Dr Elen Shute

Casual Professional

College of Science and Engineering

place Professional Services
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

My research combines two of my long-standing loves – birds and fossils. I research Australian fossil birds from the recent past (Plio-Pleistocene and Holocene), to illuminate the evolutionary and biogeographical history of the Australian avifauna.

By looking back in time, I aim to draw lessons from the past that can be applied to the conservation of living species. Alongside palaeontology, I also work in conservation, and plan to explore ways of drawing these worlds closer together in the future.

My PhD research on fossil birds from the Thylacoleo Caves, Nullarbor Plain, revealed that the Australian avifauna has been more marked by extinctions in the recent past than has previously been realised. The significance of this for the conservation of modern birds is currently unclear – are living species the tough survivors, or are they more vulnerable to extinction than we thought? I hope to try and answer this question through my future research.

  • PhD (Vertebrate Palaeontology; Flinders University) (2019)
  • MPhil (Quaternary Science; University of Cambridge) (2004)
  • BA (Hons) (Environmental Studies; Flinders University) (2002)
  • BA (Biology, Environmental Studies, Public Policy; Flinders University) (2001)
Honours, awards and grants
  • Vice-Chancellor's Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence (2020)
  • Stuart Leslie Bird Research Award (BirdLife Australia; 2014)

  • Flinders University Travel Grant (2013)

  • Stuart Leslie Conference Award (BirdLife Australia; 2012)

  • Flinders University Research Scholarship/Faculty of Science and Engineering Scholarship (PhD stipend 2012–2014)

  • Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Overseas Student Bursary (2003)

  • Murray McCaskill Medal for best Geography/Environmental Studies Honours results (2002)
  • Chancellor's Letter of Commendation for outstanding Honours results (2002)
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Media expertise
  • Birds
  • Fossils
  • Palaeontology