Associate Professor Justin Welbergen


My research is concerned with the ways animals respond adaptively to changes in their social, ecological, and physical environment...

Dr Justin Welbergen

Dr Justin Welbergen is an Associate Professor at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University), and leader of the LAB OF ANIMAL ECOLOGY.

He has strong interests in evolutionary ecology, climate change biology, and conservation. His work and that of his students mainly focuses on birds and bats, but is not limited to these taxonomic groups.

Justin conducted his PhD in Zoology at the University of Cambridge with Professor Nick Davies FRS, and following various prestigious research fellowships in the UK and Australia, he joined the HIE in 2014.

He has published his work in SCIENCE, Nature Climate Change,Current Biology, and Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, among others; and he has recently contributed to several high-profile reviews in Annual Reviews in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, Ecology Letters, and Biological Reviews.


Current Teaching

Areas of Research

Evolutionary ecology:

  • Movement – proximate causes and ultimate consequences of animal movement across scales
  • Animal signals – the functional significance of animal communication
  • Social organisation – the ecological and evolutionary interactions within species: social aggregations, mating systems and family dynamics
  • Coevolution – the ecological and evolutionary interactions between species: brood parasite-host dynamics and adaptive portfolios

Conservation and climate change:

  • Extreme events – the ecological impacts of extreme climate and weather events on biodiversity
  • Conservation planning – identifying biodiversity and areas vulnerable to climate change to facilitate adaptation action
  • Endangered species biology – ecology and population dynamics of threatened species
  • Human-wildlife conflicts – designing evidence-based approaches to mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, particularly in urban environments

Recent Grants

  • Movement ecology of flying-foxes - integrating mechanisms and patterns across multiple spatiotemporal scales
    Chief Investigators: Justin A. Welbergen & Christopher Turbill
    Partner Investigator: David Westcott
    Named PDRA: Jessica Meade
    Funding Body: ARC DISCOVERY (DP170104272)
    Period: 2017-2019
  • Resolving human-flying fox conflict in the face of environmental change
    Chief Investigators: Brendan Wintle, Kathryn Williams & Justin A. Welbergen
    Partner Investigators: Dave Kendal, Rodney van der Ree & David Westcott
    ​Named PDRA: Pia Lentini
    ​Funding Body: ARC LINKAGE (LP160100439)
    Period: 2017-2019
  • European red fox ecology and species interactions along an urban landuse gradient in Australia
    Chief Investigator: Justin A. Welbergen
    Co-investigator: John Martin
    Partner: Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
    Funding Body: Sydney Coastal Councils Group
    Period: 2016-2020
  • Saving the Christmas Island flying-fox – a species in critical decline
    Co-investigators: Justin A. Welbergen, Karrie Rose, John Martin, David Phalen, Debashish Mazumder & David Westcott
    Partner/Funding Body: Taronga Conservation Society
    ​Period: 2017-2019
  • Global climate change and the impacts of temperature extremes on terrestrial biodiversity
    Chief Investigators: Justin A. Welbergen, Stephen Williams, Luke Shoo & Jeremy VanDerWal
    Funding Body: ARC DISCOVERY (DP110104186)
    Period: 2011-2014
  • Climate change and the impacts of extreme climatic events on Australia's Wet Tropics biodiversity
    Chief Investigator: Justin A. Welbergen
    Co-investigator: Andrew Krockenberger
    Partner/Funding Body: National Environment Research Program ('NERP')
    Period: 2011-2014
  • Climate change refugia for terrestrial biodiversity: The role of refugia in ecosystem resilience and maintenance of terrestrial biodiversity in the face of global climate change
    Co-investigators: April Reside, Jeremy VanDerWal, Ben Phillips, Justin A. Welbergen, Luke Shoo, Dan Rosauer, Barbara Anderson, Craig Moritz, Simon Ferrier, Thomas Harwood, Kristen Williams, Brendan Mackey, Sonia Hugh & Stephen Williams
    Partner/Funding Body: National Adaptation Research Plan ('NARP') / National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)
    Period: 2011-2013
  • Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds
    Co-investigators: Donald Franklin, Glenn Ehmke, Jeremy VanDerWal, Lauren Hodgson, Chris Pavey, April Reside, Justin Welbergen, Stuart Butchart, Genevieve Perkins & Stephen Williams
    Partner/Funding Body: National Adaptation Research Plan ('NARP') / National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)
    Period: 2011-2013

Awards and Recognition

  • President of the Australasian Bat Society Inc
  • Member of the Bat Health Focus Group (Wildlife Health Australia)
  • Member of WSU Animal Care and Ethics Committee
  • Member of HIE Teaching Committee
  • Advisor to the IUCN and Commonwealth & State governments on various conservation & wildlife management issues
  • Research Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge (2006-2010)
  • King's College Teaching Associate (2004-2010)
  • Murray-Edwards College Teaching Associate (2005-2010)
  • Newnham College Teaching Associate (2005-2010)
  • Runner up for the Thomas Henry Huxley Award (2006), Zoological Society of London

In the Media

Popular articles:

Since arriving at the HIE in 2014 Justin and his students have been interviewed on many occasions, including for Nine News; live radio (Radio New Zealand, ABC Radio National PM , ABC Sydney, Canberra, Southeast, BBC World Service); various news sites (The Huffington Post, BBC News, ABC Online, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, Reportage) popular science articles (AAAS, The Verge), and for a documentary by the Climate Reality Project (chaired by Al Gore), among others.

Selected Publications (see here for a complete list)

Journal articles:

Backhouse F, Dalziell AH, Magrath RD, Rice AN, Crisologo TL, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Differential geographic patterns in song components of male Albert’s lyrebirds', Ecology and Evolution, vol.11, no.6, pp 2701-2716

Cox-Witton K, Baker ML, Edson D, Peel AJ, Welbergen JA, Field H, (2021) 'Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from humans to bats – An Australian assessment', One Health, vol.13, Article no.100247

Dalziell AH, Maisey AC, Magrath RD, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Male lyrebirds create a complex acoustic illusion of a mobbing flock during courtship and copulation', Current Biology, vol.31, no.9, pp 1970-1976

Finch JTD, Power SA, Welbergen JA, Cook JM, (2021) 'Staying in touch: how highly specialised moth pollinators track host plant phenology in unpredictable climates', BMC Ecology and Evolution, vol.21, no.1, Article no.161

Pulscher LA, Gray R, McQuilty R, Rose K, Welbergen JA, Phalen DN, (2021) 'Evidence of chronic cadmium exposure identified in the critically endangered Christmas Island flying-fox (Pteropus natalis)', Science of the Total Environment, vol.766, Article no.144374

Ratnayake HU, Welbergen JA, Van Der Ree R, Kearney MR, (2021) 'Variation in fur properties may explain differences in heat-related mortality among Australian flying-foxes', Australian Journal of Zoology, Article no.ZO20040

Balland J, Herbert CA, Welbergen JA, Martin JM, (2020) 'Habitat selection in a peri-urban area by a large mammal indicates a low potential for human-wildlife conflict', Wildlife Research, vol.47, no.5, pp 361-371

Law B, Welbergen J, Cooper P, (2020) 'Bat research in Australasia-in memory of les Hall', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol.67, no.6, pp 241 - 242

Pulscher LA, Gray R, McQuilty R, Rose K, Welbergen J, Phalen DN, (2020) 'Investigation into the utility of flying foxes as bioindicators for environmental metal pollution reveals evidence of diminished lead but significant cadmium exposure', Chemosphere, vol.254, Article no.126839

Turbill C, Welbergen JA, (2020) 'Anticipating white-nose syndrome in the Southern Hemisphere: Widespread conditions favourable to Pseudogymnoascus destructans pose a serious risk to Australia's bat fauna', Austral Ecology, vol.45, no.1, pp 89-96

Welbergen JA, Meade J, Field HE, Edson D, McMichael L, Shoo LP, Praszczalek J, Smith C, Martin JM, (2020) 'Extreme mobility of the world's largest flying mammals creates key challenges for management and conservation', BMC Biology, vol.18, no.1, Article no.101

Austin VI, Welbergen JA, Maisey AC, Lindsay MG, Dalziell AH, (2019) 'Destruction of a conspecific nest by a female Superb Lyrebird: evidence for reproductive suppression in a bird with female-only parental care', Behaviour, vol.156, no.15, pp 1459-1469

Dorrestein A, Todd CM, Westcott DA, Martin JM, Welbergen JA, (2019) 'Impacts of an invasive ant species on roosting behavior of an island endemic flying-fox', Biotropica, vol.51, no.1, pp 75-83

Finch JTD, Power SA, Welbergen JA, Cook JM, (2019) 'A non-pollinating moth inflicts higher seed predation than two co-pollinators in an obligate pollination mutualism', Ecological Entomology, vol.44, no.6, pp 780-791

Meade J, van der Ree R, Stepanian PM, Westcott DA, Welbergen JA, (2019) 'Using weather radar to monitor the number, timing and directions of flying-foxes emerging from their roosts', Scientific Reports, vol.9, Article no.10222

