Our research

Our research aims to develop innovative ecologically-based solutions to conservation problems and is focused across the four main areas below.

Behavioural ecology of
alien species

Terrestrial alien predators have proven to be the worst of all invasive species, they are a primary cause of biodiversity and agricultural loss and few ecosystems have escaped their impact. Our research aims to (i) use deception to undermine decision-making by animals in order to better detect and control pest species and curtail their impacts using novel non-lethal techniques; (ii) develop a better understanding of the behavioural and physiological processes which allow alien species to exploit native fauna successfully, with the goal of developing methods to disrupt these processes; (iii) understand the potential bias in wildlife monitoring arising from differing animal personalities within a population; and (iv) investigate density-benefit relationships whereby aliens can perform beneficial ecosystem services.

Research publications

  • Hansen N, Hughes NK, Byrom AE & Banks PB (2020) Population recovery of alien black rats Rattus rattus: A test of reinvasion theory. Austral Ecology 45: 291-304 doi: 10.1111/aec.12855.
  • Banks PB, Byrom AE, Pech RP & Dickman CR (2018) Reinvasion is not invasion again. BioScience 68: 792-804.
  • O’Rourke RL, Anson JR, Saul AM & Banks PB (2020) Limits to alien black rats (Rattus rattus) acting as equivalent pollinators to extinct native small mammals: the influence of stem width on mammal activity at native Banksia ericifolia inflorescences. Biological Invasions 22: 329-338.
  • Smith HM, Dickman CR & Banks PB (2017) Using effect size benchmarks to assess when alien impacts are actually alien. Scientific Reports 7: 38627.
  • Bytheway JP, Price CP & Banks PB (2016) Deadly intentions: naïve introduced foxes show rapid attraction to odour cues of an unfamiliar native prey. Scientific Reports 6: 30078.

Naiveté in predator-prey

Alien predators have had acute and devastating impacts to our unique wildlife in Australia. Understanding how feral predators affect their prey is a critical conservation objective; not only to identify and protect prey species at risk but also to ensure efficient and targeted management of the problem. Our research focusses on understanding and explaining the role of naiveté in predator-prey interactions and the vulnerability of Australian mammals to alien species.

Research publications

  • Bytheway JP & Banks PB (2019) Overcoming prey naiveté: Free-living marsupials develop recognition and effective behavioural responses to alien predators in Australia. Global Change Biology 25: 1685-1695.
  • Banks PB, Carthey AJR & Bytheway JP (2018) Australian native mammals recognize and respond to alien predators: a meta-analysis. Proc. R. Soc. B 285: 20180857.
  • Carthey AJR & Banks PB (2014) Naiveté in novel ecological interactions: lessons from theory and experimental evidence. Biological Reviews doi: 10.1111/brv.12087.
  • Banks PB & Dickman CR (2007) Alien predation and the effects of multiple levels of prey naiveté. TREE 22: 19-30.
  • Salo P, Nordstrom M, Banks PB, Korpimäki E & Dickman CR (2007) Alien predators are more dangerous than native predators to prey populations. Proc. R. Soc. B 274: 1237-1243.

Chemical communication and
signal exploitation in animals

Signalling lies at the heart of behavioural and evolutionary ecology, being the primary means by which animals choose mates and socialise. Yet social signals are open to eavesdropping enemies, including predators which may use prey cues to improve their foraging. Research in our lab focuses on chemical signal exploitation in predator-prey interactions and using chemical camouflage to protect vulnerable species from alien predators. Our research aims to develop a new understanding about the exploitation of social signals by both predator and prey. In doing so we aim to generate new theory on the reactive foraging behaviour of predators and use this theory to solve conservation and agricultural problems.

Research publications

  • Price CJ & Banks PB (2012) Exploiting olfactory learning in alien rats to protect birds’ eggs. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1210981109.
  • Latham MC, Anderson DP, Norbury G, Price CJ, Banks PB & Latham ADM (2018) Modelling habituation of introduced predators to unrewarding bird odors for conservation of ground-nesting shorebirds. Ecological Applications doi: 10.1002/eap.1814.
  • Hughes NK, Kelly JL & Banks PB (2012) Dangerous liaisons: The predation risks of receiving social signals. Ecology Letters 15: 1326-39.
  • Banks PB, Daly A & Bytheway JP (2016) Predator odours attract other predators, creating an olfactory web of information. Biology Letters 12: 20151053.
  • Hughes NK & Banks PB (2010) Interacting effects of predation risk and signal patchiness on activity and communication in house mice. Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 88-97.

Urban ecology


Urbanisation continues to increase at a rapid rate both threatening wildlife and increasing human-wildlife interactions. Research in our group focuses on (i) examining how native mammals are coping with encroaching urbanisation; and (ii) understanding the ecological drivers and role of urban wildlife in human-tick encounters; both with the aim to inform best practice management.

Research publications

  • Taylor CL, Lydecker HW, Lo N, Hochuli DF & Banks PB (2020) Invasive rabbits host immature Ixodes ticks at the urban-forest interface. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases 11: 101439.
  • Wat KKY, Herath APHM, Rus A, Banks PB & McArthur C (2019) Space use by animals on the urban fringe: interactive effects of sex and personality. Behavioral Ecology doi: 10.1093/beheco/arz194.
  • Lydecker HW, Hochuli DF & Banks PB (2019) Peri-urban black rats host a rich assembly of ticks and healthier rats have more ticks. Ticks and tick-borne diseases 10: 749- 753.
  • Parsons MH, Banks PB, Deutsch MA & Munshi-South J (2018) Temporal and space-use changes by rats in response to predation by feral cat in an urban ecosystem. Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution 6:146.
  • Banks PB & Smith HM (2015) The ecological impacts of commensal species: black rats, Rattus rattus, at the urban-bushland interface. Wildlife Research 42: 86-97.