2001, I was awarded a Royal Society Travelling Fellowship to conduct research at the University of Melbourne where I have worked since, first as a postdoctoral research fellow with Prof Mark Elgar for six years and then as a Melbourne University Research Career Interruption Fellow. I am currently employed as a senior lecturer in the School of BioSciences. In addition to my passion for behavioural ecology, I am a strong advocate for gender equality in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Dr Gareth Hopkins
I am an evolutionary ecologist broadly interested in how organisms are affected by, and respond to, stressors in their environment, both natural and anthropogenic. This research spans multiple layers of biological organization, from the behavioural and physiological responses of individuals to the evolutionary responses of populations and the ecological responses of communities. I am particularly interested in the role of individual variation in shaping these responses. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Biology and Natural Resources Management at the University of Northern British Columbia (Canada), and my PhD in Ecology at Utah State University (USA). Throughout this time I have worked on the behaviour, ecology, evolution, and conservation of a variety of insect and amphibian species, ranging from weevils and dragonflies to frogs and newts. In the Urban Light Lab, I am studying the effects of artificial light at night on insects both at the community and individual level, and am particularly interested in effects on communication, behaviour, and sexual selection in the Australian black field cricket, Teleogryllus commodus.
Joanna Durrant (PhD)
The biological impacts of ecological light pollution on crickets
The presence of artificial light at night is increasing globally, yet the impacts that this can have on the environment have only relatively recently been given attention. My PhD continues the work that I undertook for my Masters of Zoology degree (2012-2013), exploring the biological impacts of exposure to artificial light at night (ALAN) in the Australian black field cricket. My focus is investigating the effects of ecologically relevant levels of ALAN on immune function, life history traits and behaviour, and the overall impact these have on individual fitness. A key aim of my research is to explore the possible mechanistic link between ALAN induced reductions in fitness and the biologically ubiquitous compound, melatonin. Being aware of the consequences of artificial light at night and understanding the mechanistic links behind them will provide a critical foundation for the future development of sustainable urban lighting strategies that will need to balance the potential conflict of growing human demands for brighter night lighting with the adverse ecological effects this may promote.
PhD Supervisors: Therésa Jones and Dr Mark Green
Lucy McLay (PhD)
The links between artificial light at night and oxidative stress
My research interest is on the impact of artificial light at night (ALAN) on the fitness of organisms. I will be using Drosophila as a model species to measure the fitness implications of different intensities of ALAN. My research will focus on the physiological changes that ALAN causes due to the disruptive effects of ALAN on melatonin production. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that mops up reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by normal metabolic processes. When an organism’s ability to deal with ROS gets out of balance with ROS production, the result is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can affect proteins, lipids and DNA. Many studies have shown the impacts of oxidative stress on life span, ageing, fertility, immunity and offspring viability. I plan to investigate the impacts of ALAN over successive generations of Drosophila using a range of behavioural and physiological assays.
PhD Supervisors: Therésa Jones and Dr Mark Green
Liz Milla (PhD)
Evolutionary ecology of the Australian Heliozelidae (Adeloidea; Lepidoptera)
Heliozelidae are a poorly studied family of tiny day-flying moths that are extraordinarily diverse in Australia. Based on field data and museum collections, there are almost as many undescribed genera unique to Australia as there are in the rest of the world. Their distribution spans widely diverse ecosystems, from arid regions to temperate rainforests, yet their ecological role is largely undetermined. The aim of my PhD is to document the evolutionary history and diversity of the Australian Heliozelidae using a combination of molecular, morphological and ecological data. I will use a range of conventional and advanced methods, such as live rearing, taxonomic dissection and next generation sequencing in order to study this intriguing family. My research will form the foundation for a comprehensive revision of this family and inform conservation strategies for both the moths and plants they pollinate.