Ratnayake HU, Kearney MR, Govekar P, Karoly D, Welbergen JA, (2019) 'Forecasting wildlife die-offs from extreme heat events', Animal Conservation, vol.22, no.4, pp 386-395

Romano AB, Hunt A, Welbergen JA, Turbill C, (2019) 'Nocturnal torpor by superb fairy-wrens: A key mechanism for reducing winter daily energy expenditure', Biology Letters, vol.15, no.6, Article no. 20190211

Edson D, Field H, McMichael L, Mayer D, Martin J, Welbergen J, McLaughlin A, Huth L, Kristoffersen J, Tsoukalas G, Kirkland P, (2018) 'Hematology, plasma biochemistry, and urinalysis of free-ranging grey-headed flying foxes (pteropus poliocephalus) in Australia', Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, vol.49, no.3, pp 591-598

Todd CM, Westcott DA, Rose K, Martin JM, Welbergen JA, (2018) 'Slow growth and delayed maturation in a Critically Endangered insular flying fox (Pteropus natalis)', Journal of Mammalogy, vol.99, no.6, pp 1510-1521

Meade J, VanDerWal J, Storlie C, Williams S, Gourret A, Krockenberger A, Welbergen JA, (2018) 'Substantial reduction in thermo-suitable microhabitat for a rainforest marsupial under climate change', Biology Letters, vol.14, no.12, Article no.20180189

Dalziell AH, Welbergen JA, Igic B, Magrath RD (2015) 'Avian vocal mimicry: a unified conceptual framework', Biological Reviews,  vol.90, no.2, pp 643-668.

Feeney WE, Welbergen JA, Langmore NE (2014) 'Advances in the study of coevolution between avian brood parasites and their hosts', Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, vol.45, pp 227-246

Warren R, VanDerWal J, Price J, Welbergen JA, Atkinson I, Ramirez-Villegas J, Osborn TJ, Jarvis A, Shoo LP, Williams SE, Lowe J (2013) 'Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss', Nature Climate Change, vol.3, pp 678-682

Davies* NB, Welbergen* JA (2009) 'Social transmission of a host defense against cuckoo parasitism', Science, vol.324, pp 1318-1320 (*authors contributed equally)

Welbergen JA, Davies NB (2009) 'Strategic variation in mobbing as a front line of defence against brood parasitism', Current Biology, vol.19, pp 235-240

Dalziell, AH, Welbergen, JA (2016) 'Mimicry for all modalities'. Ecology Letters, DOI:10.1111/ele.12602 ​

Welbergen JA, Klose SM, Markus N, Eby P (2008) 'Climate change and the effects of temperature extremes on Australian flying-foxes', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol.275, pp 419-425

Davies NB, Welbergen JA, (2008) 'Cuckoo–hawk mimicry? An experimental test', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol.275, pp 1817-1822

Welbergen JA, Quader S (2006) 'Mother guarding: how offspring may influence the extra-pair behaviour of their parents', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol.273, pp 2363-2368


Book chapters:

  • Franklin D, Welbergen JA (2013) 'The sensitivity of Australian birds to climate change', In Garnett S, et al. (ed.) 'Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds', Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)

Conference proceedings:

  • Welbergen JA, (2013) 'Impacts of extreme events on biodiversity – lessons from die-offs in flying-foxes', Proceedings of the International Symposium on the importance of Bats as Bioindicators, Granollers, Barcelona. ISBN: 978-84-87790-69-0
  • Eby P, Jones V, Welbergen JA (2001) 'Social structure and the dynamics of mixed sex groups in migratory Pteropus poliocephalus', Proceedings 12th International Bat Research Conference, Bangi, Malaysia

Technical reports:

  • Welbergen JA, Meade, J, Storlie, C, VanDerWal, J., Dalziell, AH, Hodgson, l, Larson, J, Krockenberger, A, Williams, SE (2015) Climate change and the impacts of extreme events on Australia's Wet Tropics biodiversity. Report to the National Environmental Research Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (71 pp.). ISBN: 978-1-925088-59-5
  • Carmody, J, Murphy, H, Hill, R, Catterall, C, Goosem, S, Dale, A, Westcott, D, Welbergen, J, Shoo, L, Stoeckl, N, Esparon, M (2015) The importance of protecting and conserving the Wet Tropics: A synthesis of NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub Tropical Rainforest Outputs 2011-2014. Report to the National Environmental Research Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (64pp.)
  • Welbergen, JA, Williams, SE, Goosem S (2011) Gap analysis of environmental research needs in the Wet Tropics. Cairns; Reef & Rainforest Research Centre Ltd, Cairns (130 pp.)