Professor Robert Heinsohn

Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Conservation And Biodiversity 050202
  • Behavioural Ecology 060201
  • Evolutionary Impacts Of Climate Change 060306
  • Terrestrial Ecology 060208

Research interests

My primary research interests lie in conservation biology and evolutionary ecology of vertebrates, with a non-exclusive focus on birds. Students and post-docs in my research group focus on practical research aimed at saving endangered bird species from extinction (see Difficult Bird Research Group), the ecology of African mammals, and behavioural ecology including social behavour, cooperative breeding, and tool use. Major long term projects to date include the behavioural ecology of lions in the Serengeti, and white-winged choughs in the Canberra region, Eclectus parrots, palm cockatoos and green pythons on Cape York Peninsula, and the conservation and behaviour of swift parrots, regent honeyeaters, and Norfolk Island green parrots. Increasingly, my research focusses at the landscape level as I seek to identify the broad-scale processes shaping conservation problems. The bird species I choose to work with are wide-ranging, and make excellent tools for investigations of habitat use over large areas. I have a special fondness for parrots, the bird order with the highest proportion of endangered species. I find this research particularly stimulating because it combines my strong background in behavioural and evolutionary ecology with my more recent passion for conservation biology. My students conduct projects in many parts of Australia (e.g Tasmania, Cape York, Norfolk Island) and New Guinea, and also Africa (e.g. lions, baboons, elephants) and South America (e.g. macaws).

For further details of the activities of my group see and

Current major research projects include:

1.  Tool use and conservation biology of Palm Cockatoos

2.   Evolutonary/conservation impacts of extreme predation on female swift parrots

3.   Conservation of Regent Honeyeaters, 40 Spotted Pardalotes, Orange-bellied
      Parrots, and Norfolk Island Green Parrots

Current student projects

My post-graduate students work in a variety of areas including behavioural ecology, conservation biology and community ecology and often across broad disciplinary boundaries. Much of the research is carried out in remote regions such as Papua New Guinea, Cape York Peninsula, the Australian arid zone, southern Africa and South America. Topics include conservation biology, migration, cooperative breeding and mating systems, animal personalities, biology and behaviour of endangered species, human-wildlife conflict, and landscape ecology.

  1. Rachael Lowe is studying the dritsribution of elephants across Africa, the importance of small populations, and the impact of drought 

  2. Giselle Owens is studying the community ecology and broad scale impact of introduced predators in Tasmania.

  3. Nicole Gill is working on the use of sniffer dogs to find rare bird species.

  4. Adam Cisterne is studying conservation biology of masked owls in Tasmania.

  5. Daniel Appleby is researrching the fitness of captive regent honeyeaters bred fro release.

  6. Laura Bussolini is studying the fitness implications of captivity of orange-bellied parrots in Tasmania.

  7. Daniel Gautschi is studying the conservation biology of Norfolk Island green parrots.

For past student projects see:


Projects and Grants

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

Return to top

Updated:  17 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers