Doctor Kate Umbers

Doctor Kate Umbers

Senior Lecturer Zoology,
Life Sciences

Senior Lecturer Zoology,
Life Sciences


Kate grew up in western Sydney and completed her PhD at Macquarie University in 2011 under the supervision of Prof Marie E Herberstein. She then moved to Canberra for a year to take up a Postdoctoral position at The Australian National University with Prof J. Scott Keogh and Prof Hanna Kokko. In 2013, Kate was awarded a Vice Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Wollongong hosted by Dr Phillip G Byrne and spent much of this time concurrently working at the University of Western Australia with Prof Leigh Simmons. Since 2015 Kate has been a Lecturer in Zoology at UWS, Hawkesbury.

This information has been contributed by Doctor Umbers.


  • PhD Macquarie University
  • BSc(Hons) Macquarie University
  • BSc Macquarie University


  • Alpine Ecology
  • Behavioural Sciences
  • Biological Science
  • Conservation Biology
  • Entomology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Herpetology
  • Marine Biology
  • Population Genetics
  • Sensory Ecology

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • Life Sciences
  • Life Sciences


Phone: (02) 4570 1603
Location: M15.G.64

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Previous Teaching Areas

  • 300813 Wildlife Studies, 2015
  • 300979 Principles of Zoology, 2015


Chapters in Books

  • O'Hanlon, J., White, T. and Umbers, K. (2018), 'Visual communication', Insect Behavior: From Mechanisms to Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences, Oxford University Press 9780198797500.

Journal Articles

  • Hamalainen, L., Binns, G., Hart, N., Mappes, J., McDonald, P., O?Neill, L., Rowland, H., Umbers, K. and Herberstein, M. (2024), 'Predator selection on multicomponent warning signals in an aposematic moth', Behavioral Ecology, vol 35, no 1 .
  • Lownds, R., Turbill, C., White, T. and Umbers, K. (2023), 'The impact of elevated aestivation temperatures on the behaviour of bogong moths (Agrotis infusa)', Journal of Thermal Biology, vol 113 .
  • Riley, J., Haff, T., Ryeland, J., Drinkwater, E. and Umbers, K. (2023), 'The protective value of the colour and shape of the mountain katydid's antipredator defence', Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol 36, no 7 , pp 992 - 1002.
  • Slatyer, R., Umbers, K. and Arnold, P. (2022), 'Ecological responses to variation in seasonal snow cover', Conservation Biology, vol 36, no 1 .
  • Umbers, K., Slatyer, R., Tatarnic, N., Muschett, G., Wang, S. and Song, H. (2022), 'Phylogenetics of the skyhoppers (Kosciuscola) of the Australian Alps : evolutionary and conservation implications', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol 28 , pp 261 - 276.
  • Raynal, R., Schwanz, L., Riley, J. and Umbers, K. (2022), 'Genetic and environmental drivers of colour and pattern in the Australian jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus)', Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol 35, no 9 , pp 1229 - 1239.
  • Marsh, J., Bal, P., Fraser, H., Umbers, K., Latty, T., Greenville, A., Rumpff, L. and Woinarski, J. (2022), 'Accounting for the neglected : invertebrate species and the 2019-2020 Australian megafires', Global Ecology and Biogeography, vol 31, no 10 , pp 2120 - 2130.
  • Drinkwater, E., Allen, W., Endler, J., Hanlon, R., Holmes, G., Homziak, N., Kang, C., Leavell, B., Lehtonen, J., Loeffler-Henry, K., Ratcliffe, J., Rowe, C., Ruxton, G., Sherratt, T., Skelhorn, J., Skojec, C., Smart, H., White, T., Yack, J., Young, C. and Umbers, K. (2022), 'A synthesis of deimatic behaviour', Biological Reviews, vol 97, no 6 , pp 2237 - 2267.
  • Kent, B., Holman, C., Amoako, E., Antonietti, A., Azam, J., Ballhausen, H., Bediako, Y., Belasen, A., Carneiro, C., Chen, Y., Compeer, E., Connor, C., Cruwell, S., Debat, H., Dorris, E., Ebrahimi, H., Erlich, J., Fernandez-Chiappe, F., Fischer, F., Gazda, M., Glatz, T., Grabitz, P., Heise, V., Kent, D., Lo, H., McDowell, G., Mehta, D., Neumann, W., Neves, K., Patterson, M., Penfold, N., Piper, S., Puebla, I., Quashie, P., Quezada, C., Riley, J., Rohmann, J., Saladi, S., Schwessinger, B., Siegerink, B., Stehlik, P., Tzilivaki, A., Umbers, K., Varma, A., Walavalkar, K., de Winde, C., Zaza, C. and Weissgerber, T. (2022), 'Recommendations for empowering early career researchers to improve research culture and practice', PLoS Biology, vol 20, no 7 .
  • White, T., Latty, T. and Umbers, K. (2022), 'The exploitation of sexual signals by predators : a meta-analysis', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 289, no 1976 .
  • Saunders, M., Barton, P., Bickerstaff, J., Frost, L., Latty, T., Lessard, B., Lowe, E., Rodriguez, J., White, T. and Umbers, K. (2021), 'Limited understanding of bushfire impacts on Australian invertebrates', Insect Conservation and Diversity, vol 14, no 3 , pp 285 - 293.
  • Camac, J., Umbers, K., Morgan, J., Geange, S., Hanea, A., Slatyer, R., McDougall, K., Venn, S., Vesk, P., Hoffmann, A. and Nicotra, A. (2021), 'Predicting species and community responses to global change using structured expert judgement : an Australian mountain ecosystems case study', Global Change Biology, vol 27, no 18 , pp 4420 - 4434.
  • White, T. and Umbers, K. (2021), 'Meta-analytic evidence for quantitative honesty in aposematic signals', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 288, no 1949 .
  • Ryeland, J., House, C., Umbers, K. and Spencer, R. (2021), 'Optimal clutch size and male incubation investment in the male-only incubating emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol 75, no 12 .
  • Song, H., Muschett, G., Woller, D., Slatyer, R., Tatarnic, N. and Umbers, K. (2021), 'Taxonomic notes on the Australian skyhopper genus Kosciuscola Sjostedt (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Oxyinae)', Zootaxa, vol 5071, no 1 , pp 118 - 130.
  • De Bona, S., White, T. and Umbers, K. (2020), 'Fight or flight trade-offs and the defensive behaviour of the mountain katydid, Acripeza reticulata', Animal Behaviour, vol 159 , pp 81 - 87.
  • Vidal-Garcia, M., O?Hanlon, J., Svenson, G. and Umbers, K. (2020), 'The evolution of startle displays : a case study in praying mantises', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 287, no 1934 .
  • Umbers, K., Riley, J., Kelly, M., Taylor-Dalton, G., Lawrence, J. and Byrne, P. (2020), 'Educating the enemy : harnessing learned avoidance behavior in wild predators to increase survival of reintroduced southern corroboree frogs', Conservation Science and Practice, vol 2, no 1 .
  • Umbers, K., White, T., De Bona, S., Haff, T., Ryeland, J., Drinkwater, E. and Mappes, J. (2019), 'The protective value of a defensive display varies with the experience of wild predators', Scientific Reports, vol 9 .
  • Ahrens, C., Rymer, P., Stow, A., Bragg, J., Dillon, S., Umbers, K. and Dudaniec, R. (2018), 'The search for loci under selection : trends, biases and progress', Molecular Ecology, vol 27, no 6 , pp 1342 - 1356.
  • Fabricant, S., Burdfield-Steel, E., Umbers, K., Lowe, E. and Herberstein, M. (2018), 'Warning signal plasticity in hibiscus harlequin bugs', Evolutionary Ecology, vol 32, no 5 , pp 489 - 507.
  • Muschett, G., Umbers, K. and Herberstein, M. (2018), 'Male mate choice in the chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis)', Ethology, vol 124, no 10 , pp 751 - 759.
  • O?Hanlon, J., Rathnayake, D., Barry, K. and Umbers, K. (2018), 'Post-attack defensive displays in three praying mantis species', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol 72, no 11 .
  • Mahoney, P., Tatarnic, N., O?Hanlon, J. and Umbers, K. (2017), 'Mate guarding and male mate choice in the chameleon grasshopper Kosciuscola tristis (Orthoptera: Acrididae)', Journal of Ethology, vol 35, no 2 , pp 197 - 201.
