People

Sonia Kleindorfer – Founder & Principal Investigator

Professor Sonia Kleindorfer is a biologist with a strong interest in avian development and behaviour. She is an international expert on prenatal learning, studied with a range of methodologies including acoustic playbacks to developing birds in ovo, monitoring embryonic heart rate and brain transcriptomics, and measuring prenatal vocal learning. She has worked on the Galapagos Islands for 20+ years measuring evolutionary change in a lethal and rapidly evolving host-parasite system between nestling Darwin’s finches and Philornis downsi. She applies a gender-lens to research questions and studies female and male behaviour, with a special interest in behaviour shaped by early-life experience. Sonia’s Google Scholar Profile.

Diane Colombelli-Négrel – Principal Investigator

Dr Diane Colombelli-Négrel is behavioural ecologist with expertise in animal behaviour, prenatal learning, conservation and bio-acoustics. Her research (from seabirds to songbirds) identifies ecological and behavioural processes that influence population dynamics and evolutionary adaptation to environmental change. Her research has a strong community aspect to enhance local culture and benefit the broader society through research-integrated education. She is the only Penguin Ecologist in South Australia. Diane’s Google Scholar Profile.

Andrew Katsis – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Andrew Katsis is a behavioural ecologist with an interest in songbird personality, vocal learning and prenatal communication. His current work centres on understanding the ecological importance of behavioural differences within species, using wild study populations of superb fairy-wrens and Darwin’s finches. Andrew is also an avid science communicator, and has contributed to magazines, online news, radio and television. In 2018, he appeared as a guest scientist on the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World. Andrew joined the BirdLab in 2019, after completing his PhD research at Deakin University. Andrew’s Google Scholar Profile.

Christine Evans – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Christine Evans is a behavioural ecologist with expertise in bio-acoustics. Her research interests focus on the ontogeny and evolution of male and female vocal communication in Australian songbirds, with a focus on fairy-wrens. She joined the BirdLab in 2011 as an Honours student and is currently a postdoctoral researcher on both the fairy-wren and little penguin projects. Christine’s Google Scholar Profile.

Damian Tohl – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Damian Tohl is a member of the Video and Image Processing group at Flinders University, and a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in the fields of image processing, computing analysis and artificial intelligence. His main research interests include image enhancement and identification using digital images. Damian joined the BirdLab in 2019 and works on facial recognition in koalas, geese and penguins with Sonia Kleindorfer and Diane Colombelli-Négrel.

Lauren Common – PhD student

Lauren is a PhD student in the BirdLab under the supervision of Sonia Kleindorfer, Diane Colombelli-Négrel and Rachael Dudaniec on Philornis downsi, a parasitic fly introduced to the Galápagos Islands. Her project focuses on the novel co-evolutionary relationship between P. downsi and its Darwin’s finch hosts, and how this has changed over time from the parasite’s perspective. Lauren is investigating changes to the life history and population genomics of P. downsi since its introduction, examining the impact of invasion and natural selection on parasite populations and host-parasite interactions. Lauren’s Google Scholar Profile.

Alivereti Naikatani – PhD student

Alivereti is a PhD student enrolled at University of the South Pacific with adjunct supervision by Sonia Kleindorfer and Gunnar Keppel. He is interested in patterns and processes of niche partitioning in Fiji’s woodland birds. He applies a range of techniques to test his ideas including surveys to estimate avian abundance and density, observational data on foraging behaviour, and experimental approaches to measure territory defence. Previously, Alivereti has been senior technician at the South Pacific Regional Herbarium (SPRH) in Fiji and partner for the Flinders University and UniSA New Colombo Mobility Program.

Taylor Headland – PhD student

Taylor is a PhD student under the supervision of Diane Colombelli-Négrel, Sonia Kleindorfer, Petra Sumasgutner and Shane McPherson on the Nankeen Kestrel, a common and widespread Australian raptor. His project investigates the ecology of the Kestrel across the urban/rural gradient of South Australia, and how urbanisation impacts different aspects of the bird’s ecology. Taylor is exploring the abundance and distribution, foraging behaviours and success, health status, spatial patterns of movement and nesting success of the Kestrel across South Australia. Taylor’s Google Scholar Profile

Larissa Iasiello – Masters student

Larissa is a Masters student working on seabirds under the supervision of Diane Colombelli-Négrel. Her project investigates the impacts of light and noise pollution on Little Penguins, Hooded Plovers, Black-faced Cormorants and Crested Terns breeding on Lipson Island (Eyre Peninsula, South Australia). Her project was initiated due to the planned construction of a new Grain Export Facility located just 1.5km away from the Lipson Island Conservation Park. 

