Peters Research Group – People

Dr Anne Peters

Principle Investigator
ARC Future Fellow
PhD, ANU

Email: anne.peters@monash.edu

As a student completing her BSc/MSc in the Netherlands Anne studied mating behaviour and the reproductive ecology of turtles, flatworms and fish in various countries. Anne completed her PhD at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, in 2001. The project (‘Testosterone and life-history trade-offs in superb fairy-wrens, Maluruscyaneus’) investigated whether trade-offs between investment in courtship behaviour and ornamentation, offspring care and immune activity might be regulated by testosterone. She was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellow at the Max Planck Research Centre for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany. From 2004-2011 Anne led a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Anne joined Monash University as a Senior Lecturer in 2011.

Dr Niki Teunissen

Postdoctoral Associate 
PhD, Monash
MSc, Groningen, NL

Email: niki.teunissen@monash.edu

Niki has been involved with the purple-crowned fairy-wren project since 2014. She is interested in what drives subordinate helping decisions – how and why do some birds help? She showed how complex social interactions really are in purple-crowned fairy-wrens in two papers in Behavioral Ecology, in BEAS and a fascinating story in  Current Biology. Turns out, wrens cooperate to obtain benefits of current group members and of raising young. Recently, she showed that the arrival of cane toads did not improve nest predation.

Dr Justin Eastwood

Postdoctoral Associate 
PhD, Deakin

Email: justin.eastwood@monash.edu

Justin’s research interests span ecology and evolution. He studies aging, life-history and disease in natural populations of birds. IN collaboration with Anne and Prof. Simon Verhulst (Uni of Groningen) he investigates telomere dynamics in purple-crowned and superb fairy-wrens funded by ARC Discovery grants (DP15, DP18 and DP21). See here and here for his publications on telomeres, and here for his publication on avian malaria.

Ettore Camerlenghi

PhD Candidate 
MSc, Padova, Italy

Email: Ettore.Camerlenghi@monash.edu

Ettore is interested in how the social structure of animal societies is formed by both the intrinsic (e.g. group composition, individual phenotypes, life history) and extrinsic (e.g. habitat quality, predation risk) features. Studying superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus), at Lysterfield park, he adopts social network analysis to understand their complex social structure. He is co-supervised by Dr. Carly Cook and collaborates with Dr. Sjouke Kingma and Prof. Damien Farine. His first manuscript linking cooperative breeding to complex multi-level sociality was published in Ecology Letters; with an accompanying Conversation piece.

Jenna Diehl

PhD Candidate 
BS Biology, Pennsylvania
State University, US

Email: jenna.diehl@monash.edu

Jenna is investigating how early life heat exposure influences a birds physiological development and how that might impact a how birds respond to heat exposure in the later life. She will also be looking at the ways in which the adults can mitigate these effects. Her research will be focused around the nests of the superb fairy-wrens found in Lysterfield Lake park in Victoria. She is co-supervised by Dr. Lesley Alton.

Greg Taylor

PhD Candidate 
BSc, Orlando, FL
MSc, San Jose, CA

Email: Gregory.Taylor@monash.edu

Greg is studying the effects of heat stress on the physiology and behavior of adult superb fairy-wrens. He is particularly interested in investigating sperm production, cognition, and social behaviour, all of which have received much attention in human-focused heat stress research, but which have been largely overlooked in other taxa. He is co-supervised by profs. Craig White and Bob Wong and advised by Dr. Melissah Rowe at NIOO (NL).

ReseachGate

Abigail Robinson

PhD Candidate 
BSc, Edinburgh, UK
MSc, Exeter, UK

Email: Abigail.Robinson@monash.edu

Abi is interested in the evolutionary stability of cooperative breeding in species with high rates of extra-group paternity. She studies superb fairy-wrens at Lysterfield park and will investigate what benefits drive subordinates to help, how helpers benefit breeders and the influence of the genetic mating system in determining these benefits. She will use a series of field experiments accompanied by a meta-analyis and model to address these questions. She is co-supervised by Dr. Tim Connallon and advised by Sjouke Kingma in Wageningen (NL).

Twitter-@AbiRobinson15

Ian Hoppe

PhD Candidate 
BSc and MSc Nebraska, US

Email:  ian.hoppe@monash.edu

Ian is broadly interested in behavioural ecology, especially in the broad spaces in which it overlaps with disease processes and the conservation of vulnerable species. Past field work has taken Ian from the Great Plains of the US to the Murraylands of Australia as well as the Southern Lowlands and island provinces of New Guinea in search of birds, adventure, and understanding. For his PhD he is focussing on the conservation ecology of Purple-crowned fairy-wrens, hoping to spend much of his time at AWC’s Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.

Google Scholar
ResearchGate 

Ariana La Porte

PhD Candidate 
MSc Arizona, BSc Wesleyan, US

Email: ariana.laporte@monash.edu

Ariana is broadly interested in heat stress and habitat use, and is studying the potential for microclimates to buffer climate change impacts for the Purple-crowned fairy-wren. She will be examining the trade-off adults make to protect both themselves and their nestlings from excessive heat, and whether these strategies could still be effective under changing climate conditions. Her first contribution to the purple-crowned fairy-wren project was published recently; she showed how nest temperatures measured with black bulbs vary with air temperatures from weather stations.