Annie Aulsebrook (PhD)
Impacts of artificial light at night on the day-night behaviour of urban birds
Over the past decade, there has been growing evidence for impacts of artificial light at night on wildlife. One of the most commonly observed effects is a change in the timing of behaviour in birds. In cities, many songbirds begin their dawn chorus earlier than in rural environments. In the laboratory, exposure to constant bright light can keep birds awake at night. However, most research has either been correlational or has exposed animals to unrealistic lighting regimes. My PhD research uses the latest technology to understand the real-world impacts of streetlights on birds. I am using a combination of controlled laboratory experiments, naturalistic field experiments, and activity recordings from wild birds to investigate how streetlights affect day-night rhythms, including sleep. My two study species are the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and native black swan (Cygnus atratus). I am hoping that my research will offer insight into the unintended consequences of artificial lighting, and also offer some practical solutions.
Ashton Dickerson (PhD)
Evolution of nocturnal singing in the willie wagtail and the effects of urbanisation upon this behaviour
After completing my masters research examining natural variation of behaviour between individuals in a bird species, I began to wonder how environmental factors may also influence behaviour. Environmental factors related to urbanisation are of particular interest to me as urbanisation affects wildlife worldwide. Using willie wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys) I will examine whether factors such as artificial light at light (ALAN) and traffic noise influence behaviour (with a focus on singing behaviour). Willie wagtails are a particularly useful species to examine this question as they are known for singing at night (when ALAN is in action). Nocturnal singing is a relatively unusual behaviour, and as such I will also seek out the evolutionary drivers behind this phenomenon. I aim to discover if urbanisation affects nocturnal singing, through both observational and experimental methods, and to also examine various hypotheses that may explain the evolution of nocturnal singing and its fitness effects.
PhD Supervisors: Dr Michelle Hall and Therésa Jones
Marty Lockett (PhD)
Effects of artificial light at night (ALAN) on invertebrate community composition and abundance
Street lighting is a ubiquitous source of urban light pollution, yet its effects on local wildlife – in particular at the community level – are poorly understood. Still less understood is the extent to which different lighting technologies may impact on faunal communities in the short and long term. By sampling aerial and terrestrial invertebrate communities under different street lighting treatments, my masters project aims to identify how the presence or absence of street lighting impacts on the composition and abundance of local invertebrate communities, and whether the nature and extent of those impacts varies with changes in lighting technologies.
PhD Supervisors: Dr Therésa Jones and Gareth Hopkins
Thomas Keaney (Masters)
Kin selection combats ‘mother’s curse’
My research focuses on the genetic variation present in mitochondrial DNA, that affects many phenotypic traits, and underlies several human diseases. Because males are an evolutionary dead end for mitochondria, it is widely believed that phenotypic effects on males, that result from mtDNA, are ‘invisible’ to selection, causing male-harming mutations to build up in the mitochondrial genome (“mother’s curse”). However, male mtDNA can be selected indirectly whenever the male’s phenotype affects the fitness of his matrilineal relatives (e.g. via altruism or competition). Using sexual conflict and larval competition in Drosophila as case studies, I am empirically testing this hypothesis for the first time, to determine whether mother’s curse is indeed an inescapable reality. I hope to further our understanding of genomic conflict, mitochondrial disease, and endosymbiont evolution.
Supervisors: Dr Luke Holman and Dr Therésa Jones
Rebecca Rasmussen Undergraduate (evolutionary biology and physics)
Dr Jessica Henneken Mate choice in orb weaving spiders
Dr Yasaman Alavi The evolution of facultative parthenogenesis in the Australian spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)
Dr Kathryn McNamara Male mating strategies and their effect on female fitness in the almond moth
Dr Rebecca Featherston Sexual conflict and sex ratios: the impact of female control
Caitlin Selleck Food choice in a native caterpillar pest
Nikolas Willmott Responses of a nocturnal orb-weaving spider to artificial light at night
Alex Francis Community level impacts of variation in the spectra of artificial light at night
Chris Freelance Variation in tissue bound ROS and melatonin concentration in response to ALAN
Ellie Michaelides Fitness costs associated with environmental light pollution
Jessi Henneken The use of web based chemical cues in mate assessment in an orb weaving spider (Argiope trifasciata)
Joanna Durrant Physiological consequences of constant light exposure and the role of melatonin in the Australian field cricket, Teleogryllus commodus
Christina Eldridge Responding to stress – the impact of dietary oxidants for fitness
Michael Botha Artificial light at night and variation in reproductive investment in crickets