Staff profile - Kate Buchanan

Staff image

Prof Kate Buchanan

Position: ARC Future Fellow
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env
Department: School of Life & Env. Sciences
Campus: Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus
Phone: +61 3 522 71321 +61 3 522 71321



I gained my B.Sc. Zoology from the University of Glasgow in 1989 and my Ph.D. from Royal Holloway University of London in 1997, working with Prof Clive Catchpole. After 2 postdocs at University of Stirling I held a Personal Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 at Cardiff University. I was a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer there from 2003 - early 2008 when I moved across the globe to take up a position at Deakin University, based at the Geelong campus. In 2014 I was awarded a Future Fellowship (2015-2018) from the Australian Research Council.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of London, 1997


Teaching Interests

I teach into and coordinate the second year unit SLE224 (Animal Behaviour) and the third year unit SLE397 (Sensory Neurobiology and Behaviour). I have interests in animal behaviour and the evolution of signalling behaviour. Honours students are welcome to contact me regarding projects on animal behaviour, physiological stress, bird song, endocrine control of behaviour, mate choice and sexual selection in birds or humans.

Subjects and units currently teaching

SLE224 Animal Behaviour

SLE397 Sensory Neurobiology and Behaviour

Knowledge areas

  1. Evolution of signals in birds
  2. Neural control of acoustic signalling and perception in birds
  3. Assessing endocrine levels in birds
  4. Endocrine control of begging behaviour
  5. Avian neurobiology

Student supervision

Mylene Mariette (AD fellow) Can eggs hear? Effects of early acoustic tutoring on avian development.

Adam Cardilini (Ph.D.): Evolution of the invasive European starling in Australia

Lori Hurley (Ph.D.) : Sperm production and reproductive regulation in the opportunistically breeding zebra finch.

Jessica Evans (M.Phil) : Adaptive modulation of imune function in wild zebra finches

Justin Eastwood (Ph.D.) : Beak and feather disease virus in rosella parrots

Milla Mihailova (Ph.D.) : Olfaction in rosella parrots

Anna Miltiadous (Hons) : Yolk corticosterone and pair comparibiity in the Gouldian finch

Sara Beebe (Hons) : Adaptive modulation of song in Acrocephalus warblers

Media appearances

I have had a variety of media interactions. The international press (BBC Radio, UK Press, NY Times) covered my PhD and postdoctoral research on song evolution and honest signalling in the sedge warbler. In 2008 ABC Radio National's Science Show ran a feature on my research into the effects of endocrine distupters on song production in starlings. This followed from considerable international interest in this issue (NY Times, Fox news, BBC, ABC radio).


Research projects

1. Effects of early life stress on avian behaviour and sexual signalling. Under funding from the ARC through their Future Fellowship scheme I am testing the transgenerational effects of early life stress in birds. This project integrates experimental manipulations of condition with tests of neural development, behaviour and key physiological traits. This project combines assessment of epigentic effects which underly the evolution of  sexual signals.

2. Physiological control of opportunistic breeding in the zebra finch. Using both captive and wild zebra finches in collaboration with Assoc Prof Simon Griffith (Macquarie University) I am testing the mechanisms controlling opportunistic breeding in the model species for much avian lab work, the zebra finch. This project tests the impact of environmental factors on the decision to breed and the overall investment.

3. Physiological stress and endocrine disruption. My work in the UK has demonstrated the ecological relevance of endocrine distrupting chemicals for wild birds. These chemcials have a range of potential effects on breeding and non-breeding birds, through a range of untested routes. Combining both wild and captive studies I seek to quantify the main routes of impact in Australia.

Research interests

My research interests lie in the evolution of signalling behaviour in birds. Having conudcted my PhD work on bird song this remains my principle area of interest. However, I have active research projects examining the evolution of a range of other signals including colour and colour perception. Currently I have active involvment in the following research projects : 1) the condition-dependence of song learning in zebra finches, 2) the factors controlling reproductive readiness in opportunistically breeding birds 3) the evolution of invasive starlings 4) the impact of nest pathogens on the immunocompetence of wild zebra finches 5) signalling and health in wild rosella parrots 6) egg hormones and maternal effects.

Research grants

ARC Discovery 2013 - 2015 DP 130100417

S Griffith and K Buchanan Reproductve plasticity and climate change: insights from an opportunistic breeder.

ARC Linkage LP140100691 2015 -2017

Bennett, Raidal, Klaassen, Buchanan, Walder, Magrath, Segal, Jeggo. Threats of avian pathogens to endangered parrots and human health: developing and utilizing tools for risk reduction

ARC Future Fellowship 2015-2018 FT140100131

Research groups

Centre for Integrative Ecology

Sensory Ecology

Research page



Selected Publications 2010 on
Buchanan, K.L. and Parteke, J. (2012) Anthropogenic effects and the endocrine system: can homeostasis be maintained in a changing world? In Behavioural responses to a changing world.  Oxford University Press.

Journal Papers

Eastwood, J., M.L Berg, R.F.H. Ribot, S Raidal, K. L. Buchanan, K. Walder and A.T.D. Bennett (2014) Phylogenetic analysis of beak and feather disease virus across a hybridising host species complex Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (in press).

Milhailova, M., M.L. Berg, K.L. Buchanan and A.T.D. Bennett (2014) Odour-based discrimination of subspecies, species and sexes in an avian species complex, the crimson rosella. Animal Behaviour (in press).

Careau, V., WA Buttemer and K L Buchanan (2014) Early development stress, repeatability and canalization in a suite of physiological and behavioural traits in female zebra finches. Integrative and Comparative Biology (in press).

Woodgate, J.L K.L. Buchanan, A T D Bennett, C.K. Catchpole, R. Brighton and S Leitner (2013) Environmental and genetic control of brain and song structure in the zebra finch Evolution 68, 230- 240.

Knott, B, WIL Davies, LS Carvalho, ML Berg, KL Buchanan, JK Bowmaker, ATD Bennett and DM Hunt (2013) How Parrots see their colours: novelty in the visual pigments of Platycercus elegans Journal of Experimental Biology 216: 4454-4461.

Buchanan, KL, J Grindstaff and VV Pravosudov (2013) Condition-dependence, developmental plasticity and cognition: implications for ecology and evolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28 290-296.

Ribot, R.F.H., Buchanan, K.L., Endler, J.A., Joseph, L, Bennett, M.L. and Berg, M.L. (2012) Learned vocalisation is associated with abrupt cryptic change in a parrot species complex. PLoS One 7 e50484

Roberts, M.L., Buchanan, K.L., Goldsmith, A.R and Evans, M.R. (2012) The role of testosterone in bib size determination in the house sparrow, Passer domesticus, is age dependent. Journal of Avian Biology 43, 264-272.

Pavlova, A., N. Amos, M. I. Goretskaia, I. R. Beme, K. L. Buchanan, N. Takeuchi, J. Q. Radford, & P. Sunnucks (2012) Genes and song: genetic and social connections in fragmented habitat in a woodland bird with limited dispersal Ecology 93, 1717-1727.

Woodgate, J.L., M M. Mariette., A.T.D, Bennett, S.C. Griffith, & K.L. Buchanan (2012) Male song structure predicts reproductive success in a wild zebra finch population Animal Behaviour 83,773-781.

Evans, J.E., Smith, E.L., Bennett, A.T.D., Cuthill, I.C. and Buchanan, K.L. (2012) Short term physiological and behavioural effects of high versus low frequency fluorescent light on captive birds. Animal Behaviour 83, 25-33.

van Oers, K., Buchanan, K.L.T.E. Thomas and P. J. Drent (2011) Correlated response to selection of testosterone levels and immunocompetence in lines selected for avian personality. Animal Behaviour  81: 1055-1061.

Woodgate, J. L.,, S. Leitner, C. K. Catchpole, M.L. Berg, A.T.D. Bennett & K. L. Buchanan (2011) Developmental stressors that impair song learning in males do not appear to affect female preference Behavioural Ecology 22: 566-573.

Markman, S., D. Pascoe, C.T. Müller, A. Dawson. & K.L.Buchanan (2011). Pollutants affect development in nestling starlings Sturnus vulgaris. Journal of Applied Ecology 48: 391-397.

Griffith, SC and K.L. Buchanan (2010) Maternal effects in the zebra finch: a model mother reviewed Emu Austral Ornithology. 110: 251-267.

Knott, B., M.L. Berg, E.R. Morgan, K.L. Buchanan, J.K. Bowmaker & A.T.D. Bennett (2010) Avian retinal oil droplets: dietary manipulation of colour vision? Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 953-962.

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