Dr Matthew Bulbert

Senior Lecturer in Conservation Ecology

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

Role

I am a Senior lecturer in Conservation Ecology and the leader of the Conflict Ecology Lab that investigates the behavioural and ecological solutions that animals use to deal with conflict. Conflict in an ecological context broadly refers to how organisms deal with conflict with an adversary (predator/herbivore), competitor or environmental stressor. The solutions that plants and animals use to deal with conflict are incredibly diverse as expressed by the variation in traits such as morphology, behaviour, and ecology. By understanding the ecological drivers and evolutionary constraints imposed on organisms that are dealing with adversity we hope to provide solid foundations for robust conservation initiatives.

Teaching and supervision

Courses

Modules taught

Programme coordinator for Masters in Conservation and Ecology.

 

Module Leader:

  • Taxonomy and Identification
  • Careers Development and Research Skills
  • Research Projects

Research

Research interests:

a. The ecological and conservation significance of vertical living

An ecological niche poorly understood is the humble tree trunk. The surface of tree trunks despite their stoic appearance are highly variable and even seasonally dynamic. To survive in such an environment organisms must cope with the difficulty of environmental and predatory exposure. This has led to a niche of tree trunk fauna with a range of highly specialised traits.

 

b. The adaptive role of transformative defences and attacks

When we consider predator attack or prey defences we tend to focus on one life stage whether that be the juveniles or adults. In reality juveniles and adults are often faced with different levels of risk and constraints. The extreme versions are animals that undertake stark transitions from and during juvenile stages and even into adulthood. These include animals that undertake ontogenetic colour change, transformation mimicry or switching of predatory tactics that may coincide with switches in diet.   

 

c. The importance of secondary defences

Primary defences get all of the press. But animals have strategies that are required if their primary defences are ineffective. Strategic understanding of secondary defences is not as well considered as in primary defence. One of those areas is the use of defensive chemicals which have various modes of delivery modified for different predators and contexts. 

 

d. The biological importance of illusion

A potentially less costly approach to prey defence or predatory attack is through the use of illusions. Batesian mimics and predatory lurers are at the two ends of this spectrum with one duping predators into thinking they are distasteful and costly to consume while the other dupes prey by providing stimuli that encourage prey to engage. Understanding the ecological and evolutionary significance of mimicry and luring behaviour is a longtime passion.

 

e. Increasing student employability through transformative practice

I strongly feel that university is only useful if graduates are provided with a solid foundation tailored to maximising employability. I am particularly interested in transformative practice - the skill set that is necessary to ensure graduates are not just participants in the workplace but drivers of change, innovation and knowledge creators.   

 

Centres and institutes