Skip to content

People

Associate Professor Therésa Jones


Principal Investigator

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).

Email: theresa@unimelb.edu.au
Twitter: @ubanlightlab

Dr Kathryn McNamara


ARC DECRA Fellow

I was awarded my PhD in 2008 from the University of Melbourne. In 2010, I commenced a Fellowship at Monash University and then took up an ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Western Australia. I am currently an ARC DECRA Fellow at the University of Melbourne. My primary area of research has been in the field of ecological immunology, sexual selection and chemical communication. My interest in the insect microbiome is a natural extension of these interests. My research is characterised by large-scale, hypothesis-driven experimental studies which examine the complex phenotypic and genetic relationship between immunity, condition, and reproduction. My work incorporates cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary techniques in invertebrate immunology and reproductive fitness assays.

Email: mcnamara@unimelb.edu.au

Tom Keaney (PhD)


Mothers curse – intra-genomic conflict in Drosophila melanogaster

I am in the second year of my PhD working with Dr Luke Holman and Associate Professor Theresa Jones on my thesis, Sex as a prophylactic against extinction. I work mostly in the lab (although I’d like to get out into the field at some point), using insect species as models to investigate how evolutionary forces like sexual selection affect the fitness and persistence of animal populations. I hope to help answer some longstanding questions in evolutionary biology, such as why sex evolved and how it’s become so prevalent, and how adaptation might be able to protect species from extinction.

PhD Supervisors: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones and Dr Luke Holman

Email: tkeaney@student.unimelb.edu.au
Twitter: @tom_is_kean

Nik Willmott (PhD)


Poisoning the web: Spiders in the anthropocene

Spiders are the most diverse group of predators on Earth, and collectively eat more animal mass than humans every year. Despite this, very little is known about how they’re responding to anthropogenic change. I research these responses to better understand why some species thrive in cities. My current focus is on the effects of two pervasive pollutants – artificial light at night and pesticides – and urbanisation more generally, on spider behaviour, development, and internal microbiome communities. As a side project, I’m also studying how spider brain anatomy is shaped by anthropogenic change, and evolutionary shifts in morphology and sociality.

PhD Supervisors: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones, Dr Kath McNamara and Prof Bob Wong

Email: nikolas.willmott@unimelb.edu.au
Twitter: @arachnik
Instagram: instagram.com/arach.nik/

Dan Parker (PhD)


Designing for Multispecies Cohabitation: The Case for Prosthetic Habitats

Coming from a background in architecture, my interdisciplinary PhD explores how design can help to support urban wildlife. My focus is on the design, installation, and evaluation of human-made habitat structures for hollow-dwelling animals. There is a need for these structures as the tree hollows many animals depend on are scarce and declining in cities. For large birds like the powerful owl (Ninox strenua), tree hollows can take some 300-500 years to develop. Replacement structures, such as nest boxes, have varied effectiveness. To improve the design of human-made hollows, my research uses computational techniques including 3D scanning, 3D printing, and augmented reality. I also consider the broader cultural implications of this work, such as human-wildlife conflict and coexistence.

PhD Supervisors: Dr Stanislav Roudavski, Dr Kylie Soanes, and Assoc Prof Therésa Jones

Email: daniel.parker@student.unimelb.edu.au

marty-001

Marty Lockett (PhD)


Trophic effects of artificial light at night (ALAN) in Eucalyptus woodlands

Plants and animals rely on sunlight and natural light signals for a variety of functions, including photosynthesis, vision, the timing of daily activity, and the onset of key life stages. Artificial lighting is increasingly ubiquitous and can impact the growth, development and survival of organisms through multiple mechanisms. In plant and animal communities, effects of ALAN on one organism can cascade through to others, for example through impacts on food webs. My PhD explores the impacts of ALAN on a keystone Australian food chain comprising Eucalyptus trees, colonising lerp psyllids and bush birds that consume lerps and psyllids. By testing the impacts of ALAN on tree growth, morphology and physiology, psyllid development, survival and productivity, and the activity of a psyllid-dependent honeyeater (the bell miner), I aim to identify whether ALAN is likely to disrupt trophic webs in remnant urban woodlands. In addition, I am exploring the effects of ALAN on other urban wildlife communities, including in the abundance and composition of invertebrates in suburban streetscapes, and the timing of activity in urban bird communities.

PhD Supervisors: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones and Dr Gareth Hopkins

Email: martylockett@gmail.com

Maddie Nam (Masters)


Insect attraction behaviour in response to differing colour and intensity of artificial light

Light pollution is a newly emerging and serious environmental stressor. The last century has seen a dramatic increase in the use of artificial light at night (ALAN). Both the spectral composition and intensity of ALAN has negative impacts for both plant and animal species. My Masters research will explore these effects using a combination of field and laboratory experiments, firstly to identify underlying characteristics of artificial light that attract different insect groups, and providing information about insect perception, and also to investigate the effects of historical exposure to ALAN on invertebrates.

Masters Supervisors: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones and Dr Amanda Franklin

Email: madissonn@student.unimelb.edu.au

Nicola-Anne Rutkowski (Masters)


Trans-generational immune priming in invertebrates

I am currently in my second year of masters working with Dr Yong Zhi Foo, Dr Kathryn McNamara and Associate Professor Theresa Jones. I am conducting a meta-analysis on trans-generational immune priming in invertebrates, as well as an experiment on terminal investment in the pacific field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. With my research, I hope to answer questions surrounding the nature of immune priming in invertebrates and the factors that may affect its intensity and prevalence. I also hope to understand the relationship that age and immune status have on terminal investment (if there is one!). 

Masters Supervisor: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones

Email: nrutkowski@student.unimelb.edu.au

Shion Kim (Masters)


The impacts of multiple stressors on the Australian field cricket (Teleogryllus oceanicus)

The impact of anthropogenic stressors on the environment has always been a passionate interest of mine and completing a Bachelors in Zoology lead me to wonder how animal behaviour is affected. Hence, I am currently undertaking a Master of BioSciences, examining the effects of artificial light at night and increased temperatures as multiple stressors on the Australian field cricket (Teleogryllus oceanicus). Considering how unprecedented levels of urbanisation exacerbate the urban heat island effect, climate change and light pollution, my project aims to investigate whether and how the reproductive behaviour of crickets will be affected under these such stressors both individually and simultaneously.

Masters Supervisor: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones

Email: kimz@student.unimelb.edu.au

Nick Fitzgerald (Masters)


The effect of multiple stressors on Australian field crickets


Increased Urbanisation has led to worldwide temperature rise, and the amplified intensity and prevalence of artificial light at night (ALAN). These anthropogenic stressors dramatically challenge an organism’s fitness and survival, however the extent to which these stressors work together in tandem to create challenges to communication and immune function is limited, particularly on an evolutionary scale. My masters research will be two-fold, focusing on two species of the Australian Field Cricket, Teleogryllus commodus and Teleogryllus oceanicus. Part one will investigate the simultaneous effect of artificial light and temperature on T. oceanicus immune function, acoustic communication, and life-history traits. Whilst part two will aim to identify whether a predisposition and history of artificial light exposure impacts the degree of phenotypic and evolutionary change, analysing populations of T. commodus originating from environments differing in the degree of ALAN intensity (Rural, Semi-rural and Urban). Entomology has been a passion of mine from a young age, and I hope my research can continue to pave the way for invertebrate and artificial light science.

Masters Supervisor: Assoc Prof Therésa Jones and Dr Kath McNamara

Email: njfitzgerald@student.unimelb.edu.au

Gemma Walker (Masters)


Eucalyptus leachate as an environmental stressor in freshwater landscapes

After completely my Bachelor of Science in Zoology, I developed a passion for animal behaviour and how this can be influenced by an animal’s environment. I am currently in my second year of Masters working with Therésa Jones and John Morrongiello to examine the effect of Eucalyptus leachate on freshwater fish behaviour. Eucalypts shed their leaves year-round as an adaptation to prevent water loss. This results in a build of dried leaves on the floodplains, which become inundated with water when the floods come through. The natural chemicals leach out of the leaves and can have a range of unintended impacts on the life history traits of freshwater fish species in these environments, however it is unknown what effect these compounds have on fish behaviour. My research is looking at the effect of short-term and long-term exposure to sublethal levels of eucalyptus leachate on mate choice and courtship behaviour in the Murray River rainbowfish (Melanotaenia fluviatilis).

Masters Supervisor: Dr John Morrongiello and Assoc Prof Therésa Jones

Email: gwalker1@student.unimelb.edu.au

Bec R

Rebecca Rasmussen (Research Assistant)


Artificial light as an agent of evolutionary change

I am exploring the potential for light at night to act as a powerful agent promoting evolutionary change using the Australian field cricket, Teleogryllus commodus.

Email: rasmussenr@student.unimelb.edu.au


Alumni

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Gareth HopkinsAssistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Western Oregon University.

PhD

Dr Ashton DickersonThe function of nocturnal song in a diurnal bird and the effect of light at night on this behaviour
Dr Lucy McLayThe impact of light at night and oxidative stress in Drosophila
Dr Anne AulsebrookThe impact of light at night on avian sleep
Dr Liz MillaEvolutionary ecology of the Australian Heliozelidae (Adeloidea; Lepidoptera)
Dr Jessica HennekenMate choice in orb weaving spiders
Dr Yasaman AlaviThe evolution of facultative parthenogenesis in the Australian spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)
Dr Bec FeatherstonSexual conflict and sex ratios: the impact of female control
Dr Kathryn McNamaraMale mating strategies and their effect on female fitness in the almond moth

Masters

Maddie BrownThe effect of light at night on cognition and life history traits
Harriett KulichThe impact of light at night on zebra finch cognition
Tom KeaneyMother’s curse: Drosophila melanogaster
Caitlin SelleckFood choice in a native caterpillar pest
Nikolas WillmottResponses of a nocturnal orb-weaving spider to artificial light at night
Alex FrancisCommunity level impacts of variation in the spectra of artificial light at night
Chris FreelanceVariation in tissue bound ROS and melatonin concentration in response to ALAN
Ellie MichaelidesFitness costs associated with environmental light pollution
Joanna DurrantPhysiological consequences of constant light exposure and the role of melatonin in the black field cricket
Jessi HennekenThe use of web based chemical cues in mate assessment in an orb weaving spider
Christina EldridgeResponding to stress – the impact of dietary oxidants for fitness

Honours 

Connor WheelanVariation in song traits under different nocturnal light conditions
Michael BothaArtificial light at night and variation in reproductive investment in crickets