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The Australian National University

Dr Sam Banks

BA, BSc (Hons), PhD (Monash)
ARC Future Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Conservation And Biodiversity 050202
  • Population, Ecological And Evolutionary Genetics 060411
  • Zoology 0608

Research interests

I'm a conservation biologist interested in how animals respond to environmental change. I'm something of a details person and like to find out about the processes operating in animal populations and how they respond to environmental changes. I do a lot of field-based research, but often resort to genetic methods to study the things that animals don't tell us in other ways.

Researcher's projects

My current projects:

How does ecological disturbance influence genetic diversity and population viability? I conduct research on how the regimes of natural disturbances like fire influence the genetic diversity and population persistence of animals (and one plant!). The importance of major ecological disturbances like fires is widely appreciated, but we don't really know how natural populations (especially of animals) respond to these events. I am interested in how natural populations of animals and plants cope with disturbances like fire, how they will persist under changing fire regimes, and how patterns of fire shape genetic diversity in natural populations. This research involves simulation modelling and empirical research focussed on Victorian mountain ash forests, Jervis Bay coastal heathland and Kimberley savanna.

Marsupial conservation biology in montane forests. I conduct research on the ecology and conservation of arboreal marsupials in Victorian mountain ash forests (with Prof David Lindenmayer) and in the montane forests near Canberra. This research involves understanding the environmental and biological processes driving long-term changes in forest structure and animal abundance in these ecosystems.

Reintroduction genetics of native mammals. I conduct research to inform the genetic management of reintroduction programs for native mammals including bettongs, quolls , native rodents and bandicoots at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in the ACT, and Booderee National Park.

How can we use genetic analyses to understand animal population biology? Biologists increasingly use genetic methods to study how natural populations work. I'm interested in testing how genetic analyses can be used to infer dispersal strategies and other biological processes, using both simulation-based investigations and empirical study. An example of a current project in this area is the PhD research of Yusuke Fukuda combining the use of genetic and stable isotope data to identify movement patterns of saltwater crocodiles around northern Australia to inform conservation and management.

Available student projects

I would be happy to talk to interested potential students about projects within any of my research areas. In particular, there are opportunities for PhD research in the field of genetic management of animal reintroductions.

Current student projects


Robyn Shaw: New genetic methods for understanding mammalian responses to fire (cosupervised with Rod Peakall, Geoff Cary and Katherine Tuft (Australian Wildlife Conservancy)).

Brenton von Takach Dukai: The genetic and demographic impacts of contemporary disturbance regimes in obligate seeder forests (with David Lindenmayer, Justin Borevitz, Annabel Smith).

Yusuke Fukuda: Understanding crocodile movement and dispersal for managing human-crocodile conflicts. (Cosupervised with Hamish Campbell and Keith Christian)

Georgeanna Story: Sociality and dispersal in common wombats (Vombatus ursinus). How do they influence the success of rehabilitated wombats released into free-living populations? (co-supervised with Don Driscoll and Kris French).

Melissa Wynn: Targeted investment to inform threat mitigation and the reintroduction of critically endangered reptiles on Christmas Island. (Cosupervised with Don Dricoll - Deakin, and Eve McDonald Madden - UQ)

Constanza Leon: Social behaviour and dispersal of white-winged choughs (cosupervised with Rob Heinsohn and Andrew Cockburn).



Joe Salmona: Understanding the effects of fire history on hollow tree abundance in Namadgi National Park.

Chloe Rhoades: Informing genetic management of the reintroduction of southern brown bandicoots at Booderee National Park (with Natasha Robinson).

Yuzun Guo: Using transcriptomic data to identify immune gene variation in mountain brushtail possums and understand pathogen transmission dynamics.


Past student projects


Laurence Berry: The role of unburnt refuges in post-fire faunal recovery (cosupervised with David Lindenmayer, Don Driscoll and Ross Bradstock).

Felicia Pereoglou (awarded PhD May 2016): Eastern Chestnut Mice (Pseudomys gracilicaudatus) in the post-fire environment (co-supervised with David Lindenmayer, Jeff Wood and Fred Ford).

Amanda Edworthy (submitted March 2016): Conservation biology of forty-spotted pardalotes (cosupervised with Naomi Langmore and Rob Heinsohn - I was Amanda's nerdy genetics supervisor).

 John Evans (PhD awarded March 2016): Does dispersal influence extinction risk in a fragmented landscape? (co-supervised with Don Driscoll and Kendi Davies)

Michaela Blyton (PhD awarded 2014): Connecting social system dynamics, population genetics and symbiotic interactions: Insights from the mountain brushtail possum. (cosupervised with Rod Peakall, David Lindenmayer and David Gordon).


Kristen Abicair (2016): Reintroduction biology of the New Holland mouse (with Adrian Manning).

April Suen (2015): Reintroduction biology of bettongs

Xenia Weber (2015): Phylogeography of southern bull kelp

Amy Macris (2014): Genetic impacts of chytrid fungus infection on frogs

Kwan Ling Ho (2013): Fire refuges and invertebrates

Zohara Lucas (2013): Fire regime impacts on beetle communities

Mitchell Barbara (2012): Responses of small mammals to fragemntation matrix change

Robyn Shaw (2012): Genetic inference of sex-biased dispersal in Antechinus

Michaela Blyton (2009): Mating system of the mountain brushtail possum


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  20 February 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers