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A largely overlooked and potentially devastating bird virus is the focus of Justin Eastwood’s research at the Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus.
Justin’s research is investigating Beak and Feather Disease Virus (BFDV) which has the potential to cause the extinction of many of Australia’s endangered and threatened species of parrots, including the orange-bellied parrot.
‘Currently, little is understood about this virus in wild species and my PhD aims to fill in part of this gap,’ he says.
Justin is undertaking a PhD majoring in ecology and says it was the inspiration of undergraduate lecturers during his Bachelor of Science studies at the Melbourne Burwood Campus that encouraged him to continue his studies.
‘Honours was a great introduction to the research lifestyle and eventually led to me being offered a scholarship to undertake my PhD on the same project,’ he says.
For Justin, the decision to choose Deakin for postgraduate study was driven by Deakin’s reputation as a leader in his chosen field.
‘Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology has some of the best ornithologists in the world, who are always really approachable and passionate about science. Deakin also attracts scientists from many diverse backgrounds which makes it an ideal research environment.’
Justin’s research focus is on the very common crimson rosella (platycercus elegans) and his fieldwork involves trapping and monitoring breeding crimson rosellas at different field sites stretching from Torquay (near the Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus) through to New South Wales and South Australia.
‘This species can be sorted into five main subspecies that hybridise in certain areas, making it an ideal natural laboratory for studying this virus-host relationship,’ he explains.
Justin enjoys the opportunity his research gives him to work with people from diverse backgrounds. ‘Working at Deakin has also given me the opportunity to not only travel quite a lot around Australia for conferences and fieldwork, but also to the US. Soon, I will also attend conferences in France and Sweden.’
In addition to his research, Justin is teaching first-year ecology and biology at Deakin and says he believes his studies are particularly relevant to his future career.
‘The PhD program allows some freedom to let you follow your passion ... it also gives you a wide range of skills, such as organisational and management skills that are highly sought-after in any position.’