Imogen Sah – Honours student

Imogen is an Honours student under the supervision of Diane Colombelli-Négrel and Sonia Kleindorfer. Her project investigates behavioural and physiological responses of koalas to drone monitoring. Her project also aims to develop a new methodology to measure heart rate in koalas.

Stephen Hedges – Research Assistant

Stephen is a field assistant on the little penguin project under the supervision of Diane Colombelli-Négrel. Stephen has been monitoring little penguins as a tour guide since 2001 and is now involved in the ongoing monitoring of the little penguins on Granite Island (South Australia).

Emily Costello – Research Assistant

Emily is a lab assistant on the little penguin project under the supervision of Diane Colombelli-Négrel. She is helping with assessing public understanding of disturbance and impacts of human activity on little penguins on Granite Island (South Australia).

Jules Behrens – Research Assistant

Jules is a lab assistant on the wetland project under the supervision of Diane Colombelli-Négrel. He is helping investigating bird abundance around urban wetland birds.

LAB Alumni

Emily Costello – Honours (2020) – Anthropogenic Impacts on Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) Numbers and
Behaviours – supervisor: Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Jules Behrens – Honours (2020) – Investigation of potential factors influencing volunteer engagement
in a conservation citizen science project- supervisor: Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Kevin Schirz – Masters (2020) – The effect of personality on juvenile foraging behaviour in the Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Claire Lawrance – Honours (2019) – Survey of animal caretakers and test of facial recognition software to uniquely identify Koalas – supervisors: Sonia Kleindorfer & Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Lauren Common – Honours (2018) – Variation in the size of Philornis downsi across age classes and years – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Larissa Iasiello – Honours (2018) – An investigation into the breeding habitat preference of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Riley Genders – Honours (2018) – Investigating time budget differences in adult and chick little penguins (Eudyptula minor) – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Bianca Johnson – Honours (2018) – Poorer breeding success in South Australian little penguins is correlated with low rainfall and high wind speeds- supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Amy Slender – PhD (2013-2017) – The ecology of gene flow between two subspecies of Thick-billed Grasswren (Amytornis modestus) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Christine Evans – PhD (2012-2017) – Female song in the Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus): perspectives informed by function and ontogeny – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Rebecca Schaefer – Honours (2017) – Naïve little penguins exhibited a stress response to predator cat calls – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Elisabeth Reid – Honours (2017) – Surveys of the woodland birds of Fiji – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Tamara Lewis – Honours (2017) – Heterospecific nest competition in eastern Regent Parrots (Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Ashley Langton – Honours (2017) – Minimum longevity and age-related male plumage in Darwin’s finches – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Erin Cantor – Honours (2017) – Nest site attributes and nesting outcome in eastern Regent Parrots (Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Katharina Peters – PhD (2012-2016) – Unravelling the dynamics of hybridisation and its implications for ecology and conservation of Darwin’s tree finches – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Marina Louter – PhD (2012-2016) – The behavioural ecology of the vulnerable Thick-billed Grasswren (Amytornis modestus raglessi) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Tamara Burt – Honours (2016) – Identifying the impact(s) of blood parasites on little penguins (Eudyptula minor) – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Serena-Louise Mathew – Honours (2016) – Prenatal heart rate in Superb Fairy-wren eggs exposed to sound or silence – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Scarlett Graff – Honours (2015) – Conservation genetics of the little penguin: Does potential exist for translocation?  – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Sarah-Lena Reinhold – Honours (2015) – An Investigation of Long-Nosed Fur Seal diet: identifying the importance of commercially fished species and predation on little penguins – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Patrick Taggart – Honours (2015) – Microbiome of Ixodes hirsti ticks collected from songbirds in South Australia – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Georgie Custance – Honours (2015) – Naris malformation and song characteristics in Darwin’s tree finches – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Rachel Smale – Honours (2014) – Do little penguin calls vary between populations? – supervisor:  Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Nathaniel Dahlenburg – Honours (2014) – Eavesdropping on alarm calls between endemic New Holland Honeyeaters and introduced Blackbirds – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Chantel Vause – Honours (2014) – Prenatal heart rate in Quail shows no habituation/dishabituation response to sound – supervisors: Sonia Kleindorfer & Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Sarah Criddle – Honours (2014) – Female incubation calls vary in element type and syntax across six Malurus species – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Vanessa Owens – Honours (2013) – Sex differences in the behaviour of wild and captive Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) – supervisors: Sonia Kleindorfer & Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Kelly Woolerton – Honours (2013) – Female nest builders: flank spot number predicts nest architecture and predation outcome in Diamond Firetails – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Madeline Thompson – Honours (2013) – Invertebrate abundance associated with the relative density of Malurus species in arid South Australia – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Angela McGuire – PhD (2009-2012) – Song divergence in the duetting Western Whipbird Psophodes nigrogularis: function, sex differences and the influence of habitat – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Valeria Zanollo – PhD (2009-2012) – Different signalling pathways for the same phenotype in male and female Diamond Firetails – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Jody O’Connor – PhD (2008-2012) – Conservation issues for Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands: invasive species and loss of genetic diversity – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Laura Fazzalari – Honours (2012) – Individuality of the ‘quack’ call in Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) – supervisors: Sonia Kleindorfer & Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Stefan Swedzinski – Honours (2012) – Rodent activity influences Little Penguin nesting behaviour – supervisors: Sonia Kleindorfer & Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Bridget O’Connell – Honours (2012) – Within-island song similarity across an elevational cline in Darwin’s Small Ground Finch – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Toby Galligan – PhD (2008-2011) – Adaptive divergence, genetic connectivity, and post-parasitism morbidity in Darwin’s Small Ground Finch, Geospiza fuliginosa – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Steven Myers – PhD (2008-2011) – The evolutionary basis of morphological and behavioural variation in the New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Claire Crowhurst – Honours (2011) – Female flank spots signal dominance during food contests in Diamond Firetails – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Christine Evans – Honours (2011) – Superb Fairy-wrens have adaptive behavioural response to calls of different cuckoo species – supervisors: Sonia Kleindorfer & Diane Colombelli-Négrel

Rebecca Faulkner – Honours (2011) – Rodent activity and nest height affect nest predation patterns in New Holland Honeyeaters – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Beth Schlotfeldt – PhD (2007-2010) – Adaptive divergence in the Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) in South Australia: a mainland versus island comparison – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Nikolina Beric – Honours (2010) – Gene flow and morphological variation in Darwin’s Small Ground Finch between Galapagos Islands

Margot Oorebeek – PhD (2006-2009) – Avian ticks in South Australia: The distribution, ecology, and fitness costs of Ixodes hirsti – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Diane Colombelli-Négrel – PhD (2005-2008) – The evolution of anti-predator responses and vocal communication in Superb Fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Brendon Meulders – Honours (2009) – Offspring sex ratio under conditions of parasitism in New Holland Honeyeater – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Milla Milhailova – Honours (2009) – Song discrimination between mainland and island subspecies of Superb Fairy-wrens – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Lyndlee Easton – PhD (2005-2008) – Life history strategies of Australian species of the halophyte and arid zone genus Frankenia L. (Frankeniaceae) – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Rachael Dudaniec – PhD (2005-2008) – Impact and molecular ecology of Philornis downsi: an introduced parasitic fly of birds on the Galapagos Islands – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Rebekah Christensen – PhD (2005-2008) – Mating signal divergence in Darwin’s tree finches – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Ingrid Stirnemann – Honours (2008) – Experimental test of the role of carotenoids for immunocompetence in Diamond Firetails – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Alice Dunbar – Honours (2008) – Behavioural contexts of flank spot displays in Diamond Firetails – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Angela McGuire – Honours (2007) – Causes and consequences of nest adornment in Diamond Firetails – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Toby Galligan – Honours (2007) – The function of concealed nest architecture in Yellow-rumped Thornbills – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Jody O’Connor – Honours (2007) – Rodent activity and nesting success across an elevational gradient in Darwin’s Small Ground Finch – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Geoffrey Brown – Honours (2007) – A mainland and island comparison of morphology and foraging in the New Holland Honeyeater – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Leslie Marando – Honours (2006) – Genetic population substructure of Ixodes hirsti ticks discovered on birds – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Beth Schlotfeldt – Honours (2006) – Superb Fairy-wren morphology and behaviour between subspecies – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Sarah Davidson – Honours (2005) – Experimental test of nest predation in New Holland Honeyeaters – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Katherine Goss – Honours (2005) – Response to threat in solitary versus mixed-species aggregations of Darwin’s finches – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Rachael Dudaniec – Honours (2004) – Effects of Philornis downsi parasitism on blood loss in Darwin’s finches – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer

Rebekah Christensen – Honours (2004) – Effects of beak size on song characteristics in Darwin’s Small Tree Finch – supervisor: Sonia Kleindorfer