Animal Science and Zoology


Overview of the Research Area

Research in Zoology at Western Sydney University is diverse. Located at the doorstep of the endangered Cumberland Plain woodland and the Hawkesbury Nepean region, with purpose built reptile and mammal facilities, Western Sydney University provides research opportunities for staff and students to study a range of animals both native and invasive and their interactions in terrestrial, estuarine and marine habitats. Research interests of academic staff include immunology of marsupials, sex determination in reptiles, reasons for the function and evolution of colour patterns in invertebrates, genetics and physiological responses of marine organisms to changing estuarine and marine habitats.

Using techniques which bridge the traditional and contemporary divide, researchers at the University seek to find solutions for local, national and global issues to ensure the sustainability of biodiversity on the planet. Contemporary approaches include citizen science and technologies such as mobile tracking and reporting Apps (eg. TurtleSAT,WomSAT, and CatSAT), which are vital tools for the management of introduced pest animals and conservation of our unique native wildlife. Population genetics are used to track aquatic journeys of hatchlings or larvae of freshwater and marine organisms, including assessing gene flow among sea urchins or the impact of dams on our freshwater turtles. State of the art physiological tools and facilities measure the resilience of molluscs and oysters to future predictions of climate change including ocean acidification and warming.

Partnerships and Industry Links include

  • Blacktown City Council
  • Department of Environment and Primary Industries
  • Emirates Hotels (Australia) Pty Ltd
  • Goulburn-Broken CMA
  • North Central CMA (Vic)
  • The Hawkesbury Institute of the Environment, Western Sydney University
  • The Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) (opens in a new window) Chowder Bay, Mosman 
  • Port Stephens Fisheries Research Institute, Department of Primary Industry
  • Marine National Facility (opens in a new window)
  • Office for Learning and Teaching
  • Office of Environment and Heritage
  • Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries
  • Warringah Council
  • Wollongong City Council
  • Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Corporation

Researchers

Researchers

Dr Sebastian Holmes
Lecturer. Research Expertise and Interests: Applied and Theoretical Ecology, Genetics, Physiology and Trophic Ecology Marine, Aquatic and Terrestrial Habitats, Molluscs in Terrestrial Habitats. Invertebrates including Molluscs, Echinoderms and Crustaceans.
(02) 9685 9904  s.holmes@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Julie Old
Research Expertise and Interests: Conservation of Australian Native Mammals, Mammalian and Marsupial Immunology, Manager of Small Native Mammal Research Facility and WomSAT. (opens in a new window)
(02) 45701283   j.old@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor John Hunt
Research Expertise and Interests: evolutionary genetics, behavioural ecology, chemical ecology, nutritional ecology, lifespan and ageing, and evolutionary biology.

Dr Ricky Spencer
Research Expertise and Interests: Conservation of Australian Wildlife, Vertebrate Pest Management, Turtle Sex Determination and Conservation including the Endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, Fox and Cat Management Strategies, Citizen Science, Manager of TurtleSAT and WildLab
Tel: (02) 4570 1962 Mob: 0400 020 546, ricky.spencer@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Kate Umbers 
Research Expertise and Interests: Mechanisms and functions of biological colouration, animal behaviour, genetics, thermoregulation and mating systems.
(02) 4570 1603, k.umbers@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Clarissa House

Postdoctoral Research Fellows

James Van Dyke
Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Research Expertise and Interests. Wildlab, Decline of turtles in the Murray River.
J.VanDyke@westernsydney.edu.au

Potential Supervisors 

To find a prospective HDR supervisor, please visit our Potential Supervisors page.

Current Research Candidates and Topics

Current Research Candidates and Topics

Jai Green-Barber
Thesis: Social and grouping behaviour of eastern grey kangaroos.
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old, Co-supervisor Dr Ricky Spencer

Lauren Barnett
Thesis: Effects of climate change on mussels Trichomya hirsuta and Mytilus galloprovincialis as bioengineers.
Supervised by: Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisors Dr Victoria Cole.

Casey Borthwick
Thesis: T-lymphocyte immunology of a dasyurid marsupial, red-tailed phascogale (Phascogale calura).
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old, Co-supervisor Dr Lauren Young

Daniel Burchmore
Thesis: A molecular and temporal characterisation of B-cell receptor subunits and antibody répertoiress in three species of dasyurid marsupial.
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old, Co-supervisor Dr Lauren Young

Megan Callander
Thesis: Translocation Ecology of Native Small Mammals in Urban Areas.
Co-Supervisor Associate Professor Peter Banks (University of Sydney).

Kerry Daley
Pearl Oysters in Peril? The Impact of Climate Change on Pearl Formation of Pinctada imbricata.
Supervised by: Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisor Dr Laura Parker (University of Sydney), Associate Professor Wayne O'Connor (Department of Primary Industry),

Jessica Dormer 
Thesis: Ecology and Management of Urban Cats.
Co-Supervisors Professor Christopher Dickman and Dr Graeme Brown (University of Sydney).

Megan Fabian 
Thesis: Perceptions of wildlife conservation.
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old,
Co-Supervisor: Dr Andy Boderick

Mitchell Gibbs 
Thesis: The impact of climate change on larval energetics of molluscs on the southeast coast of Australia.
Supervised by: Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisor Dr Laura Parker (University of Sydney), Associate Professor Wayne O'Connor (Department of Primary Industry).

Eden Hermsen 
Thesis : Impacts of sarcoptic mange on the ecology on the bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus).
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old, Co-supervisor: Dr Lauren Young

Katie Howard 
Thesis: Ecology and Management of Murray River Turtles.
Co-Supervisors Professor Mike Thompson (University of Sydney), Dr Bruce Chessman (University of New South Wales, Dr Leah Beasley (University of Western Australia).

Maile Gall 
Thesis: Patterns of Dispersal in the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific Ocean: Population Genetics and the Role of Environmental Constraints.
Supervised by: Dr Sebastian Holmes, Co-Supervisors Professor Maria Byrne (University of Sydney), Dr Pat Hutchings (Australian Museum), Dr Paul Rymer (Hawkesbury Institute of the Environment), Dr Maria Capa (Australian Museum).

Aaron Keenan
Thesis : Haematopoiesis in Marsupials.
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old

Fiona Loudon 
Thesis: Influence of Temperature on the Life History of Turtles,
Supervised by: Dr Ricky Spencer, Co-Supervisor Associate Professor Julie Old

Giselle Muschett
The evolution of fighting behaviour in Kosciuscola grasshoppers.
Supervised by: Dr Kate Umbers, So-supervisor Professor Marie Herberstein

Jessica McGlashan
Thesis: The Physiology and Ecology of Embryonic Developmental in Turtles. Supervisor Dr Ricky Spencer, Co-Supervisors Professor Mike Thompson (University of Sydney), Professor Fred Janzen (Iowa State University)

Oselyne Ong
Thesis: Characterising the complement system in immunity of dasyurid marsupials.
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old Co-supervisor: Dr Lauren Young

Candice Skelton 
Thesis: Recruiting and sustaining citizen engagement through the introduction of a new citizen science project, WomSAT (Wombat Survey and Analysis Tools)
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old, Co- supervisors, Drs Amelia Cook and Andy Broderick

Mel Tulk 
Thesis: Native murid nutrition and behaviour.
Supervised by: Associate Professor Julie Old
Co-supervisor Dr Hayley Stannard

Tara Prenzlau 
Thesis: Acclimation to ocean warming, is it possible in a temperate reef fish?
Supervised by: Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisors Dr Victoria Cole.

Elliot Scanes
Thesis: Tipping the Threshold: Does Environmental Background Influence Responses of Oysters to a Future Climate Changed Ocean?
Supervised by: Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisor Dr Laura Parker (University of Sydney), Associate Professor Wayne O'Connor (Department of Primary Industry) and Professor Emma Johnson (University of New South Wales)

Alyce Stiff
Thesis: Restoring Oyster Reefs: Novel Solutions for Improving Urbanised Estuaries.
Supervised by: Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisors Dr Victoria Cole, Jason Ruszczyk (Warringah Council)
John Wright. Thesis: The Impact of Climate Change on Predator – Prey Relationships between the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas), Sydney Rock Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) and the predatory whelk Morula marginalba. Supervisor Professor Pauline Ross, Co-Supervisor Dr Laura Parker (University of Sydney), Associate Professor Wayne O'Connor (Department of Primary Industry), Dr Mark Williams ( Western Sydney University), Dr Peter Cube (CSIRO).

Loren Hull
Thesis: Loss of Biodiversity due to the Removal of Farm Dams in Peri Urban Western Sydney.
Supervised by: Professor Shelley Burgin, Co-Supervisor Professor Pauline Ross.

Contact Person

For more information about the research area, please contact Professor Pauline Ross via e-mail j.old@westernsydney.edu.au or Phone (02) 45701306