Research Group

Research Group


Dr Romane Cristescu

I am an early career scientist with interest ranging from conservation biology (new methodologies in conservation including detection dogs, remote surveys; applications of GIS technology to conservation biology) to landscape restoration, fauna responses to habitat loss and fragmentation, wildlife/human conflicts, interactions and synergies in threats to endangered species, and emerging infectious diseases in wildlife. I am an Adjunct Researcher at GeneCology Research Centre, USC.


Alexis Levengood

I am a behavioral ecologist with a passion for marine mammals and a focus in social evolution. I received my B.A. (cum laude) in Biology and Environmental Studies with a minor in Psychology at Connecticut College, Connecticut, USA in 2010 where I began my initial research internship with the Dolphin Communication Project, DCP. This is where I was first exposed to the exciting world of marine mammal behavioral research and was hooked immediately. Following my graduation, I spent two years traveling and completing various behavioral ecology research internships working on species such as the Florida manatee, great white sharks, and varying species of dolphins and whales, in places around the world including Bimini The Bahamas, Florida, Sardinia Italy, Mississippi, and South Africa. Following these amazing experiences, I chose to pursue a Masters degree and obtained my M.Res from the University of St Andrews, Scotland in Marine Mammal Science in 2013. After completing my degree, I remained in Scotland for another year and half working and completing research through an internship with a marine mammal consulting company located in St Andrews. At the end of 2014, I was awarded an International Research Scholarship (2015-2018) through USC to complete a Ph.D. with Dr. Celine Frere on the social plasticity of female bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia. When not chasing dolphins and doing research, you can most often find me in a pool swimming, playing water polo, or out traveling the world!


Carme Piza Roca

I am an enthusiastic zoologist especially interested in behavioural ecology, evolution and conservation biology. I completed my BSc in Biology at the University of the Balearic Islands in 2013 (Mallorca, Spain, where I am from). Afterwards I obtained an MSc (Hons) in Biology and Environmental Sciences in 2014, specializing in animal ecology and behaviour. This was a two-year programme with a high research component at the Radboud University (Nijmegen, the Netherlands). I was doing research in learning and memory in zebrafish, ecology and niche modelling in badgers and behaviour and social dynamics in bonobos. I have been awarded a USC International Research Scholarship and I will carry out my PhD studies with Dr Frere, investigating how sexual selection can drive social evolution using male Eastern Water Dragons as the study system.

Kasha Strickland

Kasha Strickland

I am a behavioural ecologist with a particular interest in social evolution. I obtained a BSc (Hons) in Conservation Biology and Ecology at the University of Exeter in 2010, being awarded a commendation for an honours project investigating the presence of colour vision in an insect. After working as a research assistant for a time immediately after my undergraduate, I went back to Exeter to complete an MSc in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology. During this MSc, I worked with Dr Celine Frere utilising 3 years of behavioural and spatial information collected for the eastern water dragons at Roma St Parkland to investigate the patterns of social association in the dragons, obtaining a school commendation for outstanding research project. I was awarded a Pro Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship at the University of Sunshine Coast (2014-17) at the end of 2013 to study a PhD with Dr Frere. I am asking whether being dominant is a matter of genes, ecology or sociality, and further investigating what female eastern water dragons can tell us about the evolution of dominance behaviour.

Bethan Littleford-Colquhoun

Bethan Littleford-Colquhoun

I am a passionate and committed conservation biologist with a keen interest in genetics. I obtained a BSc (Hons) in Conservation Biology and Ecology at the University of Exeter, UK in 2012, this also included a study abroad year at the University of Queensland, Australia. I completed my MSc at the University of Exeter in 2013 and during this time I worked alongside Dr Celine Frere looking at the population genetic structuring of snubfin and humpback dolphins in the coastal waters of Western Australia. I have recently been awarded a Pro Vice-Chancellor’s PhD scholarship at the University of the Sunshine Coast (2014-2017) with my research now concentrating on understanding the genetic consequences of urbanisation using the protected and native Eastern Water Dragon as a model species.


Anthony Schultz

I moved to Australia and joined this research group after completing a M.Sc at the completing a M.Sc at the University of Exeter in 2013. My research will trial new techniques for determining koala health and include the use of conservation detection dogs to find live animals and fresh koala scats.

I will analyse scats for diet, gut microbiota, disease load, and individual identification, with the aim of developing a metric to quantify population health, and hopefully guide future management of the species in south east Qld.

"Using detection dogs for conservation is a rapidly growing field globally, and I love the working partnership that develops between dog and handler. By harnessing a dog’s incredible sense of smell, the conservation possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.”

International exchange


Vivienne Foroughirad

I am a behavioral ecologist with a focus on marine science and conservation. I received my B.Sc. in Biology at Georgetown University, USA in 2010. While there I began a research internship with the Shark Bay Dolphin Project and completed a thesis on patterns of maternal care in bottlenose dolphins. Upon graduation I became a Research Associate for the project and helped design and implement the project's shared database, in addition to participating in two seasons of data collection in Shark Bay, Western Australia. In 2013 I began my PhD in Marine Science and Conservation at Duke University, USA in Dr. Andy Read's lab. My dissertation will focus on the applications of social network analysis to behavioral development, reproductive success, and disease transmission in marine mammals. In 2015 I was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to work with Dr. Celine Frère on sociality and genetics in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.


Past Lab Members


Harry MacDermott

I completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology and Zoology
at the University of Queensland. Whilst finishing my undergraduate degree, I worked as a casual research assistant conducting behavioural studies of Eastern Water Dragons in the Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane. In 2013 I commenced study at the University of Tasmania, Hobart where I am undertaking a landscape ecology honours project focusing on fire dynamics.


Riana Gardiner

I completed a Bachelor Degree in Animal Behaviour and then a M.Sc. in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter. As part of this program, I undertook a project which investigated whether the body size, dominance status and habitat quality influences the home range size of individual Eastern Water Dragons at Roma Street Parkland in Brisbane. In 2014 I was awarded a full scholarship by the University of Tasmania to commence a PhD project.


Luke Carpenter

Having completed my honours thesis based on spatial ecology of the Southern Cassowary, my main interest lies in conservation and movement ecology, particularly animal home ranges and their interactions with anthropogenic landscapes. As a casual research assistant, I wrangle the odd Eastern Water Dragon to collect genetic and morphologial information when need be. This information is used by other members of the lab in their various projects.