We work at the interface of two major disciplines (ecology and conservation).

Our research seeks greater understanding of the ecological and evolutionary causes of patterns of extinction and abundance, to mitigate the effects of environmental change, restore ecosystems and manage wild populations.

Ecology

Ecologists study the diverse ways in which individuals interact with each other, with other species and with their physical environment. Every day, our researchers are unlocking secrets of the natural world, in tropical forests, in marine reserves, and in our biodiverse backyard.

Why not join us in the Ecology program in Biological Sciences?

Ecology covers seven research areas:

Behavioural ecology

In behavioural ecology we study the ecological and evolutionary basis for animal behaviour, how animals perceive their environments, find food and mates, and how plasticity in behaviour enables them to adapt to changing selective pressures from other organisms and from the environment.

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Community ecology

All organisms interact in complex beneficial and antagonistic ways. Until recently, researchers tended to ignore, or simplify, this complexity down to single-species responses or pairwise interactions. However, we now recognise that there are important properties of interaction networks that determine the functional consequences of biodiversity loss and its implications for food web energetics and the provision of ecosystem services

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Evolutionary ecology

Evolutionary ecology is the study of how form and function evolves in response to the environment and to other organisms. We investigate the natural and sexual selection pressures that generate species and population divergence in morphological traits from size, shape or colour, to the form and function of gametes. Our research examines the genetic basis of quantitative traits, and explores patterns of gene flow within and among population that underlie population divergence and speciation.

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Marine ecology

Our studies of marine systems focus on determining what drives the dynamics and structure of populations and ecosystems. We work with marine flora and fauna, including marine megafauna such as sharks, whales and sea turtles – a major feature of Western Australian waters.

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Population ecology

Population ecology deals with the demography and dynamics of populations, and seeks to understand the drivers of variation in population size and probability of species persistence in space and time. Population ecology is fundamental to the conservation management of threatened species, especially in the use of population viability analysis to predict population persistence in the face of threatening processes.

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Physiological ecology

Research in physiological ecology focuses on physiological, anatomical, and life history characteristics of organisms to achieve a mechanistic understanding of their relationships with other organisms and the environment. Such insights link with evolutionary history and can be applied, for example, in biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration.

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Ecosystem ecology

A wide variety of research activities in our school utilises biogeochemical, stable isotope, genetic and molecular methods to advance our understanding of ecosystem ecology, including the fundamental processes controlling water, carbon and nutrient stores and fluxes in plants, soils and sediments within marine and terrestrial ecosystems. We research major ecological challenges to maintaining ecosystem functioning, including advancing understanding of the ecological processes that drive biodiversity across various scales of time and space.

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Conservation

Many species and ecosystems are imperilled. Biologists possess unique and diverse skills for understanding causes of decline and for improve conservation outcomes.

Our conservation research covers four main areas:

Conservation genetics

Threats to the persistence of species through time are tightly linked to the genetic health of populations. We conduct field-based assessments of genetic diversity in species and populations under threat, as well as understanding the genetic basis to extinction risk in a laboratory setting.

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Climate change

Understanding the impact of climate change is a pressing concern for the management of many threatened species. We are using our knowledge of the behaviour and physiology of affected organisms to understand whether species can persist under current rates of climate change, or where species may live in the future.

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Marine conservation

Marine animals are increasingly facing the impacts of human manipulation of the marine environment, together with more general threats such as ocean warming and acidification. Understanding how marine animals respond to changed environments is vital if we are to predict changes in distributions, growth rates, population dynamics and ecosystem sustainability.

We work with threatened species, but also common species that are impacted by pressures such as tourism, recreational fishing and oil and gas installations.

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Ecosystem restoration and intervention ecology

We aim to understand the processes that lead to the degradation of ecosystems and the mechanisms by which they can be conserved and restored. Our research covers a broad range of areas in ecology and natural resource management, from conceptual ecology to environmental policy via ecosystem restoration and the management and captive breeding of rare and threatened flora and fauna.

Research collaborations involve agencies such as the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Fisheries, and the Perth Zoo.

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