Dr Desley Whisson



Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Biology


Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env


School of Life & Env. Sciences


Melbourne Burwood Campus


Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Deakin University, 2009
Certificate II in Horticulture, TAFE SA, 2006
Graduate Diploma of Applied Science, Charles Sturt University, 2005
Doctor of Philosophy, Queensland Univ. of Technology, 1994
Bachelor of Applied Science, Queensland Univ. of Technology, 1987


My research focusses on identifying scientifically-based solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. In my early career, I worked in Mexico and the USA and on a diverse range of both agricultural and natural resource issues and species including birds, pocket gophers, squirrels, mongooses, and rats. I returned to Australia in 2004 to manage the Kangaroo Island Koala Management Program.

When I moved to Deakin University in 2007, I maintained my interest in koalas, undertaking research on their southern distribution, population dynamics, and behaviour. I also developed a keen interest in the ecology of alpine regions.

I have a strong interest in spatial ecology, especially related to animal home range and movements.

Please contact me if you are interested in undertaking a PhD. I have a number of opportunities and would love to discuss these with you.

Read more on Desley's profile

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

Research interests

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


Australasian Wildlife Management Society

Teaching interests

Geographic Information Systems

Pest ecology and management

Australian vertebrates

Units taught

SLE332 Geographic Information Systems (Chair)

SLE310 Pest Plants and Animals (Chair)

SLE324 Australian Vertebrates (Chair)

SLE353 Asian Conservation and Environment Sustainability (Lecturer)

Knowledge areas

  • Human-wildlife conflicts
  • Spatial ecology (distribution mapping; animal home range and movements)
  • Koala ecology and management


Small mammal ecology; Management of overabundant native species; Koala ecology; Spatial ecology
  • Ecology
  • Wildlife

Professional activities

Associate Editor, Human-Wildlife Interactions

Media appearances

ABC Catalyst (March 2013): Koalas at Cape Otway (http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3715819.htm)

Earthwatch TV (2014): Conserving Koala Country (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoSgHJ_Qpug)

Research groups

Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University


2016 - Earthwatch Australia - Contribution of excellence to Environmental Science award

2017 - Team award - Deakin University Award for Teaching Excellence


Southern koalas (https://victoriankoalaresearch.wordpress.com/)

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


Filter by


Quantifying the interactions between koalas in a high-density population during the breeding period

D Watchorn, D Whisson

(2020), Vol. 42, pp. 28-37, Australian mammalogy, Clayton, Vic., C1


Understanding the role of plantations in the abundance of an arboreal folivore

K Ashman, A Rendall, M Symonds, D Whisson

(2020), Vol. 193, pp. 1-10, Landscape and urban planning, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


When an iconic native animal is overabundant: The koala in southern Australia

Desley Whisson, Kita Ashman

(2020), pp. 1-12, Conservation science and practice, Chichester, Eng., C1


Developing guidelines for the use of traps to capture koalas

K Ashman, D Whisson

(2020), pp. 1-5, Australian mammalogy, Clayton, Vic., C1


A review of the 'noose and flag' method to capture free-ranging koalas

G Madani, K Ashman, V Mella, D Whisson

(2020), pp. 1-8, Australian mammalogy, Clayton, Vic., C1


Does zonation and accessibility of wetlands influence human presence and mediate wildlife disturbance?

P Guay, W Van Dongen, E McLeod, D Whisson, H Vu, H Wang, M Weston

(2019), Vol. 62, pp. 1306-1320, Journal of environmental planning and management, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Joining the dots: how does an apex predator move through an urbanizing landscape?

