Dr Matthew Symonds



Senior Lecturer In Ecology


Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env


School of Life & Env. Sciences


Melbourne Burwood Campus


I graduated as a zoologist with a BA(Hons) in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1994. I briefly dabbled in the world of population genetics, doing a masters degree with Prof Bryan Clarke at the University of Nottingham on the maintenance of prey polymorphisms due to frequency dependent selection by avian predators. Heading back to Cambridge, I obtained my PhD under the supervision of Dr Adrian Friday, looking at the effect of phylogenetic accuracy on comparative studies, concentrating on life-history evolution in mammals and, in particular, the order Insectivora. After graduating in 2000 I worked as Science Co-ordinator for The Charles Darwin Trust, before returning to research in 2002. I initially came to the University of Melbourne for a year to work with Prof Mark Elgar on a Royal Society Travelling Research Fellowship, looking at pheromone evolution in bark beetles. I then spent two years (2003-2005) at James Cook University in Townsville as an ARC Research Associate with Prof Chris Johnson, looking at the macroecology of Australian land birds and in particular explaining patterns of abundance and range size. I returned to the University of Melbourne in 2005 to take up a ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship on pheromone evolution in insects, and stayed there as a research fellow and lecturer until November 2010 when I joined Deakin University as a Lecturer in Ecology

For more about me and my research visit http://symondslab.wordpress.com

Read more on Matthew's profile

Biography summary

2015 - Senior Lecturer, Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

2010 - 2014 Lecturer, Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

2005-2010 Research Fellow and Lecturer, University of Melbourne

2003-2005 Research Associate, James Cook University

2002 Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

2000-2001 Science Co-Ordinator, The Charles Darwin Trust

1996-2000 PhD, University of Cambridge

1995 MPhil, University of Nottingham

1991-1994 BA (Hons) Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Career highlights

President of the Australasian Evolution Society 2013-2015

Deakin University Teaching Awards 2012, 2013, 2014

ARC Discovery Project (with Mark Elgar) 2009

ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship 2005

Royal Society Travelling Research Fellow 2002

Research interests

Using phylogenies to explain patterns of chemical diversity in insects (pheromones) and plants (medicinal compounds) 

Evolution of elaborate antennal structures in insects

Phylogenetic comparative analyses of behaviour (including signalling), morphology and physiology in animals. 

Insect behavioural ecology

Bird macroecology and explaining geographic variation in morphology, abundance and species richness

Statistical methods in behavioural ecology


Deputy Director, Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University

Member: Australasian Evolution Society, Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Australian Entomological Society, International Society for Behavioural Ecology, European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne

Fellow, Cambridge Philosophical Society

Teaching interests

Evolutionary biology, Ecology, Animal Behaviour

Units taught

SLE 370 Evolution (unit chair)

SLE 251 Research Methods and Data Analysis (unit chair)

plus contribution towards

SLE 151 Biodiversity

SLE 307 Behavioural Ecology

SLE 390 Professional Practice in Bioscience

SLE 314 Research Project

Knowledge areas

Evolutionary biology

Chemical communication

Bird Macroecology

Insect behavioural ecology


Evolutionary biology Pheromones Bird Ecology Insect behaviour Publication and gender issues in science
  • Behaviour
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Gender issues



Organising Panel and Speaker: 2015 International Ethological Congress, Cairns

Speaker: 2014 Australian Entomological Society Conference, Canberra

Speaker: 2014 Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour Conference, Katoomba

Organiser: 2013 Australasian Evolution Society Conference, Geelong

Speaker: 2013 International Chemical Ecology Conference, Melbourne

Plenary speaker: 2012 Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Geelong

Plenary speaker: 2012 New Zealand Entomological Society Conference, Whangarei

Speaker: 2012 Australian Entomological Society Conference, Hobart

Professional activities

President, Australasian Evolution Society 2013-2015

Council member, Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour 2009-2013

Subject Editor, Oikos

Review Editor, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution: Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology

Editorial Board: Axios Review

Media appearances

Audubon magazine, June 2015 - Warmer world, bigger beaks

LSE Blogs, December 2014 - Striving for gender equity in science

Scientific American, August 2012 - Beak Heat: Evolutionary Theory of Bird Bills May Need Revision 

The Age/Sydney Morning Herald, September 2010 - Peak beak or chill bill? It's a climate thing

New York Times, March 2008 - For Scientists, a Beer Test Shows Results as a Litmus Test

New Scientist - July 2007 - Why women lose out in the lab


The evolution of pheromones and antennal diversity in insects

Climate, Allen’s rule and the evolution of bird beaks

Using phylogeny to predict medicinal utility of basal angiosperms (the ancient spice clades) in Australasia


Filter by


Tests of ecogeographical relationships in a non-native species: what rules avian morphology?

