Dr Desley Whisson



Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Biology


Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env


School of Life & Env. Sciences


Melbourne Burwood Campus


Bachelor of Applied Science, Queensland Univ. of Technology, 1987
Doctor of Philosophy, Queensland Univ. of Technology, 1994
Graduate Diploma of Applied Science, Charles Sturt University, 2005
Certificate II in Horticulture, TAFE SA, 2006
Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Deakin University, 2009


I have worked in Mexico and the USA, as well as Australia and have undertaken research on a diverse range of species including pocket gophers, squirrels, mongooses, rats and most recently koalas.

Since moving to Victoria in 2007 I have developed a keen interest in the ecology of alpine regions. I also am continuing my research with koalas, especially where they occur in high densities.

Please contact me if you are interested in undertaking a PhD. I currently have a number of funded opportunities.

Read more on Desley's profile

Biography summary

1987 - 1992 Queensland University of Technology: Research assistant - The management of canefield rats in North Queensland sugarcane.

1993 Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico: Postdoctoral fellow - wildlife pest management.

1994 - 2004 University of California (Davis): Wildlife Extension Specialist

2004 - 2007 SA Department for Environment and Heritage: Koala program manager

2007 - current Deakin University

Research interests

  • The ecology of small mammals in alpine environments
  • Koala ecology and management
  • Management of invasive mammal species


Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University

Teaching interests

Geographic Information Systems

Vertebrate pest ecology and management

Australian vertebrates

Units taught

SLE332 Geographic Information Systems

SLE310 Pest Plants and Animals

SLE324 Australian Vertebrates

Knowledge areas

  • Wildlife damage management
  • Ecology (focus on terrestrial wildlife)
  • Koala ecology and management


Small mammal ecology; Management of overabundant native species; Koala ecology
  • Ecology
  • Wildlife

Professional activities

Member of Expert Panel on Koala Management (DELWP)

Position Statement Coordinator, Australasian Wildlife Management Society

Associate Editor, Human-Wildlife Interactions

Media appearances

ABC Catalyst (March 2013): Koalas at Cape Otway (http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3715819.htm)

Earthwatch TV (2014): Conserving Koala Country (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoSgHJ_Qpug)

Research groups

Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University


Response of koalas to environmental change (funded by Earthwatch Australia)

The distribution and ecology of a cool climate species, the Broad-toothed rat (Mastacomys fuscus), in Victoria.

Habitat selection by the common wombat at Wilson's Promontory, Victoria


Filter by


Subharmonics increase the auditory impact of female koala rejection calls

B Charlton, D Watchorn, D Whisson

(2017), Vol. 123, pp. 571-579, Ethology, Chichester, Eng., C1


Use of expert knowledge to elicit population trends for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

C Adams-Hosking, M Mcbride, G Baxter, M Burgman, D de Villiers, R Kavanagh, I Lawler, D Lunney, A Melzer, P Menkhorst, R Molsher, B Moore, D Phalen, J Rhodes, C Todd, D Whisson, C Mcalpine

(2016), Vol. 22, pp. 249-262, Diversity and distributions, London, Eng., C1


Failure to respond to food resource decline has catastrophic consequences for koalas in a high-density population in Southern Australia .

D Whisson, V Dixon, M Taylor, A Melzer

(2016), Vol. 11, pp. 1-12, PLoS one, San Franciso, Calif., C1


Habitat selection by two sympatric rodent species in an alpine resort

L Beilharz, D Whisson

(2016), Vol. 64, pp. 327-334, Australian journal of zoology, Clayton, Vic., C1


Persistence of a threatened species in a modified alpine resort environment: the broad-toothed rat

D Whisson, G Holland, T Kelly

(2015), Vol. 96, pp. 151-158, Journal of mammalogy, Oxford, Eng., C1


Home range, habitat use and movements by the little raven (Corvus mellori) in a coastal peri-urban landscape

D Whisson, M Weston, K Shannon

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 500-508, Wildlife research, Melbourne, Vic., C1


Intense predation of non-colonial, ground-nesting bird eggs by corvid and mammalian predators

K Ekanayake, D Whisson, L Tan, M Weston

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 518-528, Wildlife research, Melbourne, Vic., C1


Conserving koalas: A review of the contrasting regional trends, outlooks and policy challenges

C McAlpine, D Lunney, A Melzer, P Menkhorst, S Phillips, D Phalen, W Ellis, W Foley, G Baxter, D de Villiers, R Kavanagh, C Adams-Hosking, C Todd, D Whisson, R Molsher, M Walter, I Lawler, R Close

(2015), Vol. 192, pp. 226-236, Biological conservation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


Sex bias in captured little ravens corvus mellori varies with entry aperture size in a modified australian crow trap

K Shannon, M Weston, D Whisson

(2014), Vol. 38, pp. 22-23, Corella, Penrith, N. S. W., C1


The influence of cover on nesting Red-capped Plovers: a trade-off between thermoregulation and predation risk?