Research Gate

Past PhD Students

Dr Sergio Nolazco Plasier

PhD Monash (2022)
BSc, Lima, Peru
MSc, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Email: sergio.nolazco@ib.usp.br

Sergio studied the evolution of female ornamentation, using a large meta-analysis to compare its signalling potential in males and females. He also conducted a case study on purple-crown fairy-wrens to investigate whether there is an adaptive significance for the seasonal breeding plumage of females by testing its associations with multiple fitness components; his first paper was on moult timing.

Website

Dr Michael Roast

PhD Monash
MSc, Exeter, UK

Email: michaeljroast@gmail.com

Having moved to Australia from the UK, Michael focussed his PhD research on the ecoimmunology of the purple-crowned fairy-wren. He is particularly interested in how organisms can be adaptable and resilient to environmental change. His first paper was published as part of a special issue in PBZ and you can read it here. His thesis was accepted Feb 2020 and recently he published a second paper in PRSB.

Google Scholar

Dr Alexandra McQueen

PhD Monash
   BSc (Hons)

Email: a.mcqueen@deakin.edu.au

Alex studied the costs and benefits of seasonal colour in superb fairy-wrens. She showed that blue males have to spend more time hiding from predators. But producing and maintaining their blue plumage is not dependent on quality! She also did a fantastic study of the evolutionary drivers of seasonal plumages. Read about her research here. Alex is currently a post-doc at Deakin University.

Twitter – @alx_mcqueen
Google Scholar

Dr Marie Fan

PhD Monash
MSc, Exeter, UK

Email: marie.fan@monash.edu

Marie investigated the adaptive significance of seasonal male plumage in purple-crowned fairy-wrens. Her first paper found no fitness benefits of early moult (despite a long hard search). Her second paper demonstrated the Power of Purple! Her third paper showed how feather microstructure contributes to colour diversity across fairy-wrens. She now works in eco-toxicology environmental assessment company in France.

Twitter – @colourfulmarie
Google Scholar

Dr Nataly Hidalgo Aranzamendi

PhD Monash
MSc Brasília, Brazil

Email: nhidalgoa@gmail.com

Nataly is originally from Peru, and she is passionate about birds and fieldwork. Her PhD was on ‘Life-history variation in a tropical cooperative bird: ecological and social effects on productivity’. To understand how, when and why purple-crowned fairy-wrens are (un)successful, she spent many months in the Kimberleys in north WA, at our field site at the AWC Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary. Nataly published here a very nice paper on divorce, and she showed how rain drives breeding in the wrens, affecting males, females, and their insect food. She now works as a data scientist in Belgium.

Twitter – @AranzNataly 
ResearchGate 

Past Honours Students

Emily Jarvis

Honours Student (2020)

Emily’s project ‘Artificial microhabitat use of the Agile Antechinus in wet-forest environments’, will look at whether the provision of artificial material (hessian fabric) can provide antechinus and native rodents with a suitable refuge from introduced predators, such as foxes and feral cats. Her study site is in South Gippsland and Dr. Chris Johnstone is co-supervisor. She obtained funding from an Australian Wildlife Society University Research Grant.

Rhiannon Myhre

Honours Student (2020)

Rhiannon’ project “Helper contributions in the superb fairy-wren: how much and why?” is aimed at understanding cooperative breeding. She aims to answer why some individuals forgo independent reproduction and stay in or join a group to help raise other individuals’ offspring? Why do dominant breeders tolerate these extra birds? is it because they are relatives or because they are truly beneficial? The latter is particularly pertinent in SFWs because the helper males are often not offspring from the male.

Collaborators

Prof. Simon Verhulst

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

We have been collaborating with Simon since 2013, when Anne visited his research group. Simon’s research group studies the evolution and process of senescence in a life-history context, mostly in birds, in the lab and in the field. With respect to the senescence process, their main focus is on telomeres and factors affecting telomere dynamics (e.g. oxidative stress). Telomere ecology ( and ecological immunology are our main overlapping interests, for examples see here , here and here.

Website
ResearchGate
Google Scholar

Dr Sjouke Kingma

Wageningen University
PhD Konstanz

Sjouke’s research interests focus mainly on the causes and consequences of avian cooperative breeding and how this interacts with the mating system. He completed his PhD thesis on “The evolution of the social and genetic mating system of purple-crowned fairy-wrens Malurus coronatus”.  He has remained involved in the purple-crowned fairy-wren project see here and here for recent publications. Sjouke is now based at the Wageningen University as assistant professor (universitair hoofddocent) in the Netherlands.

Twitter – @SjoukeKingma
Website – behaviouralecology.nl
Website – wur.nl
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Dr Kaspar Delhey

Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
PhD, LMU München

Kaspar has studied birds all his life. He is an all-round ornithologist with broad interests ranging from community ecology to foraging behaviour and from extra-pair paternity to bird cosmetics. His main research aim at the moment is to develop an understanding of the diversity of bird colours, for example. Field biologist by preference, he also does extensive research in museum collections and enjoys spending long hours on data analyses in R.

Website
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Dr Michelle Hall

PhD ANU

Michelle’s contribution has been central to the research on purple-crowned fairy-wrens, she was the main person in the field 2005-2010, and our collaboration remains ongoing (have a look at the publications page). Michelle is particularly interested in avian acoustic communications, with a recent focus on fairy-wrens. She has studied how birds combine their song to produce duets, and how such duetting functions to defend territories and attract mates. Currently she is Senior Ecologist with Bush Heritage enjoying amazing biodiversity in Western Australia.

Website
Publications
Google Scholar
Twitter: @MichelleLHall6

Behavioural & Evolutionary Ecology of Birds