I am a Macquarie University Research Fellow interested in the chemical, behavioural, conservation and invasion ecology of terrestrial mammals.
I investigate the role of odour in mammalian behaviour, with a particular focus on trophic interactions (predation and herbivory).
I am always interested in the effects of evolutionary novelty in invaded ecosystems – how do novel species disturb established food webs and interactions? How do novel environments change animals that move into them?
My current areas of focus are:
The “smelly microbiome”, or – the role of microbes in mammalian olfactory communication
We must rethink much of what we know about olfactory communication in light of recent evidence that microbes may produce many of the odourous compounds that animals use to communicate. This project investigates interactions among hosts and microbes, and their influence over the information contained in olfactory cues and signals. The smelly microbiome has enormous implications for our understanding of olfactory communication and signal-receiver theory.
The ecology of Sydney’s urban foxes
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) first moved into London city in the 1930s, and has since become more common in cities than outside of them. This apparent case of urban adaptation is interesting in itself, but becomes particularly important in Australia, where foxes are invasive alien species that decimate native fauna. Urban foxes in Australia are larger and live in higher densities than their counterparts in more rural or bush areas. This project investigates how urban living has affected fox ecology, behaviour, dispersal and movement. We aim to inform management practice in collaboration with our partner organisation, Greater Sydney Local Land Services.
The role of odour and evolutionary novelty in mammalian herbivore foraging decisions
Many mammalian herbivores use their sense of smell to locate preferred vegetation types, and guide their foraging decisions. In this project we are investigating swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) use of plant volatiles to make foraging decisions. We are also testing the effects of prior experience with evolutionarily novel species (exotic weeds) on swamp wallaby foraging decisions. The results of this study will inform basic theory about food choices made by large-bodied herbivores, and also best management practices for overabundant native herbivores in invaded vegetation communities.