Professor in Animal Behaviour
School of Biological Sciences
My teaching expertise is in animal behaviour, evolutionary ecology, and conservation. All are areas of active research for which I am Chief Investigator on national and international projects. In my teaching, I use case studies from cutting-edge and current research so that undergraduate students get a feel for "science in action". The genuine enthusiasm that I feel for the process of scientific discovery fuels my teaching. My teaching approaches are underscored by the following basic beliefs: (1) learning outcomes need to be differentially based on the level of study, (2) assessment needs to reflect learning outcomes, (3) students need support to achieve learning outcomes, (4) teaching needs to be responsive to students while also being explicit about the expected learning outcomes, (5) topics should foster the learning of generic skills that are applicable to a broad range of situations, and (6) understanding processes is as important as understanding concepts and methods.
My research addresses the mechanism and function of prenatal learning. Specifically, I test how birds learn in the egg and why mothers teach embryos in eggs. When I am not in Australia studying communication in eggs, I study host-parasite coevolution on the Galapagos Islands. Darwin's finches are evolving to deal with the impacts of a lethal parasitic fly whose larvae consume the chicks alive. After 15 years, the newly introduced parasite appears unbeatable and most finch nestlings die. Many Darwin's finch species are declining but some are hybridising to survive. Our research focuses on the evolution of host-parasite behaviour and life history traits.
: Behavioural Ecology