The UNE Natural History Museum is within the new Agriculture Education Building, a hub for many exciting crossdisciplinary collaborations combining research, teaching and community outreach and engagement. The facilities include high quality, multipurpose teaching laboratories, as well as sound-proofed and temperature controlled work rooms for researchers and students. This page highlights some of the current scientists engaging with our collections in their research.
We recognise animals by their outward appearance, but within the fur and scales are incredibly complex systems that enable animals to flourish in certain environments. Award-winning zoologist Fritz Geiser has worked at universities on four continents in his pursuit of a better understanding of how living creatures make an environment their own. He is currently investigating how some Australian animals shut down their need for energy after a natural event, like a bushfire, wipes out their food sources.
Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat come from plants that depend on insects like bees, flies, moths, butterflies and beetles to transfer their fertilising pollen from flower to flower. Ecologist Dr Romina Rader is working to understand these pollinators better, what they do, and their importance to the crops we rely on for food. Populations of these wild pollinators are declining as the world changes, and Dr Rader wants to know what we might do about it.
Understanding the ecology and life history of animals is one of the keys to understanding how to conserve them. Mammalogist A/Prof. Karl Vernes has focused on Australia’s native mammals (and has written a book on kangaroos), but his current research also extends to mammals in Bhutan and Mexico. He’s particularly interested in the ecology and conservation of threatened mammals, and in the growing use of camera traps to remotely observe animals in their natural environment.
Dinosaurs are not just thrillingly scary things from a primeval nightmare: they are also a way to understanding ourselves and our world. Palaentologist Dr Phil Bell has used fossil deposits in Australia and Canada to fill in some of the blank bits in the history of life. He is currently working on opalised fossils at Lightning Ridge, NSW, which he hopes may shed new light on how dinosaurs spread across the globe.
Jeremy Bruhl is excited by discovering and understanding biodiversity. He focuses on the scientific questions of “what are the plant species in the world” and “what are their evolutionary relationships”, which are fundamental to all natural history and biological sciences. Names, classifications and understanding how plants work are also important across society for gardeners, farmers, producers of natural plant products and pharmaceutical companies.
A changing world brings change to the places where birds live, and how many live there. Ornithologist Dr Steve Debus has spent a long, awarded career studying these shifts in bird range, and investigating how humans and birds can better co-exist. He has written several books on birds, focusing on birds of prey – the raptors that own the skies by day, and the owls that own them by night.