Honours Projects 2017

BSc Honours, Projects 2017

Contact Dr Susan Wilson (swilso24@une.edu.au)



Contact Chris Guppy (cguppy@une.edu.au) or supervisor

Supervisors: Dr. Chris Guppy and Dr Richard Flavel

Phone: 02 6773 3567; email: cguppy@une.edu.au, rflavel3@une.edu.au

Students with in an interest in soil fertility, crop nutrition, plant nutrition, horticulture, or farming systems resource use efficiency or nutrient cycling can see me for ideas on topics.  A few are listed below

Current research topics include:

  • Mitigation of aluminium toxicity using silicon
  • Effect of C4 grass species on the availability of soil P to pasture legumes
  • Rhizosphere chemistry affecting the availability of insoluble soil P and K to cereal roots
  • Deep placement of P fertilizer in pasture systems
  • Root proliferation responses of legumes to patches of P in soil
  • Are root proliferation responses of cereal roots to ammonium application linked to increased P dissolution?
  • Does prolonged flooding result in increased K and P dissolution in Vertosol soils?
  • Peanut root system responses to banded P in sandy soils

Supervisor: Dr Oliver Knox Phone: 02 6773 2946; email: oknox@une.edu.au

I have a broad interest in cropping systems and their biology, which currently has a focus on cotton based production systems.

Supervisor: Dr. Guy Roth Phone: 02 6792 5340 ; email: guyroth@roth.net.au

Guy is based out at Narrabri where he runs his own private research and development business focussing on crop agronomy and environmental management for farms.  He is a former Rural Science student.  It is likely a scholarship could be provided for the projects. An Armidale co supervisor would be arranged.

Supervisor: CSIRO-NSW DPI Supervisor: Professor Paul Greenwood (CSIRO Livestock Systems and NSW DPI Livestock Systems)

UNE Supervisor: Dr Fran Crowley, Lecturer in Livestock Production

A project looking at soil compaction and crop yield responses would be possible. It would look at fields picked with the new John Deere Round Bale Cotton Pickers. The field work would be in April/May somewhere where cotton is grown.  The main purpose would be interacting with a couple of growers, measuring the soil and plant response.

Measurement of Pasture Intake by Grazing Cattle using the “eGrazor”

We are developing wireless sensor network methods that measure pasture intake by individual grazing cattle. This Honours project will use our pasture intake and other grazing and laboratory facilities and benchmark systems to generate pasture intake data to enable refinement of our sensor algorithms that estimate pasture intake by cattle. The project will provide the student with experience in the use of “eGrazor” sensor devices that classify behaviours and estimate pasture intake, in the calibration and use of devices for indirect assessment of pasture biomass, and in the use of chemical marker methods to estimate pasture intake, as part of a designed experiment. The Honours student will work with our highly experienced Feed Efficiency team based at the CSIRO FD McMaster Pastoral Research Laboratory, Chiswick in Armidale.

Supervisor: Prof Brian Sindel

Phone: 02 6773 3747; email: bsindel@une.edu.au

Students with in an interest in weed ecology and management can see me for ideas on topics.  A few on fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis) are available and I am also happy to co-supervise students on Scholarships.

Supervisor: A/Prof Paul Kristiansen

Phone: 02 6773 2962; email: paul.kristiansen@une.edu.au

Contact me if you are interested in exploring horticulture (e.g. vegetable production, tree crop physiology), biofertilisers from ‘wastes’, new crop development (e.g. medicinal plants), and complementary farming systems (e.g. organics, inter-cropping). I am also working on projects associated with invasive weeds, soil fertility management, supply chain development and farmer behaviour. In addition to the project listed below, I’m happy to develop projects in areas of interest to students.

Weed management in vegetable production systems – Paul Kristiansen, Brian Sindel

We have a range of potential projects related to weed management in vegetable production systems. Topics include:

  • weed seed bank assessment and management
  • impact of strategic tillage, seasonal rotations, cover crops, cultural practices (planting, fertilising, irrigating) and hand weeding on weed infestations in vegetable production
  • economic evaluation of specific weed control methods as well as IWM generally.

Animal Science

Contact Sam Clark (sam.clark@une.edu.au) or supervisor

There are a variety of Honours projects available in Animal Science. This is just a sample of the projects that have been put forward by potential supervisors. If you have other interests please contact sam.clark@une.edu.au or the potential supervisor to discuss your ideas.

