Many cities have a problem with excessive insecticide use. The use of insecticides is often unnecessary and has the potential to negatively impact both public health and the environment (including killing beneficial insects and spiders!). I am working with Sydney residents and local governments to determine how and why people use insecticides and to design education materials and sustainable pest management strategies to reduce insecticide use.
Spiders are widespread predators that utilise many different habitats and foraging strategies, making them ideal to study the effect of habitat modification on closely related groups with different niche requirements. A particular focus of mine is the adaption of spiders to novel ecosystems and the underlying mechanisms that drive arthropod diversity in urban landscapes.
I study the influence of urbanisation on spider species diversity, behaviour, morphology and life history. This means a great combination of lab and field work (in the beautiful Sydney region!)
Urban Exploiting Species
The expansion of our cities drastically alters the abundance and distribution of species. Some species are able to take advantage of modified urban ecosystems and manage to thrive in cities. I’m interested in studying which traits allow some species to do this, while other similar species are excluded from cities.
I’m also interested in how the dominance of a small number of urban exploiting species can alter ecological processes and species interactions.
Predator Prey Interactions
I am interested in how the modification of habitats in urban areas can alter the dynamics between predators and prey. For example, are gardens with different vegetation structures utilised differently by arthropod predators? Altered predator interactions in cities have implications for biological pest control that I am also exploring. I am working towards encouraging ecologically sustainable communities of arthropod predators in cities to control for urban pests.
I am currently looking for graduate students to work with me on the above topics. If any of these ideas sound interesting to you please contact me for a chat. For more information on the Macquarie masters and PhD programs click the How to Apply link.
I also always have exciting work for volunteers, so if you love spiders and/or ecology please get in touch.