DR Matthew Symonds

DR Matthew Symonds


  • Macroecology of birds (Biogeography, distribution, abundance)
  • Pheromone evolution in insects (Pheromones, signal evolution, chemical communication, ecology)
  • Publication trends in science (Gender issues)



  • I graduated as a zoologist with a BA(Hons) in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1994. I briefly dabbled in the world of population genetics, doing a masters degree with Prof Bryan Clarke at the University of Nottingham on the maintenance of prey polymorphisms due to frequency dependent selection by avian predators. Heading back to Cambridge, I obtained my PhD under the supervision of Dr Adrian Friday, looking at the effect of phylogenetic accuracy on comparative studies, concentrating on life-history evolution in mammals and, in particular, the order Insectivora. After graduating in 2000 I worked as Science Co-ordinator for The Charles Darwin Trust, before returning to research in 2002. I initially came to the University of Melbourne for a year to work with Prof Mark Elgar on a Royal Society Travelling Research Fellowship, looking at pheromone evolution in bark beetles. I then spent two years (2003-2005) at James Cook University in Townsville as an ARC Research Associate with Prof Chris Johnson, looking at the macroecology of Australian land birds and in particular explaining patterns of abundance and range size. I returned to Melbourne in 2005 to take up a ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship on pheromone evolution in insects. My research explores how the enormous diversity of pheromones used by insects has evolved. The majority of insects use olfactory communication in a wide range of behavioural scenarios, but it is remarkable that the chemical composition of pheromones can differ greatly, even between very closely-related species. I use phylogenetic comparative approaches to try and describe the evolutionary processes that account for these differences in various groups of insects (mostly beetles, moths and flies). In particular I am testing the hypothesis that chemical signals that are important in species recognition and isolation diverge more rapidly than chemical signals that are not so specific. Currently I am trying to understand the ecological    


Member of

  • European Society for Evolutionary Biology. Member of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology 2005 -


Selected publications


Additional Grant Information

  • ARC Discovery Project Grant and Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship   


Education and training

  • PhD, University of Cambridge 2000
  • MPhil, University of Nottingham 1996
  • BA (Hons), University of Cambridge 1994