Professor Justin Welbergen


My research is concerned with the ways animals respond adaptively to changes in their social, ecological, and physical environment...

Dr Justin Welbergen

Dr Justin Welbergen is a Professor at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University), and leader of the LAB OF ANIMAL ECOLOGY.

He has strong interests in evolutionary ecology, climate change biology, and conservation. His work and that of his students mainly focuses on birds and bats, but is not limited to these taxonomic groups.

Justin conducted his PhD in Zoology at the University of Cambridge with Professor Nick Davies FRS, and following various prestigious research fellowships in the UK and Australia, he joined the HIE in 2014.

He has published his work in SCIENCE, Nature Climate Change,Current Biology, and Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, among others; and he has recently contributed to several high-profile reviews in Annual Reviews in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, Ecology Letters, and Biological Reviews.


Current Teaching

Areas of Research

Evolutionary ecology:

  • Movement – proximate causes and ultimate consequences of animal movement across scales
  • Animal signals – the functional significance of animal communication
  • Social organisation – the ecological and evolutionary interactions within species: social aggregations, mating systems and family dynamics
  • Coevolution – the ecological and evolutionary interactions between species: brood parasite-host dynamics and adaptive portfolios

Conservation and climate change:

  • Extreme events – the ecological impacts of extreme climate and weather events on biodiversity
  • Conservation planning – identifying biodiversity and areas vulnerable to climate change to facilitate adaptation action
  • Endangered species biology – ecology and population dynamics of threatened species
  • Human-wildlife conflicts – designing evidence-based approaches to mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, particularly in urban environments

Bushfire Research

Our research also includes the role of fire and its effects on global change. Please see here (opens in a new window) for further details on our bushfire research.

Awards and Recognition

  • Invited by the Federal Minister for the Environment to join the Grey-Headed Flying Fox Working Group, 2021
  • Invited to membership of the ‘Local Government NSW Flying-Fox Habitat Restoration Program Advisory Group’. The advisory group provides expert advice and recommendations on planning, design, operations and partnerships for the Flying-Fox Habitat Restoration Program, 2018
  • Accepted an invitation to become a member of the University’s Animal Care and Ethics Committee following a nomination by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Development), 2016
  • Elected as President of the Australasian Bat Society, 2016
  • Appointed as a Category B member on the Western Sydney University Animal Care and Ethics Committee (ACEC), 2016
  • President of the Australasian Bat Society Inc
  • Member of the Bat Health Focus Group (Wildlife Health Australia)
  • Advisor to the IUCN and Commonwealth & State governments on various conservation & wildlife management issues
  • Runner up for the Thomas Henry Huxley Award, Zoological Society of London, 2006
  • Research Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge, 2006-2010
  • Murray-Edwards College Teaching Associate, 2005-2010
  • Newnham College Teaching Associate, 2005-2010
  • King's College Teaching Associate, 2004-2010

Grants / Current Projects

    Vocal mimicry in songbirds
    Co-Researcher: Anastasia Dalziell
    Partner/funding body: Australian Research Council Discovery
    Period: 2024-2026

    Testing the efficacy of roost microclimate manipulation for mitigating heat stress in flying foxes
    Co-Researcher: Chris Turbill
    Partner/funding body: NSW Department of Planning and Environment
    Period: 2022

    Cultural evolution in lyrebirds
    Partner/funding body: Cornell University
    Period: 2022

    Nocturnal monitoring of the Christmas Island flying-fox
    Co-Researcher: Annabel Dorrestein
    Partner/Funding Body: Christmas Island National Park
    Period: 2022

    Improving conservation management of the grey-headed flying-fox
    Co-Researchers: Jessica Meade, Matthias Boer, James Cook and Christopher Turbill
    Partner/Funding Body: Department of Industry, Science, Energy & Resources
    Period: 2021-2022

    Assessing grey-headed flying fox roosting and foraging resource utilisation post 2019-2020 megafires and ‘Assessing the survival of grey-headed flying-foxes following rehabilitation
    Co-Researchers: John Martin and Jessica Meade
    Partner/Funding Body: Taronga Conservation Society Australia
    Period: 2021

