Deakin's avian research takes flight

Sat, 01 May 2010 00:00:00 +1000

“It is something of a coup that we have been able to recruit Professors Marcel Klaassen, John Endler and Bill Buttemer to Deakin,” said DVC (Research), Professor Lee Astheimer.

“They will be a vital part in our new centre, in shaping its direction and in turn attracting more top researchers in this field.”

Recruited from The Netherlands Institute of Technology, Professor Klaassen will head up the centre.

Professor Klaassen has developed broad research interests including theoretical, experimental and observational studies on numerous animal, plant and microbe taxa. Throughout this, his focus has primarily been on bird migration and nutritional ecology issues. To gain a better understanding of the behaviour and functioning of animals, he uses the rate of energy intake and the economy of its use for life processes as an index of fitness.

Professor Endler comes to from the University of Exeter in England and has broad interests in the area of overlap between Evolution, Ecology, Animal Behaviour, Sensory Ecology, Sensory Physiology and Environmental Biophysics. His main interest is in the joint effects of these factors on adaptation and using integrated principles from all of these fields to make and test explicit predictions about the direction of evolution under specified and changing environmental conditions.

Professor Buttemer, from the University of Wollongong, has a broad background from ecology to comparative physiology that includes examination of the physiological and behavioural responses animals display towards their natural environment as well as physiological appraisal of life-history strategies.

These studies have required a highly integrative research approach that combines many fields: physics to quantify the physical environments of animals (particularly heat-transfer theory), physiological assessment (endocrinology, biochemistry, immunology, and metabolic assessment), and ecology to place these interactions into an evolutionary context.

Professor Buttemer’s research has been global in both scope and location; ranging from biochemical to behavioural and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, with many tropical, temperate, and arid-zone locations in between. His expertise in animal ecophysiology is well recognised internationally and has resulted in invitations to present his research at world congresses of herpetology, endocrinology, ornithology and physiology.

“All our new Strategic Research Centres, which were announced late last year, have a key role to play in the future of Deakin as a research institution,” Professor Astheimer said.

“Even at the early stages, we are seeing tremendous growth in our research capacities right across the University.”

Professor Klaassen said that bringing researchers together helped to push the frontiers of knowledge.

“There is a lot to gain from integrating knowledge,” he said.

“A university, naturally, has a lot of very smart people working across a range of disciplines and one way of encouraging high standards in research and academic achievement is to create an environment that allows these people to come together to collaborate and learn from one another.

“If you want to push the knowledge frontier of course you look at what your direct colleagues are doing, but I also believe there is much to be gained from looking more widely at what is being done in your field.

“John, Bill and I are very much looking forward to working with our Deakin colleagues, as well as with colleagues in organisations and institutes outside of the University, to establish it as a centre for ecological research excellence.”

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Professors Marcel Klaassen, John Endler and Bill Buttemer
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20th August 2012