Associate Professor Michael F. Braby

PhD, BSc (Hons)
ANU College of Science
T: 61 2 6218 3536

Areas of expertise

  • Conservation And Biodiversity 050202
  • Biogeography And Phylogeography 060302
  • Speciation And Extinction 060311
  • Invertebrate Biology 060808
  • Life Histories 060308
  • Animal Systematics And Taxonomy 060301

Research interests

systematics, taxonomy, biogeography, conservation biology and ecology of diurnal Lepidoptera (butterflies, day-flying moths); the origin and evolution of the Australian fauna.



2012: Mackerras Medal. Award for Excellence in Entomology presented by the Australian Entomological Society. The Medal is the Society’s highest award and is given every two years to a member of the Society under 50 years of age who has demonstrated excellence in entomology based on their scientific contribution to the field.

2011: Hayashi Award. Certificate award presented by The Butterfly Society of Japan in recognition of outstanding contribution to the study of Lepidoptera through the publication of numerous books and research papers for both specialist and amateur lepidopterists.

2007: Best Paper Award of the Year 2006. Awarded for the paper “Evolution of larval food plant associations in Delias Hübner butterflies (Lepidoptera: Pieridae)” published in Entomological Science, Volume 9 (4): 383-398 and voted by the councillors of the Entomological Society of Japan as the best paper published in Entomological Science vol. 9.

2005: Whitley Award. Certificate of Commendation presented by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales for the best book in the category of Field Guide (The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia)

2001: The Whitley Medal. Whitley Award presented by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales for the best book on the natural history of Australian animals (Butterflies of Australia: Their Identification, Biology and Distribution)

2000: Fulbright Award. Certificate awarded by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State in recognition of participation in the Fulbright Program at Harvard University, USA.

Available student projects


Title: Ecology of the Silky Hairstreak butterfly and its attendant ant, a potential indicator of old growth forest.

Background: The Silky Hairstreak butterfly (Pseudalmenus chlorinda) depends on three critical resources for its survival: (1) Acacia spp. for larval food, (2) an attendant ant Anonychomyrma biconvexa, and (3) large mature eucalypts growing in proximity of the acacia food plants which may be used as pupation sites by the butterfly. However, one aspect of this complex 4-way ecological association that is not well understood is the ecology of the attendant ant and its relationship with large eucalypts. The ants typically occur in large colonies comprising thousands of workers and they form conspicuous vertical foraging trails along the trunk that extend to the crown of the host tree. The ants seem to be always associated with very large trees, but the ages of these trees are unknown. It is also not clear where the ants nest. It is very likely that the host trees are hundreds of years old and the ants are arboreal. Clearly, from a conservation management standpoint the ecological requirement of the attendant ant and their dependency on mature old trees should be studied as a matter of urgency – the butterfly is likely to be an indicator of old growth forest or habitats supporting very old living trees, but there is a general lack of basic natural history. The susceptibility and loss of extant colonies of P. chlorinda to removal of mature trees through habitat loss (broad scale clearing) for the pastoral, timber and woodchip industries and frequent fires and has been well documented in Tasmania.

Research questions: How old are the host trees? What is the minimum age of host trees for ant occupancy? Where do the ants nest within host trees? How patchy are supercolonies of the ant within the landscape? What is the minimum density of trees required to support supercolonies of the ant within the landscape? Do ants survive fire and what is the time interval post fire until trees are suitable for recolonisation? And what is the level of occupancy of the butterfly among patches of suitable combinations of the attendant ant, eucalypt host tree and acacia larval food plant?

Field study sites: Brindabella Range, ACT; Tallaganda NP, NSW; Clyde Mountain, NSW; Mt Kembla, NSW.

Supervisors: A/Prof Michael Braby, Prof Dave Rowell, Dr Suzi Bond 



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:  08 April 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers