Dr Alistair Drake
Honorary Senior Lecturer

Dr Alistair Drake

BA (Physics, Oxford University)

DPhil (Physics, Oxford University)

GradCertHEd (Education, UNSW)

UNSW Canberra
School of Science

I research insect migration, especially by using special-purpose radars to observe migration in progress. I have a particular interest in radar entomology, and have co-authored a monograph on this topic. I have designed and built a series of special-purpose entomological radar units, one of which is currently in operation at Hay, NSW. I have also developed software for analyzing the radar signals, and studies the radar-reflecting properties of insects.

My biological investigations have focused especially on (1) the relation of migration to weather and to the structure of the lower atmosphere, (2) the orientation behaviour of insects undertaking migratory flight at heights of several hundred metres, (3) the migrations of insect pests (including the use of radar in pest monitoring and forecasting), and (4) the migration phenomenon as an example of integrative biology (i.e. a phenomenon extending over all levels of biological organisation, from genes to evolution). These interests are now encompassed by the novel discipline of aeroecology (which includes birds and bats as well as insects).

I have also published on more general aspects of applied ecology (wildlife management for conservation, and insect pest forecasting).

I am retired but continue my research in an honorary capacity. Although I no longer take students, any prospective student specifically interested in the above research topics is welcome to contact me for advice. Before retirement, my teaching was mainly in the fields of meteorology and general physics. I currently contribute to a short (1 week intensive) professional course on non-ionizing (i.e.radio) radiation safety

School of Science, The University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, PO Box 7916, Canberra BC ACT 2610, AUSTRALIA


Development of entomological radars and analysis methods for entomological radar data. Studies of insect migration, especially its biometeorology, and the insect behaviours leading to favourable migration outcomes. Principles of wildlife management (especially for conservation) and of insect-pest management.

The Radar Entomology Web Site (radarentomology.com.au).

My Teaching

I contribute to the Radio Frequency Radiation Safety Officers course. This is a short (1-week) course held once or twice each year to train defence and civilian personnel in how to measure radiation from radio transmitters (including radars) and ensure safety standards are met.