Animal welfare and behaviour

Supervisors: Dr Dana Campbell and Dr Caroline Lee (CSIRO)

Email: Caroline.Lee@csiro.au

Early interventions and range use of free-range laying hens

Free-range egg productions systems are increasing within Australia in response to consumer demands for more ‘natural housing’. But scientific research is needed to determine how these systems affect hen behaviour and welfare. Modifying the environment that chicks are raised in is a possible method of influencing their adaptation to the free-range system as adults. This Honours Project will use video recordings and RFID technology to look at variation in daily range visitation frequency, duration on the range and behaviours exhibited on the range by adult laying hens during peak egg production. Comparisons will be made between hens that were exposed to a variable environment during development (novel objects, sounds, light patterns) versus hens that were reared in standard housing conditions.

Other projects in animal welfare and behaviour may be available, please contact the supervisors listed above or Dr Amanda Doughty adought3@une.edu.au

Meat Science

Supervisor: Dr Geert Geesink.

Email: geert.geesink@une.edu.au

No specific projects in mind but happy to discuss possibilities associated with aspects of Meat Science.

Animal Nutrition

A wide variety of animal nutrition research occurs at UNE in both livestock and poultry. To discuss possible honours projects, please contact us.

Ruminant Nutrition: Prof Roger Hegarty roger.hegarty@une.edu.au or Dr Fran Cowley fcowley@une.edu.au

Poultry Nutrition: Prof Bob Swick rswick@une.edu.au

Project: Assessment of key issues and constraints in the Australian feedlot industry

Supervisor: Fran Cowley. Email: fcowley@une.edu.au

Animal Health

No specific projects in mind but happy to discuss possibilities associated with aspects of animal health.

Prof Steve Walkden-Brown swalkden@une.edu.au

Animal Breeding and Genetics

The team in animal breeding and genetics offers a wide range of options for students wanting to undertake an honours project. We currently work in key areas relating to animal breeding these include:

The design and evaluation of livestock breeding programs

The development and analysis of breeding objectives and selection indexes

The analysis of data to produce breeding values

The use of genomic technologies in animal breeding

Testing the validity of breeding values

If you have any questions or would just like to chat about completing an honours project in Animal breeding and genetics, please contact Dr Sam Clark sam.clark@une.edu.au , Dr Cedric Gondro cgondro2@une.edu.au or Professor Julius van der Werf jvanderw@une.edu.au.

AGBU projects

The Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) is a joint venture of NSW Department of Primary Industries and University of New England. AGBU is a team of approximately 20 researchers and professional staff who develop genetic evaluation systems for livestock industries. Researchers at AGBU work closely with industry and students can tackle a range of research topics relevant for commercial breeding programs. All projects would use data from current research or industry breeding programs from sheep, beef cattle pigs and trees.

PARG – Precision Agriculture

Supervisor: David Lamb (or others)

1)      Detection of calving and pre-calving behaviour in cows using GPS tracking technologies and real-time Taggle tracking Eartags (Collaborative Project with NSW DPI);

2)      Investigation of water and fertiliser use efficiency in crops using soil EM38 sensors and plant vigour sensors (Collaborative project with CRC Spatial Information);

3)      Examining the potential for Site Specific Management in Hop production (based in Victoria or Tasmania in collaboration with Hop Products Australia – potential scholarship available from the Bath-Hass Group);

4)      Precision fertiliser management in grazing systems (Collaborative project with Sundown Pastoral); and

5)      Calibration of active optical sensors for pasture biomass assessment, both quantity and quality


Contact Professor Jeremy Bruhl (jbruhl@une.edu.au) or supervisor

I am happy to consider supervising students interested in undertaking Honours in Botany/Plant Systematics/Plant Taxonomy. I am also happy to consider co-supervise projects that have a botanical component where my skills complement the main supervisor.

With my hat on as director of the N.C.W. Beadle Herbarium I am keen to facilitate all students, regardless of who the supervisors are, in their use of the Herbarium (NE), the Herbarium database (NEdb), and our kit for collecting and preparing plant specimen vouchers.

I have strong expertise in Asteraceae (daisies), Cyperaceae (sedges), Phyllanthaceae and suitable experience in a wide range of other plant families.

I can suggest projects in Acacia, Asteraceae, Cyperaceae, Eucalyptus, Comesperma, Phyllanthaceae, and others. Most of the projects involve one or more of the following:

Resolving taxonomic questions about species: what are the species (often resulting in the student being able to co-author the description of new species).

Resolving phylogenetic relationships: what are the evolutionary relationships of a group of species

Understanding character homology: what is the variation in particular characters across a study group. This could be combined with production of an interactive identification dataset.

Depending on the topic and approaches I may suggest involving a co-supervisor from another institution (e.g. Australian National Herbarium or the National Herbarium of NSW) or from within UNE (e.g. Dr Rose Andrew, Prof. Caroline Gross) as best fits the needs of the project.

