Senior Lecturer in Sleep Ecophysiology, La Trobe University

I’m interested in most things related to sleep. Using behavioural observations, accelerometry for remote monitoring and neurophysiological recording techniques, I seek to provide insight into how sleep and sleep functions have evolved in different types of animals, from flatworms to birds and mammals. I also study how ecological factors (e.g., predation risk, reproduction) influence the amount, composition, depth and timing of sleep. Most recently, these interests have expanded to include how anthropogenic light pollution influences sleeping brain activity in mammals (with Dr Kylie Robert) and birds (with Dr Therésa Jones).

I completed my B.Sc. in zoology at the University of Guelph (Canada) in 2002. I then did a MSc with Drs Charles Amlaner and Steven Lima at Indiana State University (USA) (2003-2006). This work consisted mostly of phylogenetic comparative analyses of sleep quotas as a means for testing interspecific support for various non-exclusive hypotheses for the functions of sleep. These, and other, studies provided evidence that the risk of predation can reduce the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep over both evolutionary and ecological timescales, in prey. From there I joined the Avian Sleep Group of Dr Niels Rattenborg at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology – Seewiesen (Germany). My PhD focused on the evolution and regulation of sleep states in birds (2007-2011). I stayed in Seewiesen for the remainder of 2011 as a postdoc – a part of what has been the most fulfilling collaboration of my career. Working with Drs Rattenborg and Mihai Valcu, and Prof Dr Bart Kempenaers, we studied breeding pectoral sandpipers on the tundra in Barrow, Alaska; work that provided the first direct evidence that sleep loss can be evolutionarily adaptive. For my contributions to this group effort, I was given the Young Investigator Award by the Sleep Research Society (USA). After 5 wonderful years in Germany, I took up a University Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at The University of Western Australia (2012). Soon thereafter I was offered a continuing position at La Trobe University, which I commenced in 2013. From 2014-03/2017, I was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Research Fellow. In December 2016, I was promoted to Senior Lecturer.

Experience

  • –present
    Senior Lecturer in Sleep Ecophysiology, La Trobe University