PhD Opportunities

Dr Celine Frere is currently seeking candidates with competitive academic records to undertake PhD projects on social evolution, social plasticity and adaptation to urbanisation using four long-term behavioural, ecological and genetic (SNPs) datasets on iconic Australian native species including bottlenose dolphins (+36 years), kangaroos (+6 years), koalas (+ 6 years) and eastern water dragons (+9 years).

See here for details

We are an inclusive research group and welcome candidates who work well with others.

Sinta Frere
New Publications

We’ve published a number of new research articles recently (see publications section), and have a number in press.

Nicola Kent’s Honours research has to a publication in the Journal of Urban Ecology entitled “Maternal nesting behaviour in city dragons: a species with temperature-dependent sex determination” . This research also featured on Envirobites.

Work undertaken by Dr Bethan-Littleford-Colquhoun as part of her PhD entitled “How sexual and natural selection shape sexual size dimorphism: evidence from multiple evolutionary scales” has also been published in Functional Ecology. This research was also highlighted on Functional Ecologists: a blog for the people behind the research.

New grant from the National Science Foundation USA

Professor Janet Mann and Dr Celine Frere are grateful to have received recent funding (US$791,243) from the National Science Foundation USA to undertake a study on the Impact of Maternal Effects on Social Plasticity and Fitness Variation in nature (dolphins in Shark Bay). This grant will allow us to focus on how maternal effects influence offspring social development. We aim to quantify 1) how a dolphin changes its social behavior in space and time throughout its development 2) the extent to which this is influenced by maternal and non-maternal effects, and 3) the extent to which maternal effects provide fitness benefits to offspring. 

DolphinsSinta Frere
Congratulations Dr Strickland and Dr Littleford-Colquhoun!

We’ve all been very busy, but not too busy to celebrate with Kasha and Beth, who were both recently awarded their PhDs. While they both submitted their respective theses earlier this year, their graduation ceremony took place in September 2018. Both are continuing in post-doctoral positions in the Frere lab, which is fantastic news. We’ll update you about their new projects in a later post.

DragonsSinta Frere
Bethan talks to Totally Wild

I encourage my graduate students to disseminate their research to the general public and take part in community discourses about science through presentations and media opportunities. Last year PhD candidate Bethan Littleford-Colquhoun shared our research on the kids TV series 'Scope', and recently this year appeared on another kids science program 'Totally Wild'. She shares her experience:

"Science communication and outreach has always been something I’ve wanted to integrate into my science career as its extremely important that we as scientists let the wider community know what kind of research we do and the awesome results we have..….and its fun! Whilst being a part of Celine Frere's lab I have been given many opportunities to participate in science communication projects, including filming for the TV shows Totally Wild and Scope".

"Filming short interviews for TV has allowed me to interact with a multitude of people and chat about the research we do within our lab group, from production crew to the TV audience. Filming these short segments first involves chatting to the program coordinator about the content of the interview, then from the information we provide we get given a loose script for the day. Once the day of filming arrives we meet the crew and presenter, and scope out the best places to film. Once we are all happy we then start filing the interview and extra shots. These filming days have always been a lot of fun and are a nice break from data collection and analysis".  

Fieldwork update

We undertake non-invasive behavioural surveys on the dragons in Roma Street Parkland for more than six months every year, and do morphological surveys on an annual basis. We are almost finished our round of morphological surveys for the 2018 season.

Behavioral surveys allow us to record social associations, dominance heirarchies, space use and movement for this population of dragons. Taking morphological measurements and DNA samples allows us to track the health of individual dragons, construct paternities (family trees) and investigate whether and to what extend social and environmental factors influence phenotypes. 

In a massive effort from both PhD and Honours candidates, we have recorded morphological information from more than 160 dragons so far this year. We recorded data from more than 75 males and almost 80 females, as well as a number of juvenile dragons whose sex has not yet been determined. We also recorded data on 30 new young dragons which we measured for the very first time.

The smallest dragon we recorded weighed in at only 0.016kgs (new and as yet un-named), and the largest was 1.1kgs (Rafiki). We have been tracking some of these dragons for more than 8 years.

Kye McDonald releasing a dragon after measurement.

Kye McDonald releasing a dragon after measurement.

Coralie (left) and Nicola (right) releasing a dragon after measurement.

Coralie (left) and Nicola (right) releasing a dragon after measurement.

Nicola (left) and Sarah (right) checking for a microchip in a dragon.

Nicola (left) and Sarah (right) checking for a microchip in a dragon.

Bethan preparing to measure a large male dragon.

Bethan preparing to measure a large male dragon.

Watch us on Brainbuzz

Welcome to our new blog! We'll use this page to post updates on our research activities.

Dr Celine Frere and Bethan Littleford-Colquhoun recently filmed a segment on eastern water dragons for the young people's science program 'BrainBuzz'. Watch us in action on Thursday 3 May 2018 at 8am, or anytime on 9Now once it has aired!

PhD candidate Bethan Littleford-Colquhoun, presenter Clare Von Dorssen and Dr Celine Frere in Roma Street Parkland during filming.

PhD candidate Bethan Littleford-Colquhoun, presenter Clare Von Dorssen and Dr Celine Frere in Roma Street Parkland during filming.