Dr Nigel Warwick: nwarwick@une.edu.au. Plant stress physiology, plant function and ecological anatomy

I have a number of projects with a focus on plant stress physiology, plant function and ecological anatomy. These include but are not limited to:

  • Developmental physiology and genetics of durum wheat looking at effects of dwarfing genes on yield and floret fertility and reserve carbohydrate distribution
  • Effect of canopy temperature depression on yield in durum wheats
  • Role of inhibitors in glumes of progenitors of the A and B genomes of durum wheat and their effect on pre-harvest sprouting
  • Wood and bark anatomy and water transport and carbon dynamics in Acacia spp. and Callitris glaucophylla
  • Phyllode and leaf functional anatomy of Acacia spp. and Callitris glaucophylla in relation to climate


Contact Caroline Gross (cgross@une.edu.au) or supervisor

Supervisor: Dr. Rudy Lerosey-Aubril

Ecology and evolution of palaeoscolecid worms: new data from the Cambrian of Canada, France, and USA
Keywords: Palaeoscolecida, Cambrian explosion, palaeobiology, palaeoecology, evolution

Diversity and ecology of sponges and cnidarians in the late Cambrian Weeks Formation Lagerstätte (Utah, USA)
Keywords: Poriferans, cnidarians, Cambrian explosion, palaeoecology, palaeoenvironment, evolution

Supervisor: Romina Rader (rrader@une.edu.au)

Pollinator biodiversity in orchards

Worldwide, insect pollinators have been shown to be significant contributors to biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services within production systems.  Crop plants provide people with food, fibre and commodities but they also provide foraging and nesting resources for a diverse range of wild pollinators.  In turn, wild pollinators support farm productivity by providing pollination services to produce fruits and seeds, especially when honeybee numbers are insufficient or unfavourable weather conditions prevent honeybees from flying. While several studies abroad have demonstrated that wild pollinators are integral to optimal fruit set and stable crop pollination services, few studies have been conducted in Australia within horticultural land uses (ie avocado, mango, macadamia, blueberry etc). We will investigate the role of wild pollinator diversity in enhancing the stability and productivity of crops grown in New South Wales.

Skills: The student will gain knowledge in field experiment design and implementation, statistical analysis and measuring fruit quality characteristics of relevance to global markets.

Environmental Science

Contact Susan Wilson (swilso24@une.edu.au) or supervisor

Pollution Science

Supervisor: Dr Susan Wilson. swilso24@une.edu.au; Dr Matt Tighe. mtighe2@une.edu.au

Many Australian Soils are affected by contamination resulting in lost productivity or causing real hazards to human health and the environment. In the New England area we have over 3000 contaminated derelict mine sites. Many agricultural areas are impacted by pesticides. Coal seam gas exploration, a hot topic regionally, is associated with its own contamination problems. Understanding the fate and behaviour of contaminants in the soil environment is important for recognising adverse effects and also for deciding on appropriate management and remediation. Current research projects may be helped by external source funding. If a student has an interest within this area we can discuss specific project ideas. Alternatively, a number of possible project ideas are described below.

  • Biogeochemical cycling of Arsenic and Antimony
  • Rehabilitation strategies at mine sites: amendments to manage leaching, phytoremediation, plant based management strategies, risks associated with arsenic and antimony in soils.
  • Municipal waste composts and other amendments applied to soils – risks of metals and organic pollutants.
  • Pollutants in organic amendments used for soil fertility and rehabilitation – risks to crops and ecosystems
  • Fate and persistence of herbicides on the sub-antarctic Macquarie Island
  • Archaeological contamination and the timeline of bioavailability
  • Contaminant monitoring and analysis – using speciation analysis to assess risks
  • Bioavailability and risk – PAHs and other organic xenobiotics

Project 1. This project has $5000 external funding associated with it.

Establishing site specific contaminant thresholds for post operations and rehabilitation at Hillgrove gold/antimony Mine

Soil Carbon

Associate Professor Brian Wilson. Email: brian.wilson@uen.edu.au

“Soil carbon quantities and dynamics under changing climate and land-use”

There are potentially a wide range of projects available all linked to national soil carbon programs which can be discussed with Brian directly.

Soil Biology

Dr Oliver Knox. Email: oknox@une.edu.au

These projects may come with CRDC support

Axonchium, the soil nematode we know nothing about!

The student will get to know soil nematode recovery techniques and subsequent culturing methods. We have identified an Axonchium species, which is probably a new species, but this genera is characterised by a lack of visible mouth parts. There is debate in the literature as to what it eats elsewhere in the world, but with this nematode becoming more prevalent in cotton and grains cropping areas it would be useful to address this. So if you are interested in working with a potentially new species and addressing what this genera feeds on then this is for you.

Does how we recover soils alter the microbial community?

We routinely core in order to take soil samples, but often we have to use surfactants to aid in the core recovery. These surfactants apparently have limited impact on the Carbon we find in the recovered soils, but what possible impacts do they have on the soil microbiology? We are seeking a student who would address this through a series of soil exposure and respiration measurements using a number of techniques.

Oliver Knox and Katherine Polain – can provide some CRDC support from UNE1601

Plant Stress Biology

Associate Professor Priti Krishna

Phone: 02 6773 3075; Email: pkrishn2@une.edu.au

Brassinosteroids (BRs) are a new group of plant hormones that control important agronomic traits such as flowering time, plant architecture, seed yield and stress tolerance. Thus, BR-related genes offer unique possibilities for substantially increasing crop yields and resistance to environmental stresses, which are top agricultural priorities worldwide under growing concerns from climate change. BR is a hot topic of research, offering students an opportunity to make pioneering discoveries of BR-related genes, pathways and gene networks that converge on producing broad-spectrum stress tolerance and increase in yield potential.

We have identified a subset of new BR-responsive genes that can potentially benefit crop productivity. The phenotypes in response to salinity stress of the knockout mutant bp1, wild type Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings (WT), and overexpressing transgenic line (35S::BP1)of one such gene BP1 are shown in the Figure below. We are looking to functionally characterise some of these genes using a combination of genomic/molecular biology approaches.

Students can choose aspects of gene/protein characterization they would like to be involved in; the ultimate goal is to understand the mode of action of these genes and to assess if they can be valuable to crop improvement programs.

Recent publications

Sahni S, Prasad BP, Liu Q, Grbic V, Sharpe A, Singh SP, Krishna P. 2016. Overexpression of the brassinosteroid biosynthetic gene DWF4 in Brassica napus simultaneously increases seed yield and stress tolerance. Scientific Reports, 6:28298

Divi UK, Rahman T, Krishna P. 2016. Gene expression and functional analyses in brassinosteroid-mediated stress tolerance. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 14:419-432.

Soil Health and Land Management

Lisa Lobry de Bruyn llobryde@une.edu.au

In order for farmers to maintain or improve soil health through their management they need to access and use good quality, local soil information, including identification of soil types and their soil health status (here using available soil testing as a proxy).  Tracking of soil health status, at the local level, largely falls to farmers. Despite recurrent language, in policy and other documents, suggesting farmers’ monitoring of soil health is necessary to guide decision-making and land management practices, the reality of their practice, is relatively unknown. It appears that we have assumed what motivates farmers to soil test but have not asked them. This project would work with landholders undertaking soil testing workshops on soil testing and interpretation of their own soil test results, and examine what they do with the soil data they collect and how it influences their land management decisions.

Skills: analysing surveys, undertaking a qualitative analysis and follow-up interviews. Data is currently being collected, Human Research Ethics application already undertaken, but opportunities to collect more data in February and April/May of 2017.

Macquarie Island weeds projects

Supervisors: Paul Kristiansen, Brian Sindel

Phone: 02 6773 2962; Email: paul.kristiansen@une.edu.au

Phone: 02 6773 3747; Email: bsindel@une.edu.au

Poa annua and Stellaria media invasive weeds of sub-Antarctic Islands (e.g. Macquarie Island), impacting on native biodiversity. Given high conservation values, and threats from disturbance & climate change, the development of targeted control measures for invasive species is vital. These weeds and Cerastium fontanum may be included in research projects.

Germination ecology of Poa annua or Stellaria media in sub-Antarctic conditions

Little is known about the seed ecology and soil seed bank of P. annua and Stellaria media. This project will generate results that may be used to develop effective, low-impact control options for P. annua in the sub-Antarctic, and has broader implications for Antarctic conservation.

Control of Poa annua and/or Stellaria media in cold climates

The efficacy of herbicides against Poa annua and/or Stellaria media in cold conditions has received limited study in Australia. As a prolific weed in many parts of the world, a better understanding of the efficacy of different herbicides will assist in developing effective, low-impact management strategies to manage the weed. Other sub-Antarctic weeds and native plants may also be studied.


Contact Luke Milan (lmilan@une.edu.au) or supervisor

Geology Staff:

  • Dr Luke Milan (tectonics, field mapping, geochronology, structural and metamorphic geology)
  • Dr Nancy Vickery: (Field mapping, Mineralisation, Geophysics and GIS mapping, Sedimentology, Petrography)
  • Dr Ed Saunders: (Field Mapping, Geochemistry, Igneous Petrology)


  1. Nature of the boundary between the Girrakool and Sandon Beds.

    Keywords: sedimentology; geophysics; geochemistry; mapping
    Abstract: Local project involving mapping the contact between two regionally significant sedimentary sequences to understand tectonic processes and nature of the sedimentary rocks
    Contact: Nancy Vickery

  2. Kempsey beds, South West Rocks

    Keywords: Field Mapping; sedimentology; geochemistry; detrital zircon geochronology,
    Abstract: South West rocks area.  A field and lab project investigating the timing and provenance of this unit.
    Contact: Luke Milan. Ed Saunders

  3. Wandsworth Volcanics

    Keywords: mapping; geochemistry, petrography, airborne geophysics, stratigraphy, volcanology
    Abstract: Several projects exist in areas of significant outcrop of the Wandsworth Volcanic Group.  Recent geophysical surveys by the NSWGS have highlighted variation and stratigraphy within this poorly understood package of rocks.  The projects would involve geological mapping and geophysical interpretation, petrography and geochemistry.
    Contact: Luke Milan

  4. Palaeogene to Neogene sequence in the Inverell to Glen Innes district

    Keywords: Palaeogene, Neogene, mapping, alluvial deposits, basalt geochemistry, sapphire exploration
    Abstract: The Palaeogene sedimentary sequence that immediately underlies the Palaeogene to Neogene volcanics in this district have not been mapped.  There is a close spatial relationship between the earlier volcanic eruptives from the Maybole Volcano and sapphires.  Further to this, geophysics, in particular radiometrics, highlight significant variation in the sequence that may help in the discovery of alluvial sapphire deposits. Geochemistry on early eruptive products including the Red Breccia host for sapphires.
    Contact: Nancy Vickery

  5. Amphibolites of the Wongwibinda Metamorphic Complex

    Keywords: Whole rock geochemistry, geological mapping, petrology, thermobarometry
    Abstract: See Luke for detailed abstract.  Update on earlier research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.  Recent mapping has indicated more exposure of these rocks.
    Contact: Luke Milan

  6. Pegmatites in the Wongwibinda Metamorphic Complex

    Keywords: Geochronology, petrology, geochemistry, geological mapping
    Abstract: See Luke for detailed abstract.  Based on recent geological mapping.
    Contact: Luke Milan

  7. Mantle and Lower Crustal Xenoliths

    Keywords: granulites, peridotites, pyroxenites, in basalts petrography, insitu mineral geochemistry, other analytical work
    Abstract: Investigate xenoliths to determine features of the upper mantle in the NEO, investigate the influence of subduction, noting occurrence of minerals such as apatite, amphibole.  
    Contact: Ed Saunders, Luke Milan

  8. Kensington Formation

    Keywords: Field mapping, stratigraphy, sedimentology, provenance studies, detrital geochronology.
    Abstract: Mapping and stratigraphy of this Early Permian Sequence. Provenance studies and
    Contact: Luke Milan, Bob Brown, Nancy Vickery,

  9. Gorge country mapping and structural geology projects

    Keywords: structural geology, geochemistry, sedimentology, possible northern edge of the Halls Peak mineralisation.
    Abstract: Structural geology and mapping, focussing on basement rocks. Mapping along ridgelines and gorges.
    Contact: Ed Saunders, Luke Milan, Paul Ashley

  10. Nowendoc area: GSB and basement rocks

    Keywords: geological mapping, igneous petrology, metamorphism, structural geology
    Abstract: Geological mapping of region around Nowendoc area focussing on the GSB and associated rocks plus adjacent basement. Possibility of several mapping projects.
    Contact: Luke Milan, Ed Saunders, Paul Ashley

  11. Baryulgil region

    Keywords: Field Mapping; tectonics; ophiolites; geochemistry, geophysics
    Abstract: Geological mapping in an area where the geology is poorly understood.  Recent geophysics over the area indicates complexity and need for further investigation
    Contact: Luke Milan, Ed Saunders

  12. Great Serpentinite Belt

    Keywords: Serpentinite, magnetics, mapping, structural geology
    Abstract: Little detailed mapping of the Great Serpentinite Belt has been undertaken since geophysical surveys were flown by the GSNSW in the late 1990s-2000s. Potential exists for several mapping projects to understand the nature of the serpentinite and precursor rocks
    Contact: Luke Milan, Ed Saunders, Paul Ashley

  13. Carboniferous arc evolution

    Keywords: Carboniferous felsic volcanics, zircon ages, zircon provenance, petrology, whole rock geochemistry, geological mapping
    Abstract: Tracking the evolution of the Carboniferous arc over time Field Sampling, laboratory work. Collaborative project with Macquarie University.
    Contact: Luke Milan, Ed Saunders.

  14. Correlation of the Namoi Formation

    Keywords: volcanics, mapping
    Abstract: Carboniferous volcanics Namoi Formation, comparison of the west and east Namoi. Cobbadah fault: is it a fault or not? Geophysics and mapping.
    Contact: Nancy Vickery, Bob Brown

  15. Mostyn Vale and Keepit boundary

    Keywords: volcanics, mapping
    Abstract: Geological mapping project in the Tamworth Belt focussing on sedimentology, tectonics.
    Contact: Nancy Vickery, Bob Brown

  16. Nature, geometry and distribution of the olisoliths in the Mostyn Vale Formation, Tamworth Belt

    Keywords: Geological mapping; sedimentology, geochemistry
    Abstract: The Mostyn Vale Formation contains a large number of andesitic olistoliths that are thought to have calved from the island arc during the Devonian. The nature, geometry and distribution of these blocks have yet to be mapped in detail. By using the size and extent of these blocks, we can reconstruct what the arc looked at this time and can position the margin of the arc at this time by measuring the size of the blocks (largest most likely nearest to the paleoarc shoreline).
    Contact: Nancy Vickery, Bob Brown

  17. Laytons range conglomerate

    Keywords: Field Mapping, sedimentology, mapping, geochemistry
    Abstract: Jurassic molasse unit. Rebuilding the NEO from the basal deposits of the Clarence Morton Basin. Clast population, provenance, gold and chromite placer deposits.
    Contact: Luke Milan, Bob Brown, Paul Ashley

  18. Towallum basalts

    Keywords: Field mapping, tectonics, basalt geochemistry
    Abstract: Tectonically how does this basalt fit in with the Clarence Morton basin? Geochemistry of the basalt. 226 Ma.  
    Contact: Ed Saunders

  19. Nymbodia district mapping

    Keywords: Field Mapping, Nymboida coal measures, sedimentology, petrology
    Abstract: Southern end of the Clarence Moreton Basin. Possible drill core inspection at Londonderry.  Project involves geological mapping on the margins of the basin to understand sedimentology and tectonics
    Contact: Luke Milan and Bob Brown


  20. Gilgai granite (MSC. OR Hons.)

    Keywords: geological mapping, geophysical interpretation, petrography and granite related mineralisation.
    Abstract: The Gilgai granite is a highly mineralised, late Permian granitoid located near Inverell.  It has a close spatial and temporal relationship to the Tingha Monzogranite, a member of the Uralla Supersuite.  Geophysical surveys over these granitoids indicate a complex relationship between the two and highlight the heterogeneous magnetic character of the Gilgai Granite.  Detailed geological mapping is required to understand the nature of this relationship plus bring understanding to the mineralisation in the area. This project potentially offers support by the NSWGS. Project could be offered at Masters level or as two hons projects
    Contact: Nancy Vickery

  21. Webbs Silver mine/Collisons

    Keywords: granite related polymetallic mineralisation, mapping, hydrothermal alteration, petrology
    Abstract: Investigate mineralisation at Collisons, possible access to drill core through Silver Mines, alteration and mineralisation, geological mapping.
    Contact: Nancy Vickery, Paul Ashley

  22. Hillgrove Clarke’s Gully prospect

    Keywords: antimony, petrology, structure, alteration, granite geochemistry, environmental geochemistry (baseline data gathering of data pre-mining)
    Abstract: Investigation of the Sb-rich Clarke’s Gully project currently operated by Braken Resources.  Possibility of two projects, one environmental and one related to mineralisation.
    Contact: Nancy Vickery, Paul Ashley, Luke Milan

  23. Hillgrove-related environmental geochemistry projects

    Contact: Paul Ashley

  24. Cobar basin geology/mineralisation

    Keywords: geological mapping, petrology, sedimentology, mineralisation, structural geology, volcanics
    Abstract: a number of projects are available that include a diverse range of basement geology investigations, includes sedimentology, volcanic terranes. Central parts of the Cobar Basin and Mt Boppy region, investigate nature of mineralisation, VHMS or replacement-style mineralisation
    Contact: Bob Brown, Nancy Vickery


Contact Stuart Cairns (scairns@une.edu.au) or supervisor

Insect Ecology Honours/Masters projects

Supervisor: nigel.andrew@une.edu.au


Project 1. Future Keepers: Assessing effects of thermal stress and differential resource limitation on ecosystem function provider’s project

Work with an international team of researchers on a high profile research project incorporating citizen science, biodiversity and physiological research across Australia.

See http://insectecology.une.edu.au/research.html

Key Reference: "The Tragedy of the Unexamined Cat." Unpublished manuscript – ask from Nigel.

Key Reference: Tulloch, A. I. T., Possingham, H. P., Joseph, L. N., Szabo, J., & Martin, T. G. (2013). Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs. Biological Conservation, 165, 128–138. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2013.05.025

Project 2. Response of Australian Grassland Invertebrates to a Changing Climate

Invertebrates were collected from grasslands across a range of climates in NSW and Victoria to assess the influence of climate on species composition. Hymenoptera, Hemiptera and Coleoptera have been extracted from Themeda triandra samples ready to be identified further and potentially have their morphology assessed. Other orders may also be extracted from the samples for further analysis. There are also samples from other grass species that can also be sampled.  **All labwork**

Key References:Gibb, H., Stoklosa, J., Warton, D.I., Brown, A.D., Andrew, N.R. & Cunningham, S.A. 2015 Does morphology predict trophic position and habitat use of ant species and assemblages? Oecologia 177, 519-531. and Yates, M.L., Andrew, N.R., Binns, M. & Gibb, H. 2014 Morphological traits: predictable responses to macrohabitats across a 300 km scale. PeerJ 2, e271.

Project 3. Ants along environmental gradients: the influence of climate and plant phylogeny

Invertebrates were collected along an environmental gradient from the coast into semi-arid NSW from  a range of Acacia host plant encompassing their phylogeny. This project will also be labwork based identifying species as well as morphological traits of ants..

Key References: Yates ML, Andrew NR, Binns M, Gibb H (2014) Morphological traits: predictable responses to macrohabitats across a 300 km scale. PeerJ 2:e271. doi: 10.7717/peerj.271

Bairstow KA, Clarke KL, McGeoch MA, Andrew NR (2010) Leaf miner and plant galler species richness on Acacia: relative importance of plant traits and climate. Oecologia 163:437-448. doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1606-4

Project 4. What is the impact of temperature and nutrition on ant physiology? This will be a field and lab based assessment of common ant species around New England assessing impact of higher temperatures and nutrient addition to ants in the field, and experimental manipulation of ants in the lab in small lab colonies.

Key references: Diamond, S.E., Penick, C.A., Pelini, S.L., Ellison, A.M., Gotelli, N.J., Sanders, N.J. & Dunn, R.R. (2013) Using physiology to predict the responses of ants to climatic warming. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 53, 965-974. doi: 10.1093/icb/ict085; Stuble, K.L., Pelini, S.L., Diamond, S.E., Fowler, D.A., Dunn, R.R. & Sanders, N.J. (2013) Foraging by forest ants under experimental climatic warming: A test at two sites. Ecology and Evolution, 3, 482-491. Diamond, S.E., Nichols, L.M., McCoy, N., Hirsch, C., Pelini, S.L., Sanders, N.J., Ellison, A.M., Gotelli, N.J. & Dunn, R.R. (2012) A physiological trait-based approach to predicting the responses of species to experimental climate warming. Ecology,93, 2305-2312. Andrew, N.R., Hart, R.A., Jung, M.-P., Hemmings, Z. & Terblanche, J.S. (2013) Can temperate insects take the heat? A case study of the physiological and behavioural responses in a common ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus (Formicidae), with potential climate change. Journal of Insect Physiology, 59, 870-880. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2013.06.003

There are other projects happening with ants/ dung beetles and aphids among others. Please get in touch with Nigel for more details.

Email: nigel.andrew@une.edu.au

Also go to http://insectecology.une.edu.au/ for more details on the lab

Behavioural Ecology Lab

Supervisor: Dr Paul McDonald

Potential projects fall into the below areas according to species, but happy to discuss specific project ideas students may have: paul.mcdonald@une.edu.au

Noisy Miners

Do Noisy Miners eavesdrop on other species? Many species give alarm calls that indicate danger, but do miners bother listening to others? More broadly, this will provide information on how animals see (or hear) to understand their surroundings, and the types of information that is salient to prey species.

Why are miner chicks so loud? Despite begging being a dangerous thing to do as it may attract predators to nests, miner chicks are incredibly loud. Why, and how, does colony structure and connectivity influence begging to overcome these risks?

Do miners avoid responding to a hopeless alarm caller? Animals have access to lots of information in their environment, but who to listen to? This project would examine whether birds pay more attention to a reliable signaller, and conversely ignore those with poor accuracy. This has implications for communication broadly and understanding sociality.

How does body condition influence social hierarchy? Understanding who does what in a social system is an important step in determining the factors that shape cooperative behaviour. One understudied facet is condition, ie how much fat reserves an individual has. This project will challenge birds of different condition in a series of experiments to better understand the trade-offs between risk, condition, and helping behaviour.

Some noisy miner projects are linked to Environmental Trust funding, collaborations with University of Queensland and Australian Museum, working on Local Land Services and Armidale-Dumaresq Council land.


Crested pigeon behaviour and habits: Perhaps one of our most common birds, yet we know very little about this species. This project will use camera traps and supplemental food to examine pigeon abundance and behaviour to better understand these birds and their movements.