Dr Adam Cardilini, Prof Kate Buchanan, Dr Craig Sherman, Dr Phillip Cassey, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2016), Vol. 181, pp. 783-793, Oecologia, Berlin, Gemany, C1


Time since urbanization but not encephalisation is associated with increased tolerance of human proximity in birds

Dr Matthew Symonds, A/Prof Mike Weston, Mr Wouter Van Dongen, Alan Lill, Randall W. Robinson, Patrick-Jean Guay

(2016), Vol. 4, pp. 1-9, Frontiers in ecology and evolution, Lausanne, Switzerland, C1


Experimental evolution reveals that population density does not affect moth signalling behaviour and antennal morphology

Ms Kita Ashman, Kathryn McNamara, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2016), Vol. 30, pp. 1009-1021, Evolutionary ecology, Berlin. Germany, C1


The evolution of aggregation pheromone diversity in bark beetles

Dr Matthew Symonds, C Gitau-Clarke

(2016), pp. 195-234, Advances in insect physiology: pine bark beetles, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1


Evolutionary history and leaf succulence as explanations for medicinal use in aloes and the global popularity of Aloe vera

Olwen Grace, Sven Buerki, Dr Matthew Symonds, Felix Forest, Abraham van Wyk, Gideon Smith, Ronell Klopper, Charlotte Bjora, Sophie Neale, Sebsebe Demissew, Monique Simmonds

(2015), Vol. 15, pp. 1-12, BMC evolutionary biology, London, Eng., C1


Investment in sensory structures, testis size, and wing coloration in males of a diurnal moth species: trade-offs or correlated growth?

Mr BRETT SHIEL, Dr Craig Sherman, Mark A Elgar, Tamara L. Johnson, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2015), Vol. 5, pp. 1601-1608, Ecology and evolution, London, Eng., C1


Climate-related spatial and temporal variation in bill morphology over the past century in Australian parrots

Daniel Campbell-Tennant, Dr Janet Gardner, Michael Kearney, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 1163-1175, Journal of biogeography, London, Eng., C1


The mothematics of female pheromone signaling: strategies for aging virgins

Kate Umbers, Dr Matthew Symonds, Hanna Kokko

(2015), Vol. 185, pp. 417-432, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1


Comparative analysis of classic brain component sizes in relation to flightiness in birds

Dr Matthew Symonds, A/Prof Mike Weston, Randall W. Robinson, P. -J. Guay

(2014), Vol. 9, pp. 1-8, PLoS one, San Francisco, California, C1


A primer on phylogenetic generalised least squares

Dr Matthew Symonds, Simon Blomberg

(2014), pp. 105-130, Modern phylogenetic comparative methods and their application in evolutionary biology : concepts and practice, Berlin, Germany, B1


Gender differences in conference presentations: a consequence of self-selection?

Theresa Jones, Dr Kerry Fanson, Robert Lanfear, Dr Matthew Symonds, Megan Higgie

(2014), Vol. 2, pp. 1-15, PeerJ, Corte Madera, Calif., C1


Lecturing and other face-to-face teaching – too much or too little? An assessment based on student feedback and fail rates

Dr Matthew Symonds

(2014), Vol. 33, pp. 1221-1231, Higher education research and development, London, Eng., C1


Leaders benefit followers in the collective movement of a social sawfly

L K Hodgkin, Dr Matthew Symonds, M.A. Elgar

(2014), Vol. 281, pp. 1-6, Proceedings of the royal society B, London, Eng., C1


Brains and bravery: little evidence of a relationship between brain size and flightiness in shorebirds

P. -J. Guay, A/Prof Mike Weston, Dr Matthew Symonds, Ms Hayley Glover

(2013), Vol. 38, pp. 516-522, Austral ecology, Richmond, Vic., C1


Macrostress: do large-scale ecological patterns exist in the glucocorticoid stress response of vertebrates?

Dr Tim Jessop, Romy Woodford, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2013), Vol. 27, pp. 120-130, Functional ecology, Oxford, Eng., C1


Distance from water, sex and approach direction influence flight distances among habituated black swans

P. -J. Guay, Rachael D. A. Lorenz, Randall W. Robinson, Dr Matthew Symonds, A/Prof Mike Weston

(2013), Vol. 119, pp. 552-558, Ethology, Weinheim, Germany, C1


Factors shaping the evolution of colour patterns in Australian agamid lizards (Agamidae): a comparative study

I-Ping Chen, Dr Matthew Symonds, Dr Jane Melville, Dr Devi Stuart-Fox

(2013), Vol. 109, pp. 101-112, Biological journal of the Linnean Society, Oxford, Eng., C1


The evolution of body size, antennal size and host use in parasitoid wasps (hymenoptera: chalcidoidea): a phylogenetic comparative analysis

Dr Matthew Symonds, Mark A Elgar

(2013), Vol. 8, pp. 1-13, PLoS one, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Sexual selection and the evolution of complex color patterns in dragon lizards

I-Ping Chen, Dr Devi Stuart-Fox, Andrew F. Hugall, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2012), Vol. 66, pp. 3605-3614, Evolution, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Pheromone production, male abundance, body size, and the evolution of elaborate antennae in moths

Dr Matthew Symonds, Tamara L. Johnson, Mark A Elgar

(2012), Vol. 2, pp. 227-246, Ecology and evolution, West Sussex, Eng., C1


Reproductive consequences of male arrival order in the Bark beetle, Ips grandicollis

Dr Matthew Symonds, Michael J. L. Magrath, Tanya M Latty

(2012), Vol. 25, pp. 401-407, Journal of insect behavior, New York, N. Y., C1-1


Can phylogeny predict chemical diversity and potential medicinal activity of plants? A case study of amaryllidaceae

Nina Ronsted, Dr Matthew Symonds, Trine Birkholm, Soren Brogger Christensen, Alan W. Meerow, Marianne Molander, Per Molgaard, Gitte Petersen, Nina Rasmussen, Johannes van Staden, Gary I. Stafford, Ann aK Jager

(2012), Vol. 12, pp. 1-12, BMC evolutionary biology, London, Eng., C1


Effects of humidity on the response of the bark beetle Ips grandicollis (Eichhoff) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) to synthetic aggregation pheromone

Michelle A. Bassett, John B Baumgartner, Monique L Hallett, Yasmin Hassan, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2011), Vol. 50, pp. 48-51, Australian journal of entomology, Richmond, Vic., C1-1


A brief guide to model selection, multimodel inference and model averaging in behavioural ecology using Akaike's information criterion

Dr Matthew Symonds, Adnan Moussalli

(2011), Vol. 65, pp. 13-21, Behavioral ecology and sociobiology, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Evolution of cuticular hydrocarbon diversity in ants

E Van Wilgenburg, Dr Matthew Symonds, Mark A Elgar

(2011), Vol. 24, pp. 1188-1198, Journal of evolutionary biology, Oxford, Eng., C1


Positive and negative effects of phoretic mites on the reproductive output of an invasive bark beetle

Lisa K Hodgkin, Mark A Elgar, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2010), Vol. 58, pp. 198-204, Australian journal of zoology, Collingwood, Vic., C1-1


Geographical variation in bill size across bird species provides evidence for Allen's rule

Dr Matthew Symonds, Dr Glenn Tattersall

(2010), Vol. 176, pp. 188-197, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1-1


Harem size and oviposition behaviour in a polygynous bark beetle

Tanya M Latty, Michael J. L. Magrath, Dr Matthew Symonds

(2009), Vol. 34, pp. 562-568, Ecological entomology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Changing philosophies and tools for statistical inferences in behavioral ecology

Laszlo Garamszegi, Sara Calhim, Ned Dochtermann, Gergely Hegyi, Peter L Hurd, Christian Jorgensen, Nobuyuki Kutsukake, Marc J. Lajeunesse, Kimberly A. Pollard, Holger Schielzeth, Dr Matthew Symonds, Shinichi Nakagawa

(2009), Vol. 20, pp. 1363-1375, Behavioral ecology, Cary, NC, C1-1


The evolution of sex pheromones in an ecologically diverse genus of flies

Dr Matthew Symonds, Adnan Moussalli, Mark A Elgar

(2009), Vol. 97, pp. 594-603, Biological journal of the Linnean Society, Oxford , Eng., C1-1


Species richness and evenness in Australian birds

Dr Matthew Symonds, Christopher N. Johnson

(2008), Vol. 171, pp. 480-490, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1-1


The evolution of pheromone diversity

Dr Matthew Symonds, Mark A Elgar

(2008), Vol. 23, pp. 220-228, Trends in ecology and evolution, London, Eng., C1-1


Latitudinal gradients in abundance, and the causes of rarity in the tropics: a test using Australian honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae)

Dr Matthew Symonds, Les Christidis, Christopher N. Johnson

(2006), Vol. 149, pp. 406-417, Oecologia, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Gender differences in publication output: towards an unbiased metric of research performance

Dr Matthew Symonds, Neil J Gemmell, Tamsin L Braisher, Kylie L Gorringe, Mark A Elgar

(2006), Vol. 1, pp. 1-5, PLoS ONE, San Francisco, Ca., C1-1


Determinants of local abundance in a major radiation of Australian passerines (Aves: Meliphagoidea)

Dr Matthew Symonds, Christopher N. Johnson

(2006), Vol. 33, pp. 794-802, Journal of biogeography, Oxford , Eng., C1-1


Range size-abundance relationships in Australian passerines

Dr Matthew Symonds, Christopher N. Johnson

(2006), Vol. 15, pp. 143-152, Global ecology and biogeography, Oxford , Eng., C1-1


Phylogeny and life histories of the 'Insectivora': controversies and consequences

Dr Matthew Symonds

(2005), Vol. 80, pp. 93-128, Biological reviews, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


The mode of evolution of aggregation pheromones in Drosophila species

Dr Matthew Symonds, B Wertheim

(2005), Vol. 18, pp. 1253-1263, Journal of evolutionary biology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Ecological correlates of the threat of extinction in neotropical bird species

G.S. Gage, M. de L. Brooke, Dr Matthew Symonds, D Wege

(2004), Vol. 7, pp. 161-178, Animal conservation, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Web-building spiders attract prey by storing decaying matter

Bojun T Bjorkman-Chiswell, Melissa M Kulinski, Robert L Muscat, Kim A Nguyen, Kim A Norton, Dr Matthew Symonds, Gina E Westhope, Mark A Elgar

(2004), Vol. 91, pp. 245-248, Naturwissenschaften, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Species overlap, speciation and the evolution of aggregation pheromones in bark beetles

Dr Matthew Symonds, Mark A Elgar

(2004), Vol. 7, pp. 202-212, Ecology letters, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


The mode of pheromone evolution: evidence from bark beetles

Dr Matthew Symonds, Mark A Elgar

(2004), Vol. 271, pp. 839-846, Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences, London, Eng., C1-1


The effects of topological inaccuracy in evolutionary trees on the phylogenetic comparative method of independent contrasts

Dr Matthew Symonds

(2002), Vol. 51, pp. 541-553, Systematic biology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Life histories of the Insectivora : the role of phylogeny, metabolism and sex differences

Dr Matthew Symonds

(1999), Vol. 249, pp. 315-337, Journal of zoology, London, Eng., C1-1


Insectivore life histories: further evidence against an optimum body size for mammals

Dr Matthew Symonds

(1999), Vol. 13, pp. 508-513, Functional ecology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1



Industry and Other Funding

Rapidly shifting landscapes: How does rural land-use change in the Western Strzelecki Ranges influence bird communities?

Dr Matthew Symonds, Miss Cara Brammar, Prof Andrew Bennett

  • 2014: $5,500

The evolution of harem polygyny in Hemideina thoracica

Dr Matthew Symonds, Ms Melissa Griffin

  • 2016: $876


No completed student supervisions to report