Lomas, Stephanie, Whisson, Desley, Maguire, Grainne, Tan, laura, Guay, Patrick-Jean, M Weston

(2014), Vol. 131, pp. 115-127, The Victorian naturalist, Blackburn, Vic, C1


Free-ranging male koalas use size-related variation in formant frequencies to assess rival males

B Charlton, D Whisson, D Reby

(2013), Vol. 8, pp. 1-9, PLOS one, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Impacts and management of invasive burrowing herbivores in grasslands

P Fleming, H Limin, D Whisson

(2013), pp. 1600-1608, Proceedings of the 22nd International Grassland Congress : Revitalising grasslands to sustain our communities, Sydney, NSW, E1


Activity patterns of free-ranging koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) revealed by accelerometry

M Ryan, D Whisson, G Holland, J Arnould

(2013), Vol. 8, pp. 1-10, PLoS ONE, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Translocation of overabundant species : implications for translocated individuals

D Whisson, G Holland, K Carlyon

(2012), Vol. 76, pp. 1661-1669, Journal of wildlife management, Hoboken, N. J., C1


Temporal variation in reproductive characteristics of an introduced and abundant island population of koalas

D Whisson, K Carlyon

(2010), Vol. 91, pp. 1160-1167, Journal of mammalogy, Lawrence, Kan., C1


Inbreeding and testicular abnormalities in a bottlenecked population of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus)

R Cristescu, V Cahill, W Sherwin, K Handasyde, K Carlyon, D Whisson, C Herbert, B Carlsson, A Wilton, D Cooper

(2009), Vol. 36, pp. 299-308, Wildlife research, Australia, C1


Assessing the effectiveness of bait stations for controlling California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi)

D Whisson, T Salmon

(2009), Vol. 28, pp. 690-695, Crop protection, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1-1


Integrated management of vertebrate pests in alfalfa

D Whisson, P Salmon. Terrell

(2008), pp. 187-196, Irrigated afalfa management for mediterranean and desert zones, Oakland, Calif., B1-1


Funded Projects at Deakin

Other Public Sector Funding

Diet and potential impacts of feral cats on native wildlife on King Island, Tasmania

Dr Desley Whisson

  • 2009: $9,160

Understanding the impacts of koala-related tree defoliation on bird and mammal communities

Dr Desley Whisson, A/Prof Mike Weston, Amanda Orlowski

  • 2010: $1,500

Understanding the effect of revegetation age, structure and distance to native vegetation remnants on mammal communities in agricultural areas

Dr Desley Whisson, Brodie Harrison

  • 2011: $1,000

Industry and Other Funding

A preliminary study of the distribution and habitat requirements of the Broad-toothed Rat, Mastacomys fuscus, in the Mt Buller Alpine Resort

Dr Desley Whisson, A/Prof John White

  • 2009: $5,279
  • 2008: $5,279

The influence of koala-related tree defoliation on woodland bird and ground dwelling mammal assemblages.

A/Prof Mike Weston, Dr Desley Whisson, Amanda Orlowski

  • 2010: $1,650

Understanding the ecology of koalas in the face of climate change

Dr Desley Whisson, Dr Alistair Melzer

  • 2016: $17,540
  • 2015: $23,919
  • 2014: $20,609
  • 2013: $23,972
  • 2012: $33,410
  • 2011: $27,883


Associate Supervisor

Laetitia Kernaleguen

Thesis entitled: Drivers and Fitness Consequences of Individual and Sexual Foraging Specialisation in Fur Seals

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Lauren Patricia Angel

Thesis entitled: Factors influencing foraging behaviour in the Australasian gannet

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Kasun Bandara Ekanayake

Thesis entitled: Little Raven (Corvus mellori) as an Egg Predator of Other Bird Species

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences