Staff profile - Desley Whisson

Staff image

Dr Desley Whisson

Position: Lecturer
role description
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env
Department: School of Life & Env. Sciences
Campus: T3.13.2, Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 925 17302 +61 3 925 17302
Fax: +61 3 925 17636 +61 3 925 17636



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.

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


  • 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


Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University

Professional activities

Member of Expert Panel on Koala Management (DELWP)

Position Statement Coordinator, Australasian Wildlife Management Society

Associate Editor, Human-Wildlife Interactions

Personal website


Teaching Interests

Geographic Information Systems

Vertebrate pest ecology and management

Australian vertebrates

Subjects and units currently teaching

SLE332 Geographic Information Systems

SLE310 Pest Plants and Animals

SLE324 Australian Vertebrates

Expertise categories

Expertise summary

Small mammal ecology; Management of overabundant native species; Koala ecology

Knowledge areas

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

Student supervision

PhD students
The efficacy of deslorelin implants for managing an overabundant koala population

Honours students

  • Mate selection in koalas
  • Activity patterns of two sympatric small mammals in the subalpine region
  • Niche overlap between the Broad Toothed Rat and Bush Rats in a subalpine region
  • Habitat use by koalas during the breeding season
  • Small mammal use of revegetated areas
  • Measuring energy expenditure by koalas
  • The influence of koala-related tree defoliation on small mammal and bird communities 
  • Habitat use and movements by Broad-toothed rats in an alpine resort

Media appearances

ABC Catalyst (March 2013): Koalas at Cape Otway (

Earthwatch TV (2014): Conserving Koala Country (


Research projects

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

Research interests

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

Research grants

Earthwatch Australia (2011 - 2016)

Research groups

Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University

Research page



Whisson, D., Holland, G. and Kelly, T. (2015) Persistence of a threatened species in a modified alpine resort: the broad-toothed rat. Journal of Mammalogy.

Charlton, B.D., Whisson, D.A., Reby, D.(2013) Free-ranging male koalas use size-related variation in formant frequencies to assess rival males. PLoS ONE 8(7):1-9.

Fleming, P.J.S., Limin, H. and Whisson, D.A. (2013) Impacts and management of invasive burrowing herbivores in grasslands. In Michalk, D.L., Millar, G.D., Badgery, W.M., and Broadfoot, K.M. (eds), Proceedings of the 22nd International Grassland Congress, Revitalising grasslands to sustain our communities. pp 1600-1608. NSW Dept of Primary Industries. CSIRO Publishing. Sydney, NSW.

Ryan, M.A., Whisson, D.A., Holland, G.J. and Arnould, J.P.Y. (2013) Activity patterns of free-ranging koalas revealed by accelerometry. PLoS ONE 8(11):1-10.

Whisson, D., Holland, G. and Carlyon, K. (2012) Translocation of overabundant species: Considering the welfare impacts on translocated individuals. Journal of Wildlife Management

Whisson, D. and Carlyon, K. (2010) Temporal variation in reproductive characteristics of an introduced and abundant island population of koalas Journal of Mammalogy Vol 91, pp. 1160-1167

Link to publications

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