Biography / CV

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For details, download my most recent curriculum vitae.


Studying nature trains one to be comfortable with complexity and uncertainty.

My love of biodiversity took me to the bush for the first part of my career, training as an evolutionary biologist and ecologist, working to create new knowledge about plants and their complex interactions with the lifeforms around them. During my years as a successful scientist, I cultivated a unique and flexible skillset as an analyst, communicator, and researcher.

Scientist with a proven record of innovation and creative, original research. Experience in plant and invertebrate ecology, population genomics, invasive species, conservation of threatened species.
Researcher, skilled in synthesis, critical thinking, and creative reasoning. Experienced in clearly communicating complexity, and forming evidence-based advice for policy and management.
Analyst, skilled in statistical analysis and visualization of complex/large data sets to produce insights and guide strategy.
Writer with experience writing persuasively for specialist and general audiences, successful grant writing, and articles in scientific and mass media publications.
Speaker with extensive experience delivering invited specialist conference talks and accessible public seminars.



Google Scholar page


LinkedIn profile

Key experience covers collaborative projects that bridge government, research, and private sectors, managing small teams during emergency response, consulting on strategy and project design, and service with government as inter-agency liaison.

Professional consulting and work experience includes:

  • Providing specialist research, analysis, and advice to decision makers in policy and operations in the areas of biosecurity and invasive species science
  • Statistical analysis and data visualization for large weed-control datasets, leading to actionable insights to improve state-wide eradication programs
  • Population simulation and modeling of arboreal mammals and birds for a large corporate client
  • Analysis and strategy for regional economic development planning
  • Research and consulting for natural history documentaries

Research experience includes applications in:
– Fundamental research in plant biodiversity and ecology
– Threatened plant species ecology
– Extensive expertise in population genetic analysis for plants and animals (SNPs and SSRs)
– Mark-recapture of insect pollinators
– Motion-capture survey of floral visitors
– Mycorrhizal biology
– Meta-analysis and literature review
– DNA sequence data analysis


July 19th 2013: PhD Australian National University (ANU).

2000 – 2004: BSc (Hons) Biological Science University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Professional appointments

Mar 2020 – present: Analyst – Invasive species. Agriculture Victoria, Department of Jobs Precincts and Regions.

Dec 2019 – Jan 2020: Independent consultant. Statistical modeling to inform targets for monitoring construction impact on threatened communities.

Jun 2019 – Dec 2019: Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Success and failure in plant translocations for conservation. University of Queensland.

May 2016 – May 2019: McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Pollination and adaptation in the Australian flora. University of Melbourne.

Mar 2016 – Aug 2016: Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship: Global plant-mating systems meta-analysis. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA.

Sept 2015 – Dec 2015: Lecturer: Field Studies in Functional Ecology (BIOL2203), The Australian National University.

Apr 2013 – Jan 2016: Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Above and below ground interactions in Caladenia spider orchids. The Australian National University / Kings Park Botanic Garden

Nov 2012 – Mar 2014: Postdoctoral Scholar: Floral community colour and pollination in the South African orchid flora. University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Aug 2007– Dec 2007: Research Assistant: Invasion genetics of European Starlings. University of New South Wales

Mar 2007 – Jun 2007: Research Assistant: DNA barcoding of Australian flora. Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Mar 2005 – Feb 2007: Research Assistant: Empirical tests of population genetics theory, and technician; Molecular Ecology and Evolution Facility. University of New South Wales

Research grants awarded

2020: National Geographic Explorers Research Grant (£17 994 GBP)
M Vallejo-Marin, M Saunders, D Field, M Hall, MR Whitehead: Why do some bees, but not others, buzz pollinate?

2017: Hermon Slade Foundation Research Grant ($53 994 AUD)

MR Whitehead: Plant biodiversity and adaptation in a changing world: the effects of animal pollinators.

2016: McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship ($286 000 AUD)

2016: Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellowship ($20 000 AUD)

2014: Australian Orchid Foundation  ($10 000 AUD)

MR Whitehead, Rod Peakall, Kingsley Dixon, Celeste Linde: Below ground diversity in an orchid biodiversity hotspot.

2012: Percy Sladen Memorial Fund grant (£750 GBP)

MR Whitehead: Are pollinators of rewardless flowers betrayed by learning or instinct?

2008 – 2010: Australian Pacific Science Foundation Research Grant ($30 000 AUD)

MR Whitehead and R Peakall: Gene flow in Australian sexually deceptive orchids.