Honours projects

Lifetime dietary reconstruction of the extinct mega-marsupial, Diprotodon optatum.

Themes include: palaeobiology, palaeoecology and geochemistry.

Project: Diprotodon the largest marsupial that ever lived and as such, is one the most iconic members of Australia’s extinct Pleistocene megafauna. Despite fossils being known since the 1830’s, comparatively little is known about its palaeoecology and palaeobiology. This project aims to address the question one of the most fundamental, yet basic, questions about Diprotodon palaeobiology: what did it eat? The project will use a combination of morphological, microscopy, and geochemistry tools to reveal the lifetime diet of the Diprotodon.

Supervisors: Dr Gilbert Price, Professor Jian-xin Zhao.

                                                                                                                                  

Determining migratory ability of extinct Pleistocene megafauna

Themes include: palaeobiology, geochemistry, sedimentology, stratigraphy.

Supervisors: Dr Gilbert Price, Professor Jian-xin Zhao.

                                                                                                                                  

Long-term changes in the diet of the enigmatic, extinct Pleistocene kangaroo, Troposodon

Themes include: palaeobiology, palaeoecology, geochemistry.

Supervisors: Dr Gilbert Price, Dr Julien Louys, Professor Jian-xin Zhao.

                                                                                                                                  

Late Pleistocene-Recent faunal change from Colosseum Chamber, Mt Etna region, central eastern Queensland

Themes include: palaeoecology, geochronology, taphonomy.

Supervisors: Dr Julien Louys, Dr Gilbert Price, Dr Kenny Travouillon.

                                                                                                                                  

The ecometrics of Australia’s small mammal communities

Themes include: ecomorphology, palaeoecology, synecology

Summary: This project will use a combination of morphometrics, photogrammetry and GIS to quantify the traits of Australia’s microfaunal communities that most closely correlate with climatic and environmental variables. These traits will then be examined in a Late Pleistocene microfaunal assemblage from Rockhampton, Central-eastern Queensland, in order to examine changes in Australia’s small mammal communities in response to global warming.

Supervisor: Dr Julien Louys, Dr Gilbert Price

                                                                                                                                  

Mesowear in Australian marsupials

Themes include: ecomorphology, dental wear, palaeobiology

Summary: Mesowear describes the type and amount of wear that an animal’s teeth experiences over its lifetime. Quantification of wear patterns allows us to infer the diets of the organisms under study. So far, mesowear analyses have been restricted to placentals. This project will determine whether mesowear is applicable for marsupials, and if so, will apply these analyses to several fossil assemblages from Queensland in order to determine palaeodiets and ultimately palaeoenvironments.

Supervisors: Dr Julien Louys, Dr Gilbert Price, Dr Kenny Travouillon

                                                                                                                                  

The morphology of hopping: understanding macropodid tibia in the fossil record and the identity of Australia’s largest kangaroo

Themes include: taxonomy, ecomorphology, palaeoecology

Summary: The morphology of an animal’s skeleton provides clues as to its taxonomic identity and the environments in which it lived. This project will examine the morphometrics of modern kangaroo tibia in order to determine the characteristics of this postcranial element that are determined by phylogeny and which are determined by environment. This information will be used to examine the habitat preferences and likely taxonomic identity of what is arguably Australia’s largest macropodid from the Pliocene of South-eastern Queensland.

Supervisor: Dr Julien Louys

                                                                                                                                  

Body mass distribution patterns in mammals around the globe

Themes include: Ecology, palaeoecology

Summary: This project will use faunal lists from around the world to assess body mass distribution patterns in mammals as a tool in palaeoecology. Body mass distribution patterns have been shown to correlate with environmental variable. These have been used to identify the palaeoenvironment of many fossil localities around the world. Recent studies have revised the methodology for Australian environments, identifying new patterns not previously found on other continents. This project will aim to apply the revised methodology to the rest of the world and determined whether Australia is a unique case or not.

Supervisors:  Dr Kenny Travouillon, Dr Julien Louys

                                                                                                                                  

Palaeobudgeting: estimating the quality of the Australian fossil record

Themes include: Statistics, palaeoecology, biochronology

Summary: The fossil record of Australia is by definition incomplete, which is a major issue for broad scale studies in palaeoecology and biochronology. This project aims at establishing a methodology to identity which Australian fossil localities have been sufficiently sampled to provide accurate results in both palaeoecological and biochronological studies, and which fossil localities require further sampling, and therefore become a priority for future research and collection.

Supervisor: Dr Kenny Travouillon