Zoological Sciences

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


Dr Christa Beckmann

Dr Christa Beckmann
Research Expertise and Interests: Animal behaviour, Animal communication, Birds, Ecology, Life History Theory, Predator-prey relationships, Wildlife conservation

Prof James Cook

Prof James Cook
Hawkesbury Institute For The Environment 
Research Expertise and Interests: Insect/plant interactions; Insect pollination of crops and wild plants; Pollinator conservation; Symbiosis and coevolution; Insect mating systems; Leader of HIE Plants, animals and Interactions Research Theme

Dr Clarissa House

Dr Clarissa House
Research Expertise and Interests:

Prof John Hunt

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

Assoc Prof Ricky Spencer

Assoc Prof 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

Dr Christopher Turbill

Dr Kate Umbers

Dr Kate Umbers
Research Expertise and Interests: Mechanisms and functions of biological colouration, animal behaviour, genetics, thermoregulation and mating systems.

Contact Person

For more information about the research area, please contact John Hunt via e-mail J.Hunt@westernsydney.edu.au or Phone (02) 4570 1635