  • Muschett, G., Umbers, K. and Herberstein, M. (2017), 'Within-season variability of fighting behaviour in an Australian alpine grasshopper', PLoS One, vol 12, no 4 .
  • Umbers, K., De Bona, S., White, T., Lehtonen, J., Mappes, J. and Endler, J. (2017), 'Deimatism : a neglected component of antipredator defence', Biology Letters, vol 13, no 4 .
  • Drinkwater, E., Ryeland, J., Haff, T. and Umbers, K. (2017), 'A novel observation of food dunking in the Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen', Australian Field Ornithology, vol 34 , pp 95 - 97.
  • Umbers, K. and Mappes, J. (2016), 'Towards a tractable working hypothesis for deimatic displays', Animal Behaviour, vol 113 , pp 5 - 7.
  • Umbers, K., McBride, C., Despres, F., Williamson, J. and Stow, A. (2016), 'Genetic structure of mourning cuttlefish (Sepia plangon Gray, 1849) in Sydney Harbour, Australia', Journal of Molluscan Studies, vol 82, no 1 , pp 187 - 192.
  • Umbers, K., Silla, A., Bailey, J., Shaw, A. and Byrne, P. (2016), 'Dietary carotenoids change the colour of Southern corroboree frogs', Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol 119, no 2 , pp 436 - 444.
  • Kahlke, T. and Umbers, K. (2016), 'Bioluminescence', Current Biology, vol 26, no 8 , pp 313 - 314.
  • Umbers, K., Byatt, L., Hill, N., Bartolini, R., Hose, G., Herberstein, M. and Power, M. (2015), 'Prevalence and molecular identification of nematode and dipteran parasites in an Australian alpine grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis)', PLoS One, vol 10, no 4 .
  • White, T., Dalrymple, R., Noble, D., O'Hanlon, J., Zurek, D. and Umbers, K. (2015), 'Reproducible research in the study of biological coloration', Animal Behaviour, vol 106 , pp 51 - 57.
  • Lopez-Sepulcre, A., De Bona, S., Valkonen, J., Umbers, K. and Mappes, J. (2015), 'Item Response Trees : a recommended method for analyzing categorical data in behavioral studies', Behavioral Ecology, vol 26, no 5 , pp 1268 - 1273.
  • Umbers, K., Symonds, M. and Kokko, H. (2015), 'The mothematics of female pheromone signaling : strategies for aging virgins', American Naturalist, vol 185, no 3 , pp 417 - 432.
  • Umbers, K. and Mappes, J. (2015), 'Postattack deimatic display in the mountain katydid, Acripeza reticulata', Animal Behaviour, vol 100 , pp 68 - 73.
  • Umbers, K., Lehtonen, J. and Mappes, J. (2015), 'Deimatic displays', Current Biology, vol 25, no 2 , pp 58 - 59.
  • Slatyer, R., Nash, M., Miller, A., Endo, Y., Umbers, K. and Hoffmann, A. (2014), 'Strong genetic structure corresponds to small-scale geographic breaks in the Australian alpine grasshopper Kosciuscola tristis', BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol 14, no 1 .
  • Umbers, K., Fabricant, S., Gawryszewski, F., Seago, A. and Herberstein, M. (2014), 'Reversible colour change in Arthropoda', Biological Reviews, vol 89, no 4 , pp 820 - 848.
  • Keogh, J., Umbers, K., Wilson, E., Stapley, J. and Whiting, M. (2013), 'Influence of alternate reproductive tactics and pre- and postcopulatory sexual selection on paternity and offspring performance in a lizard', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol 67, no 4 , pp 629 - 638.
  • Umbers, K., Tatarnic, N., Holwell, G. and Herberstein, M. (2013), 'Bright turquoise as an intraspecific signal in the chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis)', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol 67, no 3 , pp 439 - 447.
  • Umbers, K., Herberstein, M. and Madin, J. (2013), 'Colour in insect thermoregulation : empirical and theoretical tests in the colour-changing grasshopper, Kosciuscola tristis', Journal of Insect Physiology, vol 59, no 1 , pp 81 - 90.
  • Osborne, L., Umbers, K. and Keogh, J. (2013), 'The effects of perch height, time in residence and distance from opponent on aggressive display in male lizards', Acta Ethologica, vol 16, no 1 , pp 41 - 46.
  • Tatarnic, N., Umbers, K. and Song, H. (2013), 'Molecular phylogeny of the Kosciuscola grasshoppers endemic to the Australian alpine and montane regions', Invertebrate Systematics, vol 27, no 3 , pp 307 - 316.
  • Umbers, K. (2013), 'On the perception, production and function of blue colouration in animals', Journal of Zoology, vol 289, no 4 , pp 229 - 242.
  • Umbers, K., Dennison, S., Manahan, C., Blondin, L., Pages, C., Risterucci, A. and Chapuis, M. (2012), 'Microsatellite markers for the chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis) (Orthoptera: Acrididae), an Australian alpine specialist', International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol 13, no 9 , pp 12094 - 12099.
  • Osborne, L., Umbers, K., Backwell, P. and Keogh, J. (2012), 'Male tawny dragons use throat patterns to recognize rivals', Naturwissenschaften, vol 99, no 10 , pp 869 - 872.
  • Umbers, K., Tatarnic, N., Holwell, G. and Herberstein, M. (2012), 'Ferocious fighting between male grasshoppers', PLoS One, vol 7, no 11 .
  • Umbers, K., Osborne, L. and Keogh, J. (2012), 'The effects of residency and body size on contest initiation and outcome in the territorial dragon, Ctenophorus decresii', PLoS One, vol 7, no 10 .
  • Umbers, K., Jennions, M., Gardner, M. and Keogh, J. (2012), 'Twenty-five new polymorphic microsatellites for the eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki (Actinopterygii : Poeciliidae), an invasive species in Australia', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol 60, no 4 , pp 235 - 237.
  • Umbers, K., Holwell, G., Stow, A. and Herberstein, M. (2011), 'Molecular evidence for variation in polyandry among praying mantids (Mantodea: Ciulfina)', Journal of Zoology, vol 284, no 1 , pp 40 - 45.
  • Umbers, K. (2011), 'Turn the temperature to turquoise : cues for colour change in the male chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis) (Orthoptera: Acrididae)', Journal of Insect Physiology, vol 57, no 9 , pp 1198 - 1204.
  • Attard, C., Holwell, G., Schwartz, T., Umbers, K., Stow, A., Herberstein, M. and Beheregaray, L. (2009), 'Microsatellite markers for the praying mantid Ciulfina rentzi (Liturgusidae)', Molecular Ecology Resources, vol 9, no 6 , pp 1480 - 1482.