    Testing the efficacy of roost microclimate manipulation for mitigating heat stress in flying-foxes
    Co-Researcher: Christopher Turbill
    Partner/Funding Body: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
    Period: 2020

    Tempo and modes of cultural evolution in the complex display of the Superb Lyrebird
    Partner/Funding Body: National Science Foundation [via Cornell University]
    Period: 2018-2022

    Movement ecology of flying-foxes: integrating mechanisms and patterns across multiple spatiotemporal scales
    Co-Researchers: Christopher Turbill and David Westcott
    Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Discovery
    Period: 2017-2019

    Resolving human-flying fox conflict in the face of environmental change
    Co-Researchers: Brendan Wintle, Kathryn Williams, Dave Kendal, Rodney van der Ree and David Westcott
    Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Linkage
    Period: 2017-2019

    Saving the Christmas Island flying-fox – a species in critical decline
    Co-Researchers: Karrie Rose, John Martin, David Phalen, Debashish Mazumder and David Westcott
    Partner/Funding Body: Taronga Conservation Society
    Period: 2017-2019

    European red fox ecology and species interactions along an urban land use gradient in Australia
    Co-Researcher: John Martin
    Partner/Funding Body: Sydney Coastal Councils Group
    Period: 2016-2020

    Fox ecology and species interactions: from Sydney Harbour to the Blue Mountains
    Partner/Funding Body: The Royal Botanical Gardens and Domains Trust
    Period: 2016

    Christmas Island flying fox
    Partner/Funding Body: Taronga Conservation Society of Australia
    Period: 2014-2015

    Global climate change and the impacts of temperature extremes on terrestrial biodiversity
    Co-Researchers: Stephen Williams, Luke Shoo and Jeremy VanDerWal
    Partner/Funding Body: Australian Research Council Discovery
    Period: 2011-2014

    Climate change and the impacts of extreme climatic events on Australia's Wet Tropics biodiversity
    Co-Researcher: Andrew Krockenberger
    Partner/Funding Body: National Environment Research Program
    Period: 2011-2014

    Climate change refugia for terrestrial biodiversity: The role of refugia in ecosystem resilience and maintenance of terrestrial biodiversity in the face of global climate change
    Co-Researchers: April Reside, Jeremy VanDerWal, Ben Phillips, Luke Shoo, Dan Rosauer, Barbara Anderson, Craig Moritz, Simon Ferrier, Thomas Harwood, Kristen Williams, Brendan Mackey, Sonia Hugh and Stephen Williams
    Partner/Funding Body: National Adaptation Research Plan and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
    Period: 2011-2013

    Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds
    Co-Researchers: Donald Franklin, Glenn Ehmke, Jeremy VanDerWal, Lauren Hodgson, Chris Pavey, April Reside, Stuart Butchart, Genevieve Perkins and Stephen Williams
    Partner/Funding Body: National Adaptation Research Plan and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
    Period: 2011-2013

In the Media

Popular articles:

Since arriving at the HIE in 2014 Justin and his students have been interviewed on many occasions, including for Nine News; live radio (Radio New Zealand, ABC Radio National PM , ABC Sydney, Canberra, Southeast, BBC World Service); various news sites (The Huffington Post, BBC News, ABC Online, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, Reportage) popular science articles (AAAS, The Verge), and for a documentary by the Climate Reality Project (chaired by Al Gore), among others.

Selected Publications (see here for a complete list)

Journal articles:

Hughes EJ, Austin VI, Backhouse F, Maisey AC, Lopez KA, Mikles CS, Odom KJ, Welbergen JA, Dalziell AH, (2023) 'Preferred nesting habitat of the slow-breeding Superb Lyrebird is rare and was disproportionately impacted by Australia's "Black Summer" megafires (2019-2020) within a World Heritage Area', Ornithological Applications, vol.125, no.4, Article duad027

Lloyd-Jones LR, Bravington MV, Armstrong KN, Lawrence E, Feutry P, Todd CM, Dorrestein A, Welbergen JA, Martin JM, Rose K, Hall J, Phalen DN, Peters I, Baylis SM, Macgregor NA, Westcott DA, (2023) 'Close-kin mark-recapture informs critically endangered terrestrial mammal status', Scientific Reports, vol.13, no.1, Article no.12512

