Animal ecology and evolution looks at the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences of changes within species. It can be broadly defined as the relationship and interactions between animals and their environment.

At UNSW, our researchers observe changes in animal behaviour, morphology, diet, reproduction, natural selection and life-history. View our current projects and connect with an honours project supervisor to learn how you can get involved.

Can animals reduce the stress of group-living?

This project will investigate, for the first time, whether taking a brief daily ‘time out’ away from other individuals can substantially increase the longevity of group-housed animals. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Evolution of male genitalia in the plant bug family Miridae

In this project, the student will analyse the evolution of Miridae male genitalia using molecular methods and observation of fine structures using micro-CT imaging. Supervisor: Prof. Gerry Cassis

Does a shy fish have a slow life strategy?

You’ll answer the question: ‘Does a shy fish have a slow life strategy? By looking at behavioural and metabolic consequences of SERT knockouts. Supervisor: Prof. Shinichi Nakagawa

Finding optimistic fish

The project uses cognitive bias tests to quantify animal optimism and investigate the interaction between animal personality and optimism. Supervisor: Prof. Shinichi Nakagawa

Food, fighting & sex

This research will reveal, for the first time, the extent to which environmental variation in nutrient abundance can shape mating systems. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

How important is natural sunlight?

This project will involve innovative experiments to test for the effects of basking in natural versus artificial light on the development of laboratory insects. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Insect personality: does larval behaviour predict adult behaviour?

This project will investigate, for the first time, whether individual variation in jumping behaviour of larvae predicts behavioural variation at the adult stage. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

The costs of exaggerated secondary sexual traits

This project involves innovative experiments to test for costs of expressing exaggerated secondary sexual traits in neriid flies. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Is there an optimal camera-trap array?

Use high-resolution movement data from African large carnivores to optimise occupancy and density estimates. Supervisor: Dr Neil Jordan

Social play and its relationship with aggression in Eastern Grey Kangaroos

Investigate the social behaviour of an iconic Australian native and how it impacts survival and reproduction. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

Ant cognition and learning

Test the factors that impact how ants think and solve ecological relevant problems. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

Ant-aphid mutualisms: causes and consequences

Reveal the extraordinary co-evolutionary dynamics of two iconic invertebrate groups that have key ecosystem functions. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

Community assembly and the maintenance of biodiversity

Real-world experimental test of the impact of colonisation history, environmental disturbance and competition on the formation of ecological communities. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

How do animals recognise the “right” species?

This project is ready made for a student interested in a computer-based project and the fundamentals of animal communication. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

Is being arboreal or nocturnal an adaption for avoiding predation?

Test a fundamental assumption about predation driving prey to live amongst the trees or under cover of night using innovative field methods. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

The evolution of colourful ornamentation in land-dwelling fishes

Uncover how the transition to land by fish (yes, fish!) has opened the door to the evolution of elaborate ornamentation for reproduction. Supervisor: A/Prof. Terry Ord

Hearing in the dark

Investigate how variation in the inner ear structures of bats relates to their ability to hear very low sounds. Supervisor: Dr Laura Wilson, Professor Suzanne Hand

Large-scale ecosystem regeneration at Fowlers Gap

Be part of the regeneration of Fowlers Gap Arid Zone station. Supervisor: Dr Keith Leggett or others

Climate change & learning

Do predictable vs. unpredictable changes in temperature alter individual behaviour and learning? Supervisor: Dr Erin Macartney, Dr Szymon Drobniak, Prof Shinichi Nakagawa

Sex and learning: Does sex make you smarter?

Does sex enhance the ability to learn? Are smarter individuals better at mating? Supervisor: Dr Erin Macartney, Dr Szymon Drobniak, Prof Shinichi Nakagawa

Does phenotypic plasticity age?

Does phenotypic plasticity depend on individual age? Supervisor: Dr Szymon Drobniak, Dr Erin Macartney, Prof Shinichi Nakagawa

Which females are worth fighting for?

This project will investigate how males assess female quality and explore the costs and benefits of fighting for females Supervisors: Prof. Michael Kasumovic and Anastasia Shavrova

Can too much sex have dire consequences?

This project will investigate how varying male morphs and polyandry affects female longevity Supervisor: Prof. Michael Kasumovic and Anastasia Shavrova

Evolution and phylogenetics of Horn Bugs hiding in plain sight

This project will explore the evolution of one tribe of the Australian Horn Bugs – the Deroploini – which are best known for their extravagant processes on the head and thorax that mimic the thorns of their host plants. Supervisor: Prof. Gerry Cassis

Sexual conflict in house mice

Sexual conflict in house mice, understand how the conflicting interests between females and males impact their lives. Supervisor: Professor Robert Brooks

Social media use and self-perceived status

This study will consider the effect of short bursts of intense social media activity or withdrawal on users’ self-perceptions of status as well as their affect/mood. Supervisor: Professor Robert Brooks

Gendering chatbots

This project studies how willing people are to project gender onto computerised entities, particularly chatbots. Supervisor: Professor Robert Brooks

Clonal reproduction and variation

This project will explore the extent and nature of variation among clones of the springtail Folsomia candida. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Chemical communication in insects

This project will explore the role of pheromones in male-male and female-male interactions in M. batesii. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Aggression and juvenile development

This project will investigate whether M. batesii nymphs engage in aggressive interactions. Supervisor: Prof. Russell Bonduriansky

Familial relationships and burrow use of platypuses

This project aims to studying burrow locations of juveniles and adults in a wild population to determine proximity to relatives/conspecifics and if burrow sharing occurs. Supervisor: Dr Gilad Bino & Dr Jessica Thomas