Scientist profiles

Below are the profiles of some of the scientists who have taken part in Bush Blitz so far.


Dr Mark Harvey - Western Australia Museum

Research Area: Spiders & Centipedes

Dr Mark Harvey - Western Australia Museum

A lethal predator lurks in the dark...its huge claws, as long as its body, await their next catch...sure the body may be only 2-8mm, but don't let that fool you: the pseudoscorpion is the lion of its tiny world under rocks and leaf litter, and Dr Mark Harvey is on safari!

Mark is a world expert on arachnids. He has discovered and named hundreds of species of spiders, pseudoscorpions, water mites, schizomids and other arachnids, including the vampire-like Draculoides bramstokeri and the tiny, but fierce, mite, Tyrannochthonius rex.

After graduating with a doctorate on pseudoscorpions, Mark worked at CSIRO and Museum Victoria before moving to the Western Australian Museum where he is now Senior Curator and Head of the Department of Terrestrial Zoology. Mark has received the Edgeworth David Medal for “outstanding contributions to Australian Science by someone under the age of 35”. Mark has also published several highly acclaimed books, including Worms to Wasps: an Illustrated Guide to Australia's Terrestrial Invertebrates.

Mark enjoys spending time foraging in the bush searching for creepy-crawlies, particularly with his wife and two daughters. Despite his aging body, he also loves playing basketball on Wednesday evenings.

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Celia Symonds - University of New South Wales

Research Area: True bugs

Celia Symonds - University of New South Wales

Do you have a bug for bugs? Celia Symonds was bitten with this particular bug over 10 years ago and has worked since as a research assistant on bugs at the Australian Museum and the University of New South Wales. True bugs (Heteroptera) include sap-sucking insects such as stink bugs, the carnivorous assassin bugs, aquatic water striders and Celia’s own groups of interest, the Australian lace bugs (Tingidae) and plant bugs (Miridae).

Celia has a Science degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Technology, Sydney and Honours in Entomology from the University of Sydney. She has spent many hours on bug-collecting expeditions around Australia. Other than discovering new species, she is interested in how bugs and plants interact.

Celia has also worked in environmental planning and management for bush regeneration and stream restoration projects and in developing plans for the management and conservation of natural areas.

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Dr Catherine Young - Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Research Area: Moths

Don’t be fooled by the common brown creatures you might find hiding in your winter woollies; moths are as beautiful as their well-known relatives, butterflies – and there are many more of them waiting to be discovered. Dr Catherine Young is one scientist who, net in hand, enjoys spreading the word about these winged creatures.

Cathy, who is the Senior Curator at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, is particularly focused on Geometridae or Geometrid moths. The Geometridae are a well-represented and diverse group in Australia with nearly 1,300 described species in at least 275 genera and most likely a large number of species yet undescribed.

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Dr Geoff Monteith - Queensland Museum

Research Area: Beetles

Dr Catherine Young - Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

What’s in a name? Ask Dr Geoff Monteith: he has over 150 new species named after him, including land snails, beetles and spiders!

Geoff is one of a small, dedicated group of entomologists (scientists who study insects) who look after the collection of about 1 million insects held by the Queensland Museum. He has a particular penchant for bark bugs (Aradidae) and dung beetles (Scarabaeinae), the beetles that keep Australia beautiful by harvesting the dung left by native and introduced animals as food for their larvae.

Geoff is interested in communicating the importance of entomology to the wider community and has pioneered many activities at the Queensland Museum, including living insect displays and educational workshops for school teachers.

Geoff has visited all the major rainforest areas of Australia and has a particular interest in the Wet Tropics. He has also participated in expeditions overseas, including New Caledonia, Fiji, New Guinea, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

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Dr Christine Lambkin - Queensland Museum

Research Area: Flies

>Dr Christine Lambkin - Queensland Museum

Everyone knows the great Aussie salute over the barbeque to keep the flies away, but did you know the bush-fly is only one of an estimated 30,000 species of fly in Australia? Dr Christine Lambkin, a Curator of Entomology at the Queensland Museum, works on some of this staggering diversity; particularly beeflies (Bombyliidae) and stiletto flies (Therevidae). Christine is interested in learning how many species there are and how they evolved. She has also been working on a worldwide family tree for flies with a group of scientists from around the world.

Christine is responsible for the Queensland Museum's collections of Diptera (flies), Coleoptera (beetles), Orthoptera (grasshoppers), Hemiptera (bugs), Phasmatodea (stick insects), and a number of smaller insect orders.

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Dr Adnan Moussalli - Museum Victoria

Research Area: Land snails, cuttlefish and reptiles

Dr Adnan Moussalli - Museum Victoria

Up hill, down hole, on land and at sea - Dr Adnan Moussalli is a man on a mission to study the diversity of Australia’s unique nature. Adnan started his career working on snakes and lizards, including Australian rainforest lizards and how chameleons evolved to change colour. Adnan then went on to study Australian land snails at Museum Victoria.

Recently, Adnan was awarded the Ian Potter Fellowship for Biodiversity Research at Museum Victoria. The Fellowship was developed to provide an opportunity for an early career researcher to undertake a research project focusing on biodiversity by investigating an animal group represented in Museum Victoria’s natural history collections. Under this Fellowship, Adnan’s research interests focus on discovering new species of cuttlefish (Sepiidae) and understanding how they evolved and are related to one another.

In 2008, Adnan had the opportunity to participate in the first public dissection of a giant squid at Museum Victoria, a rarely encountered creature from the ocean depths.

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Dr Remko Leijs - South Australian Museum

Research Area: Stygofauna and native bees

Dr Remko Leijs - South Australian Museum

The secret, underground water and caverns of Australia’s dry, ancient land are teaming with life we have begun to really discover only in the past twenty years. Dr Remko Leijs is one of the scientists who has made the remarkable discoveries about the animals, called stygofauna, that live permanently in the groundwater. In the last couple of years Remko has discovered hundreds of new species.

Remko is passionately interested in using DNA to rapidly identify these new species and develop conservation planning for them. Since moving to Australia, he has participated widely in expeditions around the country, including in South Australia and Western Australia. Remko is also interested in Australia’s native bees, particularly carpenter bees (Xylocopa) and blue-banded bees (Amegilla).

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Dr Dave Britton - Australian Museum

Research Area: Moths & Butterflies

Dr Dave Britton - Australian Museum

Tall Dr Dave Britton began catching insects as a kid and was lucky enough to keep at it when he grew up (and up!). Dave now studies insects at the Australian Museum in Sydney. As well as managing the museum’s tremendous collection of terrestrial insects, Dave has worked on many aspects of moth and butterfly ecology and conservation, and on projects that involve the identification of flies, beetles, wasps and ants.

Dave is currently interested in a group known as lichen moths (Lithosiinae) and in investigating plant - insect relationships. He has been involved in butterfly conservation, the use of synthetic sex attractants to control insects, and the benefits for caterpillars of eating anything rather than being picky about what they eat.

Dave studied zoology and botany at Melbourne University and completed an Honours degree on the anatomy of mole cricket thoracic muscles. Dave’s Masters degree at La Trobe University researched the nutritional ecology of geometrid moths, which sparked his interest in Lepidoptera, and his doctoral degree at the University of New England looked at the application of synthetic sex pheromone for control of heliothis moths.

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Dr Paul Doughty - Western Australian Museum

Research Area: Frogs & Reptiles

Dr Paul Doughty - Western Australian Museum

A bright light pierces the Western Australian outback night, flicking over rocks and around the edge of waterholes: Dr Paul Doughty, with his high-powered headlamp, is out bush again looking for new frog and reptile species!

Paul, who is based in the Western Australia Museum’s Department of Terrestrial Vertebrates, is interested in understanding the relationships in Australia’s unique frogs and geckos. His interests also extend to dragons and skinks. He has been involved in the discovery of a number of new Australian frog and reptile species over the past few years, including the tiny toadlet (Uperoleia micra) and a new species of taipan from central Australia.

Paul co-ordinates the Alcoa Frog Watch programme and is a frog education advocate through public talks and radio and newspaper interviews as well as by revising books on Western Australian frogs and reptiles.

Paul began studying lizards in North America at Seattle and the University of Tennessee. In 1992 he moved to Sydney to work on skinks and geckos, completing his PhD in 1996. Postdoctoral research has taken him to Perth, Canberra, California and Brisbane, investigating a wide range of subjects related to tadpoles, lizards, fish, fruit flies and philosophy of science.

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Dr Terry Macfarlane - Western Australian Herbarium

Research Area: Flowering Plants

Dr Terry Macfarlane - Western Australian Herbarium

Did you know south-west Western Australia has one-third of Australia’s known flowering plant species and is one of the world’s top spots for plant diversity? Dr Terry Macfarlane is part of the team in Western Australia studying this unique plant life. Terry’s special interest is Wurmbea, a group of native bulbous plants in which a number of new species have been discovered in recent years.

Terry is a senior research scientist with the Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and is based at DEC’s research centre at Manjimup, south of Perth. His interests include rare plants and their conservation, modern scientific techniques for improving plant identification and communicating information on plants to the broader community. Terry was one of the developers of the highly regarded and well-known web database FloraBase.

Terry has a science degree from the University of Western Australia and a doctorate from the Australian National University. He has worked at universities in Australia and the United Kingdom, spent a year at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, and has worked for DEC since 1981. He enjoys fieldwork and has often worked with students and volunteers.

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Dr Frank Lemckert - Industry and Investment NSW

Research Area: Frogs and reptiles

Dr Frank-Lemckert - Industry and Investment NSW

It’s not easy being green, but one man is on a mission to help. Since graduating from the University of Sydney in 1985, Dr Frank Lemckert has been following frogs through the undergrowth of east coast forests and, more recently, into the red plains of western New South Wales. Since 1996, he has been kept on track by his able assistant, technical officer Traecey Brassil. Together, they’ve also surveyed the odd lizard and snake.

Frank is dedicated to sharing his knowledge and hundreds of field workers, consultants and government staff have attended his wildlife schools, through Industry and Investment NSW. As well as working with Industry and Investment, Frank has worked with Forests New South Wales and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. During his career, he has studied amphibian ecology and conservation, management and habitat restoration, and has published over 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers and articles.

Frank keeps his frog-finding reflexes active through playing club cricket and bush dancing.

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Dr Kevin Bonham - University of Tasmania/Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Research Area: Land snails

Dr Kevin Bonham - University of Tasmania/Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Dr Kevin Bonham is Tasmania's one and only living authority on native land snails. Since Kevin started researching them at around age twelve, the number of species known has roughly tripled. There are now 150+ species of land snail in Tasmania, with many of them still undescribed.

Kevin has discovered over 40 new species of snail, among them a bizarre carnivorous slug with a small shell on its back that lives on a plain in Tasmania's Hartz Mountains. At the same time, Kevin has discovered several millipedes and a centipede, rediscovered three snails that had not been seen alive for many decades, and an orchid presumed extinct and not seen since 1852. When not searching for new species to discover, Kevin analyses elections for various online newspapers and directs junior chess tournaments!

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Michael Elias - University of New South Wales

Research Area: True bugs

Michael Elias - University of New South Wales

Michael is a PhD student in the Cassis Laboratory at the University of New South Wales. His thesis is on a group of true bugs that occur in the south pacific. Michael is interested in the methods for working out species relatedness and historical biogeography, or how bugs in certain areas are related to bugs in other areas.

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Mitzy Pepper - The Australian National University

Research Area: Reptiles

Mitzy Pepper - The Australian National University

How have geckos that lived on rocks evolved differently to those that live on sand dunes? How has past climate change that turned the centre of Australia from a wet, green oasis to a dry, red desert, affected the number of species we have? Mitzy has travelled all over Australia looking for geckos in some of our most remote mountain ranges, including in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Western Queensland and Central Australia.

Without knowledge of past climate change in Australia, evolutionary biologists cannot make sense of the genetic patterns that exist in the plants and animals that we see today, and predict what might happen to them in the future. Mitzy has degrees in Geology and Geography, did Honours in Biology, and is now doing her PhD on the evolution of Australian gecko lizards. Luckily her undergraduate studies weren't wasted, because she now uses information on geological and landscape history to help piece together the evolutionary histories of geckos that live in the desert.

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Andrew Amey - Queensland Museum

Research Area: Frogs and reptiles

Andrew Amey - Queensland Museum

Andrew Amey has worked at the Queensland Museum for twelve years as Collection Manager for Herpetology (amphibians and reptiles). He studied for a Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology at the University of Western Australia. Looking to widen his experience, he then went to Brisbane to study for honours at the University of Queensland, looking at the physiology of water loss in frogs. After working as a research assistant at UQ on Lungfish physiology, he started a PhD on the reproductive biology of the Bearded Dragon. While completing this, he undertook short-term projects for the Queensland Museum’s herpetology section which lead to his current appointment. He has published 17 scientific papers, including the description of six new species of skink, and contributed to eight books.

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Matthew Baker - Tasmanian Herbarium/Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Research Area: Vascular Plants (Weeds)

Matthew Baker - Tasmanian Herbarium/Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Alien species are in our midst – and Matthew Baker is hunting them! Weeds are introduced plants that threaten Australian values in many ways. They are a burden on our agriculture, they impact on our recreational pursuits and very importantly they threaten Australia’s unique, natural biodiversity. Knowing what weeds Australia has helps us to prioritise their control and allows us to choose the best tools and techniques to manage them accordingly. Knowledge is the most important tool in fighting weeds.

Matthew Baker's career as a herbarium curator started with being employed in a graduate position at the Tasmanian Herbarium after finishing his Agricultural Science degree at the University of Tasmania. That was some eight years ago, and he's yet to leave! Michael is now in charge of caring for a large proportion of plant collection – namely the exotic flora of Tasmania, or weeds, in which he is particularly interested.

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Patrick Couper - Queensland Museum

Research Area: Reptiles

Patrick Couper - Queensland Museum

Patrick Couper has been with the Queensland Museum for 26 years and is a Curator in the Biodiversity Program. He is interested in Queensland’s diverse reptile fauna and has described 33 new species, including five new genera. He has worked extensively on leaf-tailed geckos and has an ongoing interest in the biology and conservation of marine turtles and the control of Red-eared Slider Turtles (an introduced pest) in South East Queensland. Patrick routinely answers snake and snake bite enquiries and is a consultant to the Poisons Information centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane. His main research focuses on the taxonomy of leaf-tail geckos from the rainforests of eastern Australia. He has been involved in the description of 33 new reptile species. Patrick has also worked in collaboration with staff from the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service to study Green and Loggerhead Turtles feeding in Moreton Bay (south-eastern Queensland) and Flatback Turtles nesting on Crab Island (north-eastern Queensland).

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Dr Barbara Baehr - Queensland Museum/University of Newcastle

Research Area: Spiders

Dr Barbara Baehr - Queensland Museum/University of Newcastle

Goblins are everywhere in Australia. They mingle with ants, squeeze under bark, lure with spring tails under leaves, dangle with flies in the trees and even occupy your cupboard. Very few of them have been described by scientists before, and almost all of them are in need for a name. Dr. Barbara Baehr is out there on a mission naming these new species.

Barbara is an expert in Australian spiders. She has discovered and named over 400 species of spiders such as the colourful ant spiders (Zodariidae), the long tailed bark and ground spiders (Hersiliidae, Prodidomidae) and the tiny well armoured goblin spiders (Oonopidae).

After receiving a PHD in spider ecology, Barbara worked with spiders at the Zoologische Staatssammlung Munich (Germany) for nearly two decades before moving to Australia. She joined the Queensland Museum staff as a Research Fellow in 2000 and is now a Conjoint Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle. She loves the excitement being in Australia’s unique nature, searching for goblins, ant spiders and other creepy-crawlies.

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Mark Cowan - Department of Environment and Conservation (WA)

Research Area: Vertebrates

Mark Cowan - Department of Environment and Conservation (WA)

Mark is a Senior Research Scientist in the Biogeography program of DEC’s Science. He spent 10 years with the WA Museum’s Department of Terrestrial Vertebrates before transferring to DEC as the Goldfields Regional Ecologist in 2000. In 2006 he was appointed the Departments Principal Ecologist for rangelands until taking up his current role in Science Division in 2009.  His research interests include arid zone ecology and conservation biology, particularly in relation to terrestrial vertebrates which has involved survey and monitoring programs throughout much of the State.  He has a strong interest in the application of spatial statistics and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to biodiversity conservation.

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Corey Whisson - Western Australian Museum

Research Area: Snails

When the weather turns wet Corey Whisson comes out of his shell to search for his particular areas of interest, the micro land snails of Western Australia.

Corey has been a Technical Officer in the Department of Aquatic Zoology at the Western Australian Museum for over 10 years. During that time he has participated in numerous marine and terrestrial biodiversity surveys along and across much of Western Australia - from deep sea trawls, shallow scuba dives and mountain range surveys. He completed an Honours degree on the marine invertebrates of the Peel-Harvey Estuary before commencing work at the Western Australian Museum - where he has developed expertise in the identification of molluscs - and more particularly freshwater and terrestrial molluscs (or more commonly known as land snails).

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Marina Cheng - University of NSW

Research Area: True bugs

Marina Cheng - University of NSW

Marina loves bugs but she isn’t beyond giving them a good “beating” in the name of science.

Marina is a PhD student at the University of New South Wales, working on the systematics and phylogenetics of Heteroptera (True bugs), particularly looking at plant bugs in the family Miridae. Some of the methods she uses to catch these insects are “beating”, where a beating sheet is held under leaves/branches and the plant is beaten. Bugs that fall into the beating sheet are collected with an aspirator (or "poota"). Other collection methods include “sweeping” plants, searching for bugs in soil samples and using a Berlese funnel.

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Rebecca Kittel - Adelaide University

Research Area: Dragonflies

Rebecca Kittel - Adelaide University

Rebecca has an eye for beauty and elegance making her perfect as a specilist in dragonflies, moths and butterflies.

Rebecca was awarded a degree in Entomology in 2006 from the University of Tübingen in Germany working on the dragonflies of South Brazil. After several years as a junior research fellow in the Nature Museum in Oldenburg - where she was responsible for a butterfly exhibition and is since interested in cultural entomology - she returned to science. Rebecca is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Adelaide under the supervision of Prof. Andy Austin revising the Cheloninae, a subfamily of parasitic braconid wasps.

The Cheloninae are specifically egg-larval endoparasitoids of Lepidoptera. Many of their moth hosts are agricultural pests so they are important as biological control agents. Rebecca's thesis will cover the broad placement of the Cheloninae within the family Braconidae and the insect order Hymenoptera, the taxonomic and phylogenetic status of the group, and its biology.

Whenever times allows, she continues to look for the beautiful Dragonflies and Damselflies.

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