A real Deakin homecoming

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 11:53:00 +1000

Deakin University is doing its bit to reverse the brain drain, bringing home – literally – Professor Andy Bennett.

After a first degree at University of Adelaide, and then a D.Phil. at Oxford with an 1851 Science Research Scholarship, since 1998, Professor Bennett has been based at one of Britain’s leading research institutions, the University of Bristol, where the group of which he is a leading member achieved the highest grade attainable in the UK Research Assessment Exercise.

However, the bulk of his ground-breaking work in the field of ultraviolet vision and how colour is assessed and considered in ecology, evolutionary biology and animal behaviour has been on Australian animals.

“I already spend much time in Australia, running field projects in SA, Victoria and NSW” Professor Bennett said.

“Now I can do that on a permanent basis at Deakin, something I am really looking forward to. In addition, the trajectory of the university, and the can-do attitude of so many staff has impressed me. It’s a wonderful opportunity and it’s great to be on board at Deakin at this time.”

Professor Bennett’s choice of Deakin is a fascinating one for more than the obvious reason of being attracted to the young, dynamic research institution.

He is a great grandson of Alfred Deakin, the former Australian Prime Minister after whom the university is named and Andy and his family will in fact initially live in the old Deakin holiday house home near Geelong when he returns to Australia early next year.

“My third initial is D and yes, it stands for Deakin,” Professor Bennett said.

That third initial has been a handy part of life at Bristol which has another Andrew Bennett.

And there’s another Andrew Bennett at Deakin, one who has already made a global name for himself in wildlife ecology, conservation biology and landscape ecology.

The Andrew Bennett returning from Bristol is also a world expert in his field.

Andy’s research has been cited more than 1800 times and incorporated into popular science books and textbooks.

Andy’s research is often reported in the media including The Economist, Washington Post, The Sunday Times, New Scientist, and in various BBC natural history programs and the ABC’s Science Show.

He is on the editorial board of the Proceedings of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences) and has been editor at American Naturalist and has also led, on behalf of Bristol University, regular lecture tours to the Galapagos Islands.

“My research work in biology is multi-disciplinary” Professor Bennett said.

“It spans from the neural and molecular level to behaviour, ecology and evolutionary biology and involves neuroscience, physiology, and the physics of light reflecting and absorbing structures.”

Professor Bennett has in particular been investigating:

  • Vision and colouration of animals, particularly of birds
  • Spectrometry and spectrofluorometry to characterise animal pigmentation
  • Origins and maintenance of trait variability in ‘ring species’
  • Sexual selection
  • Effects of development stress
  • Bird pollination and co-evolution with plants
  • Nanostructures producing colouration and the type of information conveyed
  • Evolutionary biology and ecology of Australian animals
  • Animal welfare
  • Pest management of birds utilising knowledge of their sensory abilities

“Andy Bennett will be an extremely valuable addition to our research capabilities,” said Professor David Stokes, Deakin’s DVC Research.

“He is a plumb signing for us, even without the wonderful connection to Alfred Deakin.

“I am really looking forward to him joining us next year.”


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20th August 2012