A/Prof. Matthew Symonds



Associate Professor, Ecology


Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env


School of Life & Env. Sciences


Melbourne Burwood Campus


Graduate Certificate of Higher Education, Deakin University, 2012
Doctor of Philosophy, , 2000
Bachelor of Arts, , 1994


I graduated as a zoologist with a BA(Hons) in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1994. I briefly dabbled in the world of population genetics, doing a masters degree with Prof Bryan Clarke at the University of Nottingham on the maintenance of prey polymorphisms due to frequency dependent selection by avian predators. Heading back to Cambridge, I obtained my PhD under the supervision of Dr Adrian Friday, looking at the effect of phylogenetic accuracy on comparative studies, concentrating on life-history evolution in mammals and, in particular, the order Insectivora. After graduating in 2000 I worked as Science Co-ordinator for The Charles Darwin Trust, before returning to research in 2002. I initially came to the University of Melbourne for a year to work with Prof Mark Elgar on a Royal Society Travelling Research Fellowship, looking at pheromone evolution in bark beetles. I then spent two years (2003-2005) at James Cook University in Townsville as an ARC Research Associate with Prof Chris Johnson, looking at the macroecology of Australian land birds and in particular explaining patterns of abundance and range size. I returned to the University of Melbourne in 2005 to take up a ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship on pheromone evolution in insects, and stayed there as a research fellow and lecturer until November 2010 when I joined Deakin University as a Lecturer in Ecology

For more about me and my research visit http://symondslab.wordpress.com

Read more on Matthew's profile

Biography summary

2015 - Senior Lecturer, Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

2010 - 2014 Lecturer, Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

2005-2010 Research Fellow and Lecturer, University of Melbourne

2003-2005 Research Associate, James Cook University

2002 Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

2000-2001 Science Co-Ordinator, The Charles Darwin Trust

1996-2000 PhD, University of Cambridge

1995 MPhil, University of Nottingham

1991-1994 BA (Hons) Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Career highlights

Editor-in-Chief, Evolutionary Ecology, 2018-

ARC Discovery Project 2019-2021

President of the Australasian Evolution Society 2013-2015

Deakin University Research Award 2018

Deakin University Teaching Awards 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018

ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship 2005

Royal Society Travelling Research Fellow 2002

Research interests

Phylogenetic comparative analyses of behaviour (including signalling), morphology and physiology in animals.

Bird macroecology and explaining geographic and temporal variation in morphology.

Using phylogenies to explain patterns of chemical diversity in insects (pheromones) and plants (medicinal compounds) 

Evolution of elaborate antennal structures in insects

Insect behavioural ecology

Statistical methods in evolutionary ecology


Deputy Director, Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University 2014-2018

Member: Australasian Evolution Society, Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Australian Entomological Society, International Society for Behavioural Ecology, European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne

Fellow, Cambridge Philosophical Society

Teaching interests

Evolutionary biology, Ecology, Animal Behaviour

Units taught

School of LES Honours Course Director

SLE 370 Evolution (unit chair)

SLE 452 Research Design and Data Analysis (unit chair)

SLE 251 Research Methods and Data Analysis

plus contribution towards

SLE 151 Biodiversity

SLE 307 Behavioural Ecology

SLE 390 Professional Practice in Bioscience

SLE 314 Research Project

Knowledge areas

Evolutionary ecology

Bird Macroecology

Chemical communication

Insect behavioural ecology


Evolutionary biology Pheromones Bird Ecology Insect behaviour Publication and gender issues in science
  • Behaviour
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Gender issues


Workshop: Evolution 2018 conference, Montpelier, France

Speaker: Australian Ornithological Conference 2017, Geelong

Speaker: Behaviour 2017 conference, Estoril, Portugal

Organising Panel and Speaker: 2015 International Ethological Congress, Cairns

Organiser: 2013 Australasian Evolution Society Conference, Geelong

Plenary speaker: 2012 Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Geelong

Plenary speaker: 2012 New Zealand Entomological Society Conference, Whangarei

Speaker: 2012 Australian Entomological Society Conference, Hobart

Professional activities

Editor-in-Chief, Evolutionary Ecology 2018-

President, Australasian Evolution Society 2013-2015

Council member, Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour 2009-2013

Subject Editor, Oikos

Review Editor, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution: Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology

Media appearances

Audubon magazine, June 2015 - Warmer world, bigger beaks

LSE Blogs, December 2014 - Striving for gender equity in science

Scientific American, August 2012 - Beak Heat: Evolutionary Theory of Bird Bills May Need Revision 

The Age/Sydney Morning Herald, September 2010 - Peak beak or chill bill? It's a climate thing

New York Times, March 2008 - For Scientists, a Beer Test Shows Results as a Litmus Test

New Scientist - July 2007 - Why women lose out in the lab


Shape-shifting birds: a novel response to climate change

The evolution of pheromones and antennal diversity in insects

Using phylogeny to predict medicinal utility of basal angiosperms (the ancient spice clades) in Australasia

Harem polygyny in insects


Filter by


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


Pre- and post-copulatory traits working in concert: sexual dichromatism in passerines is associated with sperm morphology

Kate Durrant, Tom Reader, Matthew Symonds

(2020), Vol. 16, pp. 1-6, Biology letters, London, Eng., C1


From cryptic to colorful: Evolutionary decoupling of larval and adult color in butterflies

Iliana Medina, Regina Vega-Trejo, Thomas Wallenius, Matthew Symonds, Devi Stuart-Fox

(2020), Vol. 4, pp. 34-43, Evolution Letters, London, Eng., C1


Escape responses of terrestrial and aquatic birds to drones: Towards a code of practice to minimize disturbance

M Weston, C O?Brien, K Kostoglou, M Symonds

(2020), Journal of Applied Ecology, C1


Biological determinants of research effort on Australian birds: a comparative analysis

Maree Yarwood, M Weston, Matthew Symonds

(2019), Vol. 119, pp. 38-44, Emu: Austral ornithology, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Morphology and geography predict the use of heat conservation behaviours across birds

G Pavlovic, M Weston, M Symonds

(2019), Vol. 33, pp. 286-296, Functional ecology, London, Eng., C1


Sexual selection and organs of sense: Darwin's neglected insight

M Elgar, T Johnson, M Symonds

(2019), Vol. 69, pp. 63-82, Animal biology, Leiden, The Netherlands, C1


Insect harem polygyny: when is a harem not a harem?

M Griffin, G Holwell, M Symonds

(2019), Vol. 73, Behavioral ecology and sociobiology, Berlin, Germany, C1


Leg length and temperature determine the use of unipedal roosting in birds

J Ryeland, M Weston, M Symonds

(2019), Vol. 50, pp. 1-9, Journal of avian biology, Chichester, Eng., C1


Combining evolutionary inference and metabolomics to identify plants with medicinal potential

Sundara Mawalagedera, Damien Callahan, Anne Gaskett, Nina Rnsted, Matthew Symonds

(2019), Vol. 7, pp. 1-11, Frontiers in ecology and evolution, Lausanne, Switzerland, C1


Australian songbird body size tracks climate variation: 82 species over 50 years

Janet Gardner, Tatsuya Amano, Anne Peters, William Sutherland, Brendan Mackey, Leo Joseph, John Stein, Karen Ikin, Roellen Little, Jesse Smith, Matthew Symonds

(2019), Vol. 286, pp. 1-10, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences, London, Eng., C1


Sex ratio and female allocation to harems in a polygynous bark beetle

Melissa Griffin, Gregory Holwell, Matthew Symonds

(2019), pp. 1-7, Austral entomology, Chichester, Eng., C1


Evolution of male antennal size in moths (Lepidoptera): a comparative test of potential trade-offs and correlated growth in Australian species

S Weedon, N Porch, M Symonds

(2019), pp. 1-11, Austral entomology, Chichester, Eng., C1


Are the big and beautiful less bold? Differences in avian fearfulness between the sexes in relation to body size and colour

P Guay, R Leppitt, M Weston, T Yeager, W van Dongen, M Symonds

(2018), Vol. 304, pp. 252-259, Journal of zoology, Chichester, Eng., C1-1


Mitogenomic and nuclear diversity in the Mulga Parrot of the Australian arid zone: cryptic subspecies and tests for selection

K McElroy, K Beattie, M Symonds, L Joseph

(2018), Vol. 118, pp. 22-35, Emu - Austral ornithology, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Bicycles evoke longer flight-initiation distances and higher intensity escape behaviour of some birds in parks compared with pedestrians

G Bernard, W van Dongen, P Guay, M Symonds, R Robinson, M Weston

(2018), Vol. 178, pp. 276-280, Landscape and Urban Planning, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


The evolution of the avian bill as a thermoregulatory organ

G Tattersall, B Arnaout, M Symonds

(2017), Vol. 92, pp. 1630-1656, Biological reviews, Chichester, Eng., C1


Bill size mediates behavioural thermoregulation in birds

J Ryeland, M Weston, M Symonds

(2017), Vol. 31, pp. 885-893, Functional ecology, London, Eng., C1


Measurement techniques for curved shorebird bills: a comparison of low-tech and high-tech methods

J Ryeland, M Symonds, M Weston

(2017), Vol. 124, pp. 33-39, Wader study, [Devon, Eng.], C1


Sexual selection on receptor organ traits: Younger females attract males with longer antennae

T Johnson, M Symonds, M Elgar

(2017), Vol. 104, Science of Nature, C1


Anticipatory flexibility: larval population density in moths determines male investment in antennae, wings and testes

T Johnson, M Symonds, M Elgar

(2017), Vol. 284, pp. 1-5, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences, London, Eng., C1


The role of life-history and ecology in the evolution of color patterns in Australian chrysomeline beetles

E Tan, C Reid, M Symonds, J Jurado-Rivera, M Elgar

(2017), Vol. 5, pp. 1-15, Frontiers in ecology and evolution, Lausanne, Switzerland, C1


Leadership through knowledge and experience in a social sawfly

L Hodgkin, M Symonds, M Elgar

(2017), Vol. 134, pp. 177-181, Animal behaviour, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


The evolution of aggregation pheromone diversity in bark beetles

M Symonds, C Gitau-Clarke

(2016), Vol. 50, pp. 195-234, Advances in insect physiology: pine bark beetles, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1


Tests of ecogeographical relationships in a non-native species: what rules avian morphology?

A Cardilini, K Buchanan, C Sherman, P Cassey, M Symonds

(2016), Vol. 181, pp. 783-793, Oecologia, Berlin, Gemany, C1


Time since urbanization but not encephalisation is associated with increased tolerance of human proximity in birds

M Symonds, M Weston, W van Dongen, A Lill, R Robinson, P Guay

(2016), Vol. 4, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, C1


Experimental evolution reveals that population density does not affect moth signalling behaviour and antennal morphology

K Ashman, K McNamara, M Symonds

(2016), Vol. 30, pp. 1009-1021, Evolutionary ecology, Berlin, Germany, C1


Spatial variation in avian bill size is associated with humidity in summer among Australian passerines

Janet Gardner, Matthew Symonds, Leo Joseph, Karen Ikin, John Stein, Loeske Kruuk

(2016), Vol. 3, Climate Change Responses, C1


The mothematics of female pheromone signaling: strategies for aging virgins

K Umbers, M Symonds, H Kokko

(2015), Vol. 185, pp. 417-432, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1


Evolutionary history and leaf succulence as explanations for medicinal use in aloes and the global popularity of Aloe vera

O Grace, S Buerki, M Symonds, F Forest, A van Wyk, G Smith, R Klopper, C Bjor, S Neale, S Demissew, M Simmonds, N Rnsted

(2015), Vol. 15, pp. 1-12, BMC evolutionary biology, London, Eng., C1


Climate-related spatial and temporal variation in bill morphology over the past century in Australian parrots

D Campbell-Tennant, J Gardner, M Kearney, M Symonds

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 1163-1175, Journal of biogeography, London, Eng., C1


Investment in sensory structures, testis size, and wing coloration in males of a diurnal moth species: trade-offs or correlated growth?

B Shiel, C Sherman, M Elgar, T Johnson, M Symonds

(2015), Vol. 5, pp. 1601-1608, Ecology and evolution, London, Eng., C1


Comparative analysis of classic brain component sizes in relation to flightiness in birds

M Symonds, M Weston, R Robinson, P Guay

(2014), Vol. 9, PLoS ONE, C1


Leaders benefit followers in the collective movement of a social sawfly

L Hodgkin, M Symonds, M Elgar

(2014), Vol. 281, pp. 1-6, Proceedings of the royal society B, London, Eng., C1


Lecturing and other face-to-face teaching - too much or too little? An assessment based on student feedback and fail rates

M Symonds

(2014), Vol. 33, pp. 1221-1231, Higher education research and development, London, Eng., C1


Gender differences in conference presentations: a consequence of self-selection?

T Jones, K Fanson, R Lanfear, M Symonds, M Higgie

(2014), Vol. 2, pp. 1-15, PeerJ, Corte Madera, Calif., C1


A primer on phylogenetic generalised least squares

M Symonds, S Blomberg

(2014), pp. 105-130, Modern phylogenetic comparative methods and their application in evolutionary biology : concepts and practice, Berlin, Germany, B1


Brains and bravery: little evidence of a relationship between brain size and flightiness in shorebirds

P Guay, M Weston, M Symonds, H Glover

(2013), Vol. 38, pp. 516-522, Austral ecology, Richmond, Vic., C1


Macrostress: do large-scale ecological patterns exist in the glucocorticoid stress response of vertebrates?

T Jessop, R Woodford, M Symonds

(2013), Vol. 27, pp. 120-130, Functional ecology, Oxford, Eng., C1


Distance from water, sex and approach direction influence flight distances among habituated black swans

P Guay, R Lorenz, R Robinson, M Symonds, M Weston

(2013), Vol. 119, pp. 552-558, Ethology, Weinheim, Germany, C1


Factors shaping the evolution of colour patterns in Australian agamid lizards (Agamidae): a comparative study

I Chen, M Symonds, J Melville, D Stuart-Fox

(2013), Vol. 109, pp. 101-112, Biological journal of the Linnean Society, Oxford, Eng., C1


The evolution of body size, antennal size and host use in parasitoid wasps (hymenoptera: chalcidoidea): a phylogenetic comparative analysis

M Symonds, M Elgar

(2013), Vol. 8, pp. 1-13, PLoS one, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Pheromone production, male abundance, body size, and the evolution of elaborate antennae in moths

M Symonds, T Johnson, M Elgar

(2012), Vol. 2, pp. 227-246, Ecology and evolution, West Sussex, Eng., C1


Reproductive consequences of male arrival order in the Bark beetle, Ips grandicollis

M Symonds, M Magrath, T Latty

(2012), Vol. 25, pp. 401-407, Journal of insect behavior, New York, N. Y., C1-1


Sexual selection and the evolution of complex color patterns in dragon lizards

I Chen, D Stuart-Fox, A Hugall, M Symonds

(2012), Vol. 66, pp. 3605-3614, Evolution, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Can phylogeny predict chemical diversity and potential medicinal activity of plants? A case study of amaryllidaceae

N Ronsted, M Symonds, T Birkholm, S Christensen, A Meerow, M Molander, P Molgaard, G Petersen, N Rasmussen, J van Staden, G Stafford, A Jager

(2012), Vol. 12, pp. 1-12, BMC evolutionary biology, London, Eng., C1


Effects of humidity on the response of the bark beetle Ips grandicollis (Eichhoff) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) to synthetic aggregation pheromone

M Bassett, J Baumgartner, M Hallett, Y Hassan, M Symonds

(2011), Vol. 50, pp. 48-51, Australian journal of entomology, Richmond, Vic., C1-1


Evolution of cuticular hydrocarbon diversity in ants

E Van Wilgenburg, M Symonds, M Elgar

(2011), Vol. 24, pp. 1188-1198, Journal of evolutionary biology, Oxford, Eng., C1


A brief guide to model selection, multimodel inference and model averaging in behavioural ecology using Akaike's information criterion

M Symonds, A Moussalli

(2011), Vol. 65, pp. 13-21, Behavioral ecology and sociobiology, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Positive and negative effects of phoretic mites on the reproductive output of an invasive bark beetle

L Hodgkin, M Elgar, M Symonds

(2010), Vol. 58, pp. 198-204, Australian journal of zoology, Collingwood, Vic., C1-1


Geographical variation in bill size across bird species provides evidence for Allen's rule

M Symonds, G Tattersall

(2010), Vol. 176, pp. 188-197, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1-1


Changing philosophies and tools for statistical inferences in behavioral ecology

Z Garamszegi, S Calhim, N Dochtermann, G Hegyi, P Hurd, C Jorgensen, N Kutsukake, M Lajeunesse, K Pollard, H Schielzeth, M Symonds, S Nakagawa

(2009), Vol. 20, pp. 1363-1375, Behavioral ecology, Cary, NC, C1-1


Harem size and oviposition behaviour in a polygynous bark beetle

T Latty, M Magrath, M Symonds

(2009), Vol. 34, pp. 562-568, Ecological entomology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


The evolution of sex pheromones in an ecologically diverse genus of flies

M Symonds, A Moussalli, M Elgar

(2009), Vol. 97, pp. 594-603, Biological journal of the Linnean Society, Oxford , Eng., C1-1


The evolution of pheromone diversity

M Symonds, M Elgar

(2008), Vol. 23, pp. 220-228, Trends in ecology and evolution, London, Eng., C1-1


Species richness and evenness in Australian birds

M Symonds, C Johnson

(2008), Vol. 171, pp. 480-490, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1-1


Latitudinal gradients in abundance, and the causes of rarity in the tropics: a test using Australian honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae)

M Symonds, L Christidis, C Johnson

(2006), Vol. 149, pp. 406-417, Oecologia, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Gender differences in publication output: towards an unbiased metric of research performance

M Symonds, N Gemmell, T Braisher, K Gorringe, M Elgar

(2006), Vol. 1, pp. 1-5, PLoS ONE, San Francisco, Ca., C1-1


Determinants of local abundance in a major radiation of Australian passerines (Aves: Meliphagoidea)

M Symonds, C Johnson

(2006), Vol. 33, pp. 794-802, Journal of biogeography, Oxford , Eng., C1-1


Range size-abundance relationships in Australian passerines

M Symonds, C Johnson

(2006), Vol. 15, pp. 143-152, Global ecology and biogeography, Oxford , Eng., C1-1


Phylogeny and life histories of the 'Insectivora': controversies and consequences

M Symonds

(2005), Vol. 80, pp. 93-128, Biological reviews, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


The mode of evolution of aggregation pheromones in Drosophila species

M Symonds, B Wertheim

(2005), Vol. 18, pp. 1253-1263, Journal of evolutionary biology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Web-building spiders attract prey by storing decaying matter

B Bjorkman-Chiswell, M Kulinski, R Muscat, K Nguyen, K Norton, M Symonds, G Westhope, M Elgar

(2004), Vol. 91, pp. 245-248, Naturwissenschaften, Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Ecological correlates of the threat of extinction in neotropical bird species

G Gage, M Brooke, M Symonds, D Wege

(2004), Vol. 7, pp. 161-178, Animal conservation, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


The mode of pheromone evolution: evidence from bark beetles

M Symonds, M Elgar

(2004), Vol. 271, pp. 839-846, Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences, London, Eng., C1-1


Species overlap, speciation and the evolution of aggregation pheromones in bark beetles

M Symonds, M Elgar

(2004), Vol. 7, pp. 202-212, Ecology letters, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


The effects of topological inaccuracy in evolutionary trees on the phylogenetic comparative method of independent contrasts

M Symonds

(2002), Vol. 51, pp. 541-553, Systematic biology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Insectivore life histories: further evidence against an optimum body size for mammals

M Symonds

(1999), Vol. 13, pp. 508-513, Functional ecology, Oxford, Eng., C1-1


Life histories of the Insectivora : the role of phylogeny, metabolism and sex differences

M Symonds

(1999), Vol. 249, pp. 315-337, Journal of zoology, London, Eng., C1-1


Funded Projects at Deakin

Australian Competitive Grants

Shape-shifting birds: a novel consequence of climate change

A/Prof Matthew Symonds, Prof Marcel Klaassen, Dr Glenn Tattersall

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2020: $31,587
  • 2019: $80,674

Industry and Other Funding

Rapidly shifting landscapes: How does rural land-use change in the Western Strzelecki Ranges influence bird communities?

A/Prof Matthew Symonds, Miss Cara Brammar, Prof Andrew Bennett

  • 2014: $5,500

The evolution of harem polygyny in Hemideina thoracica

A/Prof Matthew Symonds, Ms Melissa Griffin

  • 2016: $876

The evolution of harem polygyny in the Auckland tree weta (Hemideina thoracica)

A/Prof Matthew Symonds, Ms Melissa Griffin

  • 2017: $950

Effects of climate change on morphology of Australian whistlers and shrikethrushes (Pachycephalidae)

A/Prof Matthew Symonds, Ms Isabelle Rose Onley

  • 2017: $1,898


Principal Supervisor

Sundara Mudiyanselage Udayanga Mawalagedera

Thesis entitled: A Phylogenetic and Metabolomic Approach to Identify Medicinal Potential in Australasian Magnoliids

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