Mo M, Minehan M, Hack E, Place V, Welbergen JA, (2023) 'A report of direct mortality in grey-headed flying-foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) from the 2019-2020 Australian megafires', Australian Mammalogy, vol.44, no.3, pp 419-422

Backhouse F, Dalziell AH, Magrath RD, Welbergen JA, (2022) 'Higher-order sequences of vocal mimicry performed by male Albert's lyrebirds are socially transmitted and enhance acoustic contrast', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol.289, no.1970, Article no.20212498

Dalziell AH, Welbergen JA, (2022) 'Male Superb Lyrebirds (Menura novaehollandiae) perform an ornate multimodal display immediately following copulation', Ibis, vol.164, no.3, pp 809-815

Dalziell AH, Welbergen JA, Magrath RD, (2022) 'Male superb lyrebirds mimic functionally distinct heterospecific vocalizations during different modes of sexual display', Animal Behaviour, vol.188, pp 181 - 196

Hanrahan N, Dalziell AH, Turbill C, Armstrong KN, Welbergen JA, (2022) 'Ethogram of ghost bat (Macroderma gigas) behaviours and associated social vocalisations', Acta Chiropterologica, vol.24, no.1, pp 195-208

Mo M, Roache M, Davies J, Hopper J, Pitty H, Foster N, Guy S, Parry-Jones K, Francis G, Koosmen A, Colefax L, Costello C, Stokes J, Curran S, Smith M, Daly G, Simmons CM, Hansen R, Prophet D, Judge S, Major F, Hogarth T, McGarry CA, Pope L, Brend S, Coxon D, Baker K, Kaye K, Collins L, Wallis M, Brown R, Roberts L, Taylor S, Pearson T, Bishop T, Dunne P, Coutts-McClelland K, Oliver L, Dawe C, Welbergen JA, (2022) 'Estimating flying-fox mortality associated with abandonments of pups and extreme heat events during the austral summer of 2019-20', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol.28, no.2, pp 124-139

Pulscher LA, Peel AJ, Rose K, Welbergen JA, Baker ML, Boyd V, Low-Choy S, Edson D, Todd C, Dorrestein A, Hall J, Todd S, Broder CC, Yan LY, Xu K, Peck GR, Phalen DN, (2022) 'Serological evidence of a pararubulavirus and a betacoronavirus in the geographically isolated Christmas Island flying-fox (Pteropus natalis)', Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, vol.69, no.5, pp E2366-E2377

Todd CM, Westcott DA, Martin JM, Rose K, McKeown A, Hall J, Welbergen JA, (2022) 'Body-size dependent foraging strategies in the Christmas Island flying-fox: implications for seed and pollen dispersal within a threatened island ecosystem', Movement Ecology, vol.10, no.1, Article no.19

Yabsley SH, Meade J, Hibburt TD, Martin JM, Boardman WSJ, Nicolle D, Walker MJ, Turbill C, Welbergen JA, (2022) 'Variety is the spice of life: Flying-foxes exploit a variety of native and exotic food plants in an urban landscape mosaic', Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol.10, Article no.907966

Austin VI, Dalziell AH, Langmore NE, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Avian vocalisations: the female perspective', Biological Reviews, vol.96, no.4, pp 1484-1503

Backhouse F, Dalziell AH, Magrath RD, Rice AN, Crisologo TL, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Differential geographic patterns in song components of male Albert’s lyrebirds', Ecology and Evolution, vol.11, no.6, pp 2701-2716

Chaumont MHJ, Langmore NE, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'The ghosts of parasitism past: lingering frontline anti-brood parasite defenses in a former host', Current Zoology, vol.67, no.6, pp 573-583

Cox-Witton K, Baker ML, Edson D, Peel AJ, Welbergen JA, Field H, (2021) 'Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from humans to bats – An Australian assessment', One Health, vol.13, Article no.100247

Dalziell AH, Maisey AC, Magrath RD, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Male lyrebirds create a complex acoustic illusion of a mobbing flock during courtship and copulation', Current Biology, vol.31, no.9, pp 1970-1976

Finch JTD, Power SA, Welbergen JA, Cook JM, (2021) 'Staying in touch: how highly specialised moth pollinators track host plant phenology in unpredictable climates', BMC Ecology and Evolution, vol.21, no.1, Article no.161

Meade J, Martin JM, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Fast food in the city? Nomadic flying-foxes commute less and hang around for longer in urban areas', Behavioral Ecology, vol.32, no.6, pp 1151-1162

Pulscher LA, Gray R, McQuilty R, Rose K, Welbergen JA, Phalen DN, (2021) 'Evidence of chronic cadmium exposure identified in the critically endangered Christmas Island flying-fox (Pteropus natalis)', Science of the Total Environment, vol.766, Article no.144374

Ratnayake HU, Welbergen JA, Van Der Ree R, Kearney MR, (2021) 'Variation in fur properties may explain differences in heat-related mortality among Australian flying-foxes', Australian Journal of Zoology, Article no.ZO20040

Welbergen JA, Law B, Cooper P, (2021) 'Bat research in Australasia-in memory of les Hall, part 2', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol.68, no.6, pp 223 - 225

Yabsley SH, Meade J, Martin JM, Welbergen JA, (2021) 'Human-modified landscapes provide key foraging areas for a threatened flying mammal: The grey-headed flying-fox', PLoS ONE, vol.16, Article no.e0259395

Balland J, Herbert CA, Welbergen JA, Martin JM, (2020) 'Habitat selection in a peri-urban area by a large mammal indicates a low potential for human-wildlife conflict', Wildlife Research, vol.47, no.5, pp 361-371

Law B, Welbergen J, Cooper P, (2020) 'Bat research in Australasia-in memory of les Hall', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol.67, no.6, pp 241 - 242

Pulscher LA, Gray R, McQuilty R, Rose K, Welbergen J, Phalen DN, (2020) 'Investigation into the utility of flying foxes as bioindicators for environmental metal pollution reveals evidence of diminished lead but significant cadmium exposure', Chemosphere, vol.254, Article no.126839

Turbill C, Welbergen JA, (2020) 'Anticipating white-nose syndrome in the Southern Hemisphere: Widespread conditions favourable to Pseudogymnoascus destructans pose a serious risk to Australia's bat fauna', Austral Ecology, vol.45, no.1, pp 89-96

Welbergen JA, Meade J, Field HE, Edson D, McMichael L, Shoo LP, Praszczalek J, Smith C, Martin JM, (2020) 'Extreme mobility of the world's largest flying mammals creates key challenges for management and conservation', BMC Biology, vol.18, no.1, Article no.101

Austin VI, Welbergen JA, Maisey AC, Lindsay MG, Dalziell AH, (2019) 'Destruction of a conspecific nest by a female Superb Lyrebird: evidence for reproductive suppression in a bird with female-only parental care', Behaviour, vol.156, no.15, pp 1459-1469

Dorrestein A, Todd CM, Westcott DA, Martin JM, Welbergen JA, (2019) 'Impacts of an invasive ant species on roosting behavior of an island endemic flying-fox', Biotropica, vol.51, no.1, pp 75-83

Finch JTD, Power SA, Welbergen JA, Cook JM, (2019) 'A non-pollinating moth inflicts higher seed predation than two co-pollinators in an obligate pollination mutualism', Ecological Entomology, vol.44, no.6, pp 780-791

Meade J, van der Ree R, Stepanian PM, Westcott DA, Welbergen JA, (2019) 'Using weather radar to monitor the number, timing and directions of flying-foxes emerging from their roosts', Scientific Reports, vol.9, Article no.10222

Ratnayake HU, Kearney MR, Govekar P, Karoly D, Welbergen JA, (2019) 'Forecasting wildlife die-offs from extreme heat events', Animal Conservation, vol.22, no.4, pp 386-395

Romano AB, Hunt A, Welbergen JA, Turbill C, (2019) 'Nocturnal torpor by superb fairy-wrens: A key mechanism for reducing winter daily energy expenditure', Biology Letters, vol.15, no.6, Article no. 20190211