Kate's research focuses on a variety of topics, usually (but not always) related to understanding the mechanisms, functions and evolution of biological colouration. In addition to her fascination with animal colouraiton she loves investigating research questions on animal behaviour, genetics, thermoregulation and mating systems. Kate can often be found around Kosciuszko among the snow gums chasing colourful insects and frogs, tromping through mud on rainy nights looking for toxic frogs, or with her head in the ocean searching for nudibranchs. For more information on the Umbers Lab, including current opportunities and how to get involved in their research, please visit their website (

This information has been contributed by Doctor Umbers.

Current Projects

Title: Don't eat me! Tracking warning signals across a variable landscape [via MQ]
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2019-02-01 - 2024-12-31
ID: P00024995
Title: Outreach for threatened species and ecosystems
  • Eggpicnic (Donation)
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2020-06-05 - 2025-06-01
ID: P00026608
Title: Bringing out the big guns: antipredator defences in termites
  • Ecological Society of Australia
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2021-12-01 - 2024-06-30
ID: P00027688
  • Lund University
  • Xerces Society INC
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)
  • Invertebrates Australia Ltd
  • Zoos Victoria
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2023-07-01 - 2028-03-13
ID: P00028311

Previous Projects

Title: Humans and predators: computer games and the evolution of animal defences
  • Arludo Pty Ltd
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2017-04-11 - 2018-04-10
ID: P00024018
Title: Startle displays: a new route to resolving the aposematism paradox
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2019-11-04 - 2023-06-30
ID: P00023940
Title: Prey that frighten their predators: deimatic display in a brightly coloured Australian alpine katydid
  • Hermon Slade Foundation
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2015-11-30 - 2019-06-30
ID: P00023136
Title: The regreening of the Blue Mountains: Using citizen science to study post-fire recovery in the Blue Mountains
  • Department of Planning and Environment
Western Researchers: Belinda Medlyn, Paul Rymer, Sally Power, Brendan Choat, Rachael Nolan, Amy-Marie Gilpin, Uffe Nielsen, Matthias Boer, Kate Umbers and Ben Moore
Years: 2021-05-01 - 2022-06-30
ID: P00027295
Title: Does coloration predict toxicity in Australian poison frogs? [via Scope Global]
  • Department of Education and Training (non ACRG)
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2016-01-09 - 2016-05-14
ID: P00023092
Title: Friends in high places: inspiring public support for the conservation of Australia's alpine animals
  • Eggpicnic (Aus. For Profit)
Western Researchers: Kate Umbers
Years: 2020-07-01 - 2021-06-30
ID: P00026689

Western Sydney University

Locked Bag 1797
Penrith NSW 2751

ABN 53 014 069 881
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