Studying nature trains one to be comfortable with complexity and uncertainty.
My love of biodiversity took me into the bush for the first part of my career, training as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, working to understand native plants and their myriad interactions with the lifeforms that surround them. Doing this, I developed a unique and flexible skillset as an analyst, communicator, and researcher.
I have strong experience drawing inference and insight out complexity, from modeling and statistical analysis of large datasets, to sharp synthesis of a broad literature. Coupled with strategic and logical thinking, my skills here allow me to identify and address knowledge gaps, see intersections between disparate fields, and draw useful and actionable insight out of a complex background.
As a writer, speaker, and teacher I have developed strong capabilities in communicating complex concepts across diverse audiences. I think it’s one of the best parts of doing science. Experience includes delivering engaging public seminars, science writing for the public, successful grant applications, effective stakeholder engagement, reports and briefs, invited speaker engagements, scientific publishing, lecturing.
Innovation and creativity define my work as a research scientist, where I identified novel research questions and created ways to answer them. I developed new methods to track small insects in the bush, and monitor their behaviour with motion sensor cameras. Never afraid to learn new techniques, I cultivated technical skills in analysis of population genomic data, R statistical programming, analysis of spectral data, laboratory fungal culture, camera trapping, and plant and insect identification.
Professional consulting and work experience includes:
- Population simulation and modeling of arboreal mammals and birds for a large corporate client
- Analysis, policy, and strategy in management of invasive species
- 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).
Research and teaching appointments
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: Casual 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
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.