What would a wood duck do? Again, one of our most commonly seen ducks, yet we know little about these birds. Building on the results of a 6 month long GPS tracking study, this project looks to find out more about this species in the local area around Armidale, from its movements to breeding behaviour.

Pigeon and duck projects are both partially funded by a DPI grant.

All projects require a mix of lab/computer work and fieldwork. Start date (T1/2/3) is negotiable. Some are local in Armidale, whilst others will require travel within NSW. If interested, contact me for more information.

Behavioural and Physiological Ecology

Supervisor: Fritz Geiser, Zoology.

Research Interests: Ecological physiology, comparative physiology and biochemistry, hibernation and torpor, thermal biology and energetics, chronobiology, membrane structure and function, lipids, foraging biology mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology.

Potential projects:

  • Torpor in marsupials, monotremes, rodents or bats
  • Thermal energetics of birds and mammals
  • Foraging and thermal biology of free-ranging mammals and birds
  • Reproductive biology and development in relation to thermal energetics in mammals and birds
  • Does obesity in mice affect heat loss?

References/Recent publications

Geiser F, Westman W, McAllan BM, Brigham RM (2006) Development of thermoregulation and torpor in a marsupial: energetic and evolutionary implications. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 176: 107-116

Willis CKR, Brigham RM, Geiser F (2006) Deep, prolonged torpor by pregnant, free-ranging bats. Naturwissenschaften 93: 80-83

Geiser F, Körtner G, Maddocks TA, Brigham MR (2006) Torpor in Australian birds. Proceedings, 23rd International Ornithological Congress, Acta Zoologica Sinica. 52S: 405-408

Körtner G, Pavey CR, Geiser F (2007) Spatial ecology of the mulgara (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in arid Australia: impact of fire history. Journal of Zoology 273: 350-357

Geiser F (2007) Yearlong hibernation in a marsupial mammal. Naturwissenschaften 94: 941-944

Geiser F, Pavey CR (2007) Basking and torpor in a rock-dwelling desert marsupial: survival strategies in a resource-poor environment. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 177: 885-892

Maddocks TA, Geiser F (2007) Heterothermy in an Australian passerine the dusky woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus). Journal of Ornithology 148: 571-577

Geiser F (2008) Ontogeny and phylogeny of endothermy and torpor in mammals and birds. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A 150: 176-180

Körtner G, Geiser F (2009) The key to winter survival: daily torpor in a small arid zone marsupial. Naturwissenschaften 96: 525-530

Stawski C, Turbill C, Geiser F (2009) Hibernation by a free-ranging subtropical bat (Nyctophilus bifax). Journal of Comparative Physiology B 179: 433-441

Ruf T, Geiser F (2015) Daily torpor and hibernation in birds and mammals. Biological Reviews 90: 891-926

Nowack J, Rojas AD, Körtner G, Geiser F (2015) Snoozing through the storm: torpor use during a natural disaster. Scientific Reports 5: 11243, DOI: 10.1038/srep11243

Nowack J, Cooper CE, Geiser F (2016) Cool echidnas survive the fire. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283: 20160382

Geiser F (2013) Hibernation. Current Biology 23: R188-R193.

Supervisor: Stuart Cairns

Distance sampling projects

Estimating kangaroo abundance from line transect surveys of faecal pellets

template references: Marques, F. F. C. et al. (2001). Journal of Applied Ecology 38, 349-363

Using distance sampling methods to estimating the density distribution of arboreal marsupial abundances

template reference: de Tores, P. J. & Elscot, S. (2010). Wildlife Research 37, 512-523

Adaptive line transect sampling and the density distribution of bull ant (Myrmecia spp.) nests

Template reference: Pollard, J. H. & Buckland, S. T. (2004). Adaptive distance sampling surveys.  In Advanced Distance Sampling (eds. Buckland, S. T. et al.) pp. 229-259.

General macropod projects

The changing distributions of eastern grey (Macropus giganteus) and western grey (M. fuliginosus) kangaroos in the western division of New South Wales

template reference: Caughley, G., B. Brown, P. Dostine, & D. Grice. (1984). The grey kangaroo overlap zone.  Australian Wildlife Research 11, 1–10.

Resource utilisation and foraging behaviour

Patch foraging in a common herbivore the Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)

Template reference: van der Wal, R. (1998).  On the relation between herbivore foraging efficiency and plant standing crop: an experiment with barnacle geese.  Oikos 82, 123-130.

Note: All these projects are inherently quantitative and really only suit students who feel that want to develop further whatever knowledge and understanding they currently have of the use of statistical methods in ecology.

Supervisor: Dr Tommy Leung. Email: tleung6@une.edu.au

Evolutionary ecology of host-parasite interactions, Evolutionary significance of parasite life history, Comparative analysis of parasite macroecology, Components and interactions within parasite communities