Spring melt in Kosciuszko National Park photo: Kate Umbers

    Spring melt in Kosciuszko National Park photo: Kate Umbers

Our Research

The Umbers Lab is based in the School of Science and Health and the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury. We work on a variety of topics and species depending on the questions we are aiming to answer. Many of our favourite study species inhabit Australia's high country and/or are listed as Vulnerable or Endangered. We combine behaviour, genomics and physiology to understand the evolution of our focal species and how they will continue to survive in a rapidly changing world.

Our secret passion is in trying to explain the wonderful diversity of colouration we see in living organisms, especially animals. As Alfred Russel Wallace once wrote, There is probably no one quality of natural objects from which we derive so much pure and intellectual enjoyment as from their colors. [...] An extensive survey of the organic world ... leads us to the conclusion that color is by no means so unimportant or inconstant a character as at first sight it appears to be; and the more we examine it the more convinced we shall become that it must serve some purpose in nature, and that besides charming us by its diversity and beauty it must be well worthy of our attentive study, and have many secrets to unfold to us." – Wallace, A.R. (1877) The colors of animals and plants The American Naturalist 11(11), 641-662