N Carter, R Cooke, J White, D Whisson, B Isaac, N Bradsworth

(2019), Vol. 17, pp. 1-12, Global ecology and conservation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


Prioritising research efforts for effective species conservation: a review of 145 years of koala research

K Ashman, D Watchorn, D Whisson

(2019), Vol. 49, pp. 189-200, Mammal review, Chichester, Eng., C1


Regulations fail to constrain dog space use in threatened species beach habitats

T Schneider, G Maguire, D Whisson, M Weston

(2019), pp. 1-15, Journal of environmental planning and management, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Faecal inoculations alter the gastrointestinal microbiome and allow dietary expansion in a wild specialist herbivore, the koala

Michaela Blyton, Rochelle Soo, Desley Whisson, Karen Marsh, Jack Pascoe, Mark Le Pla, William Foley, Philip Hugenholtz, Ben Moore

(2019), Vol. 1, pp. 1-18, Animal microbiome, London, Eng., C1


Survival and movements of koalas translocated from an over-abundant population

Peter Menkhorst, David Ramsey, Tim O'Brien, Emily Hynes, Desley Whisson

(2019), Vol. 46, pp. 557-565, Wildlife Research, Melbourne, Vic., C1


Urban corvids on the move: habitat use and movement ecology of the little raven Corvus mellori at a peri-urban wetland

K Ekanayake, D Whisson, T Schlacher, M Weston

(2018), Vol. 42, pp. 29-37, Corella, Penrith, N.S.W., C1


Tree canopy defoliation impacts avifauna

Desley Whisson, Amy Orlowski, Michael Weston

(2018), Vol. 428, pp. 81-86, Forest ecology and management, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


Passive acoustic surveys for predicting species' distributions: optimising detection probability

Stiele Hagens, Anthony Rendall, Desley Whisson

(2018), Vol. 13, pp. 1-16, PLoS one, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Woodland birds and rural towns: artificial clutch survival in fragmented Box-Ironbark forests

Beau Meney, S Cunningham, Michael Weston, Desley Whisson

(2018), Vol. 130, pp. 7-17, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, Clayton, Vic., C1


Subharmonics increase the auditory impact of female koala rejection calls

B Charlton, D Watchorn, D Whisson

(2017), Vol. 123, pp. 571-579, Ethology, Chichester, Eng., C1


Case studies of motion-sensing cameras to study clutch survival and fate of real and artificial ground-nests in Australia

M Weston, K Ekanayake, S Lomas, H Glover, R Mead, A Cribbin, L Tan, D Whisson, G Maguire, A Cardilini

(2017), Vol. 64, pp. 476-491, Bird study, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Use of expert knowledge to elicit population trends for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

C Adams-Hosking, M Mcbride, G Baxter, M Burgman, D de Villiers, R Kavanagh, I Lawler, D Lunney, A Melzer, P Menkhorst, R Molsher, B Moore, D Phalen, J Rhodes, C Todd, D Whisson, C Mcalpine

(2016), Vol. 22, pp. 249-262, Diversity and distributions, London, Eng., C1


Failure to respond to food resource decline has catastrophic consequences for koalas in a high-density population in Southern Australia .

D Whisson, V Dixon, M Taylor, A Melzer

(2016), Vol. 11, pp. 1-12, PLoS one, San Franciso, Calif., C1


Habitat selection by two sympatric rodent species in an alpine resort

L Beilharz, D Whisson

(2016), Vol. 64, pp. 327-334, Australian journal of zoology, Clayton, Vic., C1


Persistence of a threatened species in a modified alpine resort environment: the broad-toothed rat

D Whisson, G Holland, T Kelly

(2015), Vol. 96, pp. 151-158, Journal of mammalogy, Oxford, Eng., C1


Home range, habitat use and movements by the little raven (Corvus mellori) in a coastal peri-urban landscape

D Whisson, M Weston, K Shannon

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 500-508, Wildlife research, Melbourne, Vic., C1


Intense predation of non-colonial, ground-nesting bird eggs by corvid and mammalian predators

K Ekanayake, D Whisson, L Tan, M Weston

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 518-528, Wildlife research, Melbourne, Vic., C1


Conserving koalas: A review of the contrasting regional trends, outlooks and policy challenges

C McAlpine, D Lunney, A Melzer, P Menkhorst, S Phillips, D Phalen, W Ellis, W Foley, G Baxter, D de Villiers, R Kavanagh, C Adams-Hosking, C Todd, D Whisson, R Molsher, M Walter, I Lawler, R Close

(2015), Vol. 192, pp. 226-236, Biological conservation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


Sex bias in captured little ravens corvus mellori varies with entry aperture size in a modified australian crow trap

K Shannon, M Weston, D Whisson

(2014), Vol. 38, pp. 22-23, Corella, Penrith, N. S. W., C1


The influence of cover on nesting Red-capped Plovers: a trade-off between thermoregulation and predation risk?

Lomas, Stephanie, Whisson, Desley, Maguire, Grainne, Tan, laura, Guay, Patrick-Jean, M Weston

(2014), Vol. 131, pp. 115-127, The Victorian naturalist, Blackburn, Vic, C1


Free-ranging male koalas use size-related variation in formant frequencies to assess rival males

B Charlton, D Whisson, D Reby

(2013), Vol. 8, pp. 1-9, PLOS one, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Impacts and management of invasive burrowing herbivores in grasslands

P Fleming, H Limin, D Whisson

(2013), pp. 1600-1608, Proceedings of the 22nd International Grassland Congress : Revitalising grasslands to sustain our communities, Sydney, NSW, E1


Activity patterns of free-ranging koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) revealed by accelerometry

M Ryan, D Whisson, G Holland, J Arnould

(2013), Vol. 8, PLoS ONE, C1


Translocation of overabundant species: Implications for translocated individuals

D Whisson, G Holland, K Carlyon

(2012), Vol. 76, pp. 1661-1669, Journal of Wildlife Management, C1


Temporal variation in reproductive characteristics of an introduced and abundant island population of koalas

D Whisson, K Carlyon

(2010), Vol. 91, pp. 1160-1167, Journal of Mammalogy, C1


Inbreeding and testicular abnormalities in a bottlenecked population of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus)

R Cristescu, V Cahill, W Sherwin, K Handasyde, K Carlyon, D Whisson, C Herbert, B Carlsson, A Wilton, D Cooper

(2009), Vol. 36, pp. 299-308, Wildlife Research, C1


Assessing the effectiveness of bait stations for controlling California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi)

D Whisson, T Salmon

(2009), Vol. 28, pp. 690-695, Crop Protection, C1-1


Integrated management of vertebrate pests in alfalfa

D Whisson, P Salmon. Terrell

(2008), pp. 187-196, Irrigated afalfa management for mediterranean and desert zones, Oakland, Calif., B1-1


Home range and movements of roof rats (Rattus rattus) in an old-growth riparian forest, California

D Whisson, J Quinn, K Collins

(2007), Vol. 88, pp. 589-594, Journal of mammalogy, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Comparison of 0.005% and 0.01% diphacinone and chlorophacinone baits for controlling California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi)

T Salmon, D Whisson, A Berentsen, W Gorenzel

(2007), Vol. 34, pp. 14-18, Wildlife research, Clayton, Vic., C1-1


Using a general indexing paradigm to monitor rodent populations

R Engeman, D Whisson

(2006), Vol. 58, pp. 2-8, International biodeterioration and biodegradation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1-1


Monitoring invasive mammalian predator populations sharing habitat with the critically endangered Puerto Rican parrot Amazona vittata

R Engeman, D Whisson, J Quinn, F Cano, P Quiones, T White

(2006), Vol. 40, pp. 95-102, Oryx, Cambridge, Eng., C1-1


The effects of anthropogenic food on the spatial behaviour of small Indian mongooses (Herpestes javanicus) in a subtropical rainforest

J Quinn, D Whisson

(2005), Vol. 267, pp. 339-350, Journal of zoology, Chichester, Eng., C1-1


Developing relative abundance techniques (RATs) for monitoring rodent populations

D Whisson, R Engeman, K Collins

(2005), Vol. 32, pp. 239-244, Use of indices to monitor wildlife populations : Proceedings of the 3rd International Wildlife Management Congress incorporating the 16th Australasian Wildlife Management Society Conference, Christchurch, N.Z., E1-1


Effects of cover crops on grapevines, yield, juice composition, soil microbial ecology, and gopher activity

C Ingels, K Scow, D Whisson, R Drenovsky

(2005), Vol. 56, pp. 19-29, American journal of enology and viticulture, Davis, Calif., C1-1


A visual method for indexing muskrat populations

R Engeman, D Whisson

(2003), Vol. 52, pp. 101-106, International biodeterioration and biodegradation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1-1


Effect of the timing of applications and amount of 0.01% diphacinone consumed on mortality of California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi)

D Whisson, T Salmon

(2002), Vol. 21, pp. 885-889, Crop protection, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1-1


Testing the effectiveness of an aquatic hazing device on waterbirds in the San Francisco Bay estuary of California

D Whisson, J Takekawa

(2000), Vol. 23, pp. 56-63, Waterbirds, DeLeon Springs, Fla., C1-1


Alfalfa yield loss from Belding's ground squirrels in northeastern California

D Whisson, S Orloff, D Lancaster

(1999), Vol. 27, pp. 178-183, Wildlife society bulletin, Chichester, Eng., C1-1


Modified bait stations for California ground squirrel control in endangered kangaroo rat habitat

D Whisson

(1999), Vol. 27, pp. 172-177, Wildlife society bulletin, Chichester, Eng., C1-1


The effect of two agricultural techniques on populations of the canefield rat (Rattus sordidus) in sugarcane crops of north Queensland

D Whisson

(1996), Vol. 23, pp. 589-604, Wildlife research, Clayton, Vic., C1-1


Funded Projects at Deakin

Other Public Sector Funding

Diet and potential impacts of feral cats on native wildlife on King Island, Tasmania

Dr Desley Whisson

  • 2009: $9,160

Understanding the impacts of koala-related tree defoliation on bird and mammal communities

Dr Desley Whisson, A/Prof Mike Weston, Amanda Orlowski

  • 2010: $1,500

Understanding the effect of revegetation age, structure and distance to native vegetation remnants on mammal communities in agricultural areas

Dr Desley Whisson, Brodie Harrison

  • 2011: $1,000

Expert witness DELWP

Dr Desley Whisson

  • 2020: $720

Industry and Other Funding

A preliminary study of the distribution and habitat requirements of the Broad-toothed Rat, Mastacomys fuscus, in the Mt Buller Alpine Resort

Dr Desley Whisson, A/Prof John White

  • 2009: $5,279
  • 2008: $5,279

The influence of koala-related tree defoliation on woodland bird and ground dwelling mammal assemblages.

A/Prof Mike Weston, Dr Desley Whisson, Amanda Orlowski

  • 2010: $1,650

Understanding the ecology of koalas in the face of climate change

Dr Desley Whisson, Dr Alistair Melzer

  • 2016: $17,540
  • 2015: $23,919
  • 2014: $20,609
  • 2013: $23,972
  • 2012: $33,410
  • 2011: $27,883

Conserving southern koalas: Spatial dynamics and habitat occupancy of koala populations in blue gum plantations of southern Australia

Dr Desley Whisson, Ms Kita Ashman

  • 2019: $3,400
  • 2017: $5,625

Koala personality: What does it take to succeed?

Dr Desley Whisson

  • 2018: $1,000

Expert advice - NSW Koala strategy research

Dr Desley Whisson

  • 2020: $1,263
  • 2018: $6,084


Associate Supervisor

Gaetan Richard

Thesis entitled: Behavioural ecology of fishermen and odontocetes in a depredation context

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences


Laetitia Kernaleguen

Thesis entitled: Drivers and Fitness Consequences of Individual and Sexual Foraging Specialisation in Fur Seals

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Lauren Patricia Angel

Thesis entitled: Factors influencing foraging behaviour in the Australasian gannet

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Kasun Bandara Ekanayake

Thesis entitled: Little Raven (Corvus mellori) as an Egg Predator of Other Bird Species

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences