Study level

Vacation research experience scheme


Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Biology and Environmental Science

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Associate Professor Susan Fuller
Associate Professor in Ecology
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science


Interactions between animal species can be mutually beneficial.

For example, one individual may forage for food, while a second animal acts as a sentry and keeps an eye out for potential danger. When the forager disturbs a prey item (e.g. a flying insect), the sentry can get an easy meal and can return to its duties. If danger approaches, the sentry can emit an alarm call and alert the distracted forager to potential danger, reducing its risk of predation.

While this occurs in many species around the globe, it's yet to be studied in two woodland bird groups – Australasian treecreepers (Climacteridae) and fantails (Rhipidura).

Research activities

This project will require both field work and in office work. You will:

  • follow and track treecreepers and fantail species at the Samford Ecological Research Facility
  • measure vegetation characteristics of utilised trees (e.g. measure diameter at breast height, bark type, identify genus/species)
  • take observational notes and video recordings of interactions between the two species
  • use Geographic Information System (GIS) software to map territories of the target birds across the property.


This project aims to provide preliminary evidence of mutually beneficial foraging behaviour between treecreeper and fantail species.

To achieve these aims, we expect to:

  • generate a map of the different territories for the target species to see if there's overlap
  • generate a report on the interactions between the two species
  • collect video evidence of mutually-beneficially foraging behaviour.

Skills and experience

To be considered for this project, we expect you to have:

  • knowledge and interest in birds
  • a high level of patience
  • the ability to work independently.

Familiarity with GIS software is beneficial but not essential.



Contact the supervisor for more information.