ARC Discovery grant successes

We were thrilled to learn last week that CIE members were awarded not one, not two, but THREE Discovery Project grants from the Australian Research Council.

We wish a huge congratulations to Prof Andy Bennett, Dr Mathew Berg, Prof Kate Buchanan, Dr Mylene Mariette, Dr Euan Ritchie and their collaborators on their success. Below is a summary of the three projects that will be hosted by the Centre for Integrative Ecology. Prof John Endler is also an investigator on a UQ-led project titled ‘Unravelling reef fish vision through gene-editing and behavioural ecology’. These prestigious grants are hard-won, with this year’s success rate being just 18.9%.

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Leader of the pack: social structure and predator management

  • Dr Euan Ritchie; Professor Elissa Cameron (University of Tasmania); Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter, UK); Professor Darren Croft (University of Exeter, UK); Dr Jose Montoya (Stanford University, USA)
  • $424,824.00
  • This project aims to quantify the importance of the individual in behaviour and social structures when managing social predator populations to protect economic and environmental assets. Using dingoes as a model system this project will characterise social structure and behaviour under varying management scenarios. This information will be embedded within models of ecological networks to examine the effects of disrupting dingo packs on biological communities. The project expects to improve understanding of how behaviour and social interactions influence ecological outcomes, improving conservation and management.

Genomic diversity, tolerance and ecology of wildlife disease

  • Professor Andy Bennett; Professor Soren Alexandersen; Professor Scott Edwards (Harvard University, USA); Dr Mathew Berg
  • $309,762.00
  • This project aims to understand the regulation of viral disease by vertebrate hosts. Viruses are rapidly evolving threats to humans, agriculture and wildlife and understanding of these threats can be transformed by combining the latest genomic, ecological and immune-pathological approaches. This project expects to reveal how hosts manage the bad effects of viruses in natural populations and fill gaps in fundamental knowledge of virus-host evolution. Anticipated benefits include improved management, risk assessment and decision-making for animal disease and biosecurity in Australia and globally.

Revisiting the ontogeny of vocal learning in birds: from neuron to fitness

  • Professor Katherine Buchanan; Dr Mylene Mariette; Professor Robert Dooling (University of Maryland, USA)
  • $393,192.00
  • This project aims to test the hypothesis that acoustic exposure prior to hatching directly affects gene expression, neural development, behaviour and consequently fitness, in wild populations of songbirds. Recent research suggests that animals are receptive to acoustic parental signals long before birth and may use such previously unrecognised signals to make adaptive developmental decisions. This project will quantify the effect on neural development and vocal learning in embryonic birds, employing a model songbird species. The outcomes of this study will transform our understanding of the adaptive potential of prenatal vocal learning, which will have significant benefits for human speech and language development.