Animal Biology


Futher Information

Oceans Institute

Neuroscience research falls into two broad categories: comparative neurobiology and neuroecology, and experimental and regenerative neurosciences.

Comparative Neurobiology and Neuroecology

Our research group integrates approaches and scientific methods from the fields of neurobiology, animal behaviour and ecology with the specific aim to understand the interactions of animals with their environment.

We are a multidisciplinary team that works to decipher and understand how animals perceive and process sensory input from the natural world, under different environmental conditions. We are passionate about delivering high quality research, as well as training the next generation of upcoming young scientists interested in animal behaviour, sensory processing and the conservation of biodiversity.

We work closely with the UWA Oceans Institute.

Interested students are encouraged to read the project descriptions below and contact project leaders with further questions.

The neuroethology of predator avoidance

Animals cannot survive without exposing themselves to the threat of predation. The need to feed, mate and migrate brings them into the open, where they are under constant pressure to rapidly assess and act upon sensory information. We concentrate on how sensory information drives and shapes anti-predator responses in animals such as fiddler crabs.


How animals see their world

We aim to understand how animals perceive their world and how this influences the amount and precision of information they can gather.

Using state of the art behavioural, physiological and anatomical techniques, we study what animals can see in terms of colour, polarisation, and spatial and temporal resolution.


Environmental imaging

To understand what animals can see, and what information animals use to make decisions, also requires knowledge about what information the environment actually provides. We use a range of imaging, light measurements, modelling and sophisticated video analysis techniques to quantify the environmental information animals can access.


Bioimaging of the nervous system

We use sophisticated approaches to image the peripheral and central nervous systems in order to understand the brain and sensory systems. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), microcomputed tomography (┬ÁCT) and confocal microscopy are used to investigate brain size, the organisation and evolution of the brain and the relative importance of different sensory brain regions.


Comparative sensory processing

We aim to understand the information processing capabilities of a range of model species across various senses, including hearing, olfaction, electroreception and vision. We characterise sensory capabilities, analyse sensory pathways, and try to understand the trade-offs between various behavioural and physiological sensory strategies.


The testing and development of shark deterrents

Research regarding how sharks sense their environment is being used to instruct translational solutions for shark mitigation. We are testing a range of deterrents currently on the market to see whether they work and also developing new deterrents to reduce the negative interactions between sharks and humans.


Experimental and regenerative neurosciences

Neurological conditions make up one third of global disease burden, yet there are few effective treatments.

We aim to understand brain structure and function with the goal of promoting functional recovery in various neurological conditions including developmental brain disorders, traumatic injury and neurodegenerative diseases.

Our research covers several key areas:

Abnormal brain development

The brain is a highly complex organ and errors that arise while circuits are being formed during development can lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, epilepsy, mental retardation, autism and dyslexia.

We aim to understand how abnormal circuits arise and how they can be corrected using noninvasive therapies such as pulsed magnetic fields.


Clinical trials for spinal cord injury

Researchers in the School are involved in a number of multi-centre clinical trials in Australia and New Zealand for patients with spinal cord injury:

  • Immediate Cooling and Emergency Decompression (ICED) is examining whether hypothermia within two hours of injury followed by decompression of the spinal cord within 18 hours can improve recovery after spinal cord injury.
  • Spinal Cord Injury and Physical Activity (SCIPA) is testing whether moving the paralysed limbs using electrical stimulation can help promote recovery in surviving neural circuits as well as improve quality of life. SCIPA has also developed a community 'train the trainer' program to increase activity and participation for those living with spinal cord injury in the community.


Traumatic brain and spinal cord injury results in immediate loss of brain tissue and function as well as progressive damage to surrounding intact tissue that escaped the initial injury.

We aim to understand mechanisms underpinning progressive secondary degeneration and to test a variety of therapies to prevent the spread of such damage. Therapies include combinations of ion channel inhibitors, antioxidants and novel nanotechnologies.

One of the most prevalent forms of traumatic brain injury is concussion. We are conducting a clinical trial to identify predictors of poor outcomes following concussion, in order to identify patients at risk of long term functional loss who may benefit from emerging treatment strategies.