Edson D, Field H, McMichael L, Mayer D, Martin J, Welbergen J, McLaughlin A, Huth L, Kristoffersen J, Tsoukalas G, Kirkland P, (2018) 'Hematology, plasma biochemistry, and urinalysis of free-ranging grey-headed flying foxes (pteropus poliocephalus) in Australia', Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, vol.49, no.3, pp 591-598

Todd CM, Westcott DA, Rose K, Martin JM, Welbergen JA, (2018) 'Slow growth and delayed maturation in a Critically Endangered insular flying fox (Pteropus natalis)', Journal of Mammalogy, vol.99, no.6, pp 1510-1521

Meade J, VanDerWal J, Storlie C, Williams S, Gourret A, Krockenberger A, Welbergen JA, (2018) 'Substantial reduction in thermo-suitable microhabitat for a rainforest marsupial under climate change', Biology Letters, vol.14, no.12, Article no.20180189

Dalziell AH, Welbergen JA, Igic B, Magrath RD (2015) 'Avian vocal mimicry: a unified conceptual framework', Biological Reviews,  vol.90, no.2, pp 643-668.

Feeney WE, Welbergen JA, Langmore NE (2014) 'Advances in the study of coevolution between avian brood parasites and their hosts', Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, vol.45, pp 227-246

Warren R, VanDerWal J, Price J, Welbergen JA, Atkinson I, Ramirez-Villegas J, Osborn TJ, Jarvis A, Shoo LP, Williams SE, Lowe J (2013) 'Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss', Nature Climate Change, vol.3, pp 678-682

Davies* NB, Welbergen* JA (2009) 'Social transmission of a host defense against cuckoo parasitism', Science, vol.324, pp 1318-1320 (*authors contributed equally)

Welbergen JA, Davies NB (2009) 'Strategic variation in mobbing as a front line of defence against brood parasitism', Current Biology, vol.19, pp 235-240

Dalziell, AH, Welbergen, JA (2016) 'Mimicry for all modalities'. Ecology Letters, DOI:10.1111/ele.12602 ​

Welbergen JA, Klose SM, Markus N, Eby P (2008) 'Climate change and the effects of temperature extremes on Australian flying-foxes', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol.275, pp 419-425

Davies NB, Welbergen JA, (2008) 'Cuckoo–hawk mimicry? An experimental test', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol.275, pp 1817-1822

Welbergen JA, Quader S (2006) 'Mother guarding: how offspring may influence the extra-pair behaviour of their parents', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol.273, pp 2363-2368


Book chapters:

  • Franklin D, Welbergen JA (2013) 'The sensitivity of Australian birds to climate change', In Garnett S, et al. (ed.) 'Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds', Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)

Conference proceedings:

  • Welbergen JA, (2013) 'Impacts of extreme events on biodiversity – lessons from die-offs in flying-foxes', Proceedings of the International Symposium on the importance of Bats as Bioindicators, Granollers, Barcelona. ISBN: 978-84-87790-69-0
  • Eby P, Jones V, Welbergen JA (2001) 'Social structure and the dynamics of mixed sex groups in migratory Pteropus poliocephalus', Proceedings 12th International Bat Research Conference, Bangi, Malaysia

Technical reports:

  • Welbergen JA, Meade, J, Storlie, C, VanDerWal, J., Dalziell, AH, Hodgson, l, Larson, J, Krockenberger, A, Williams, SE (2015) Climate change and the impacts of extreme events on Australia's Wet Tropics biodiversity. Report to the National Environmental Research Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (71 pp.). ISBN: 978-1-925088-59-5
  • Carmody, J, Murphy, H, Hill, R, Catterall, C, Goosem, S, Dale, A, Westcott, D, Welbergen, J, Shoo, L, Stoeckl, N, Esparon, M (2015) The importance of protecting and conserving the Wet Tropics: A synthesis of NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub Tropical Rainforest Outputs 2011-2014. Report to the National Environmental Research Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (64pp.)
  • Welbergen, JA, Williams, SE, Goosem S (2011) Gap analysis of environmental research needs in the Wet Tropics. Cairns; Reef & Rainforest Research Centre Ltd, Cairns (130 pp.)

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