Students and Teaching

I am always interested in hearing from potential students. Australian PhD students must be competitive to receive funding under the Research Training Program. A variety of scholarships are available for international students. Further details on enrollment at The University of Sydney can be found below:

How to apply

Entry requirements

New Honours Project 2019/2020:

Can machine learning be used to accurately identify wildlife in remote camera trap images?

Motion-active or remote camera traps are now commonly used in wildlife studies around the globe. They are a powerful and cost-effective method to survey wildlife due to their ease in deployment and ability to continually monitor populations across time. However, a common limitation of camera traps is that they capture millions of images that need to be processed visually by an observer. Machine learning techniques provide a powerful and exciting opportunity to automate image processing; thereby reducing analysis and reporting time. The time gained by implementing an automated image processing pipeline and increase speed of reporting results can be used for on-ground species conservation management.

Red-necked wallabies. Kindly provided by WildCount, Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW

This project will work closely with WildCount, a large-scale wildlife monitoring program run by the Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW Government and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. It will test the feasibility of using machine learning algorithms for identifying species in camera trap images.

Superb lyrebirds. Kindly provided by WildCount, Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW



For further information, please contact Dr Aaron Greenville, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney.


Emma Spencer (PhD; University of Sydney)

Photo credit: Guillaume Tutton

I am investigating Australia’s scavenging community and the wider effects of carrion in a range of biomes across the continent. In particular, I am interested in the diversity of life present on and around carrion resources, including both the vertebrate and invertebrate species that make use of this resource, as well as the potential cascading effects of carrion on live prey in the surrounding system. I am also interested in nutrient cycling and the influence of carrion on soil properties and plant growth.

Spanning across a number of locations in NSW and QLD, I will utilise animal carcasses, motion sensor cameras, invertebrate traps and a series of behavioural experiments to determine the extent to which different scavenger guilds use carrion resources within the landscape, to examine the factors that influence the use of carrion by different scavengers and to explore the indirect effects of carrion on a variety of mammalian and avian species. Concurrent collection of soil and plant samples surrounding carrion resources will also enable me to determine whether nutrient-rich carcasses enhance soils and contribute to plant growth. Together, my observations will contribute to greater understanding of Australia’s scavenger community and the myriad of effects that carrion can have on the surrounding environment.

Follow project up-dates on Twitter by Emma ()


Elise Verhoeven (Honours; The University of Technology Sydney)

This project aims to understand how the ecosystem function of vegetation communities
within the Blue Mountains changes after a wildfire and/or hazard reduction burn. This will be achieved by assessing the response of species and functional groups of vegetation to
fire. This information can be used to calculate the change in ecosystem function. The
project will involve both field work and data analysis.


Tamara Potter (Honours; University of Sydney)

Who Killed the Wolf Spider? A Who-dunnart Intraguild predation among taxonomically disparate micro-carnivores.

I recently completed my Bachelor of Science (Advanced) degree at the University of Sydney with first class honours and a university medal. I’m an avid adventurer with a passion for ecology.

There have been few studies examining intraguild predation between a mammal and an arthropod. I present such an example here. The lesser hairy-footed dunnart (Sminthopsis youngsoni) is a common generalist insectivore in arid Australia that consumes wolf spiders (Family Lycosidae) disproportionately often relative to their availability. In this study, I tested hypotheses to uncover the underlying mechanisms that drive this selective predation. Firstly, lycosids were not found to contain more water energy or nutrients than other available arthropod prey, thus discrediting the hypothesis that S. youngsoni forages to optimise hydration or caloric and nutritional intake. Secondly, I did find a high degree of spatial and temporal overlap in resources (diet and microhabitat) between S. youngsoni and lycosids, providing support consistent with the hypothesis of competition. This latter hypothesis, and the operation of intraguild predation, was further supported by results of cafeteria-style trials showing that S. youngsoni selectively targets lycosids when alternative prey types are equally available.

My conclusion is that S. youngsoni may predate lycosids to reduce competition for the
same food resources. This study is one of the few to suggest intraguild predation between such taxonomically disparate groups, and its consequences extend beyond simple predator-prey relationships to suggest that IGP can have substantial impacts on community structure and ecosystem processes.

Read about some of Tamara’s work here:

Potter, T., Greenville, A.C. & Dickman, C.R. (2018). Assessing the potential for intraguild predation among taxonomically disparate micro-carnivores: marsupials and arthropods. Royal Society Open Science, 5: 171872.

This dunnart has competition for food… so it just eats the competition, Australian Geographic, May 2018.


Post-graduate and academic staff:

Statistical workshops for ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney.

This two-day workshop is designed to remove the mystery behind R, passing on tips for best practice techniques that we have picked up on our journey with R and lastly, to get you started with GLM/M and GAM/Ms. There are many ways to use R and here we wish to show you our workflow, which seems to work for us.

Undergraduate units:

91120: GIS and Remote Sensing (co-ordinator). School of Life Science, University of Technology Sydney.

91309: Biodiversity Conservation. School of Life Science, University of Technology Sydney.

BIOL3007: Ecology. School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney.

BIOL2024: Ecology and Conservation. School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney.