Rebecca Wheatley

Predicting optimal performance and movement decisions during predator pursuit


PhD Candidate

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BSc majors Ecology & Zoology (2009-2011), University of Queensland

BSc (Honours) Ecology (2012), University of Queensland

PhD Ecology (2014-present), University of Queensland


Research History

As a kid, I spent nearly all my free time fishing for tadpoles with my dad, monitoring python nests hidden between bales of hay, and chasing birds around the paddock with my camera. So, it wasn’t a huge surprise when I ended up studying Ecology and Zoology at the University of Queensland. During my undergraduate, I was lucky enough to score some volunteer work with a few different labs, and my passion for research was born. 

Following my herping tendencies, I completed my Honours research project in the Wilson Performance Lab looking at fighting ability in Asian house geckos. This study, which involved testing game theoretic models of fighting strategy, gave me an inkling that I’d like to learn more about mathematical modelling. In the year post-honours, I was given a position as a part-time research assistant, where I got to explore how ecologists can use modelling in novel, interesting ways (and collect a ton of data to look at optimal serve speed in tennis players!). 

I am currently completing a PhD on predicting optimal performance and movement decisions during predator pursuit. My project is roughly split between empirical experiments and mathematical modelling. I’ve been lucky enough to travel across the world to collaborate with academics at other universities, and learn some awesome modelling skills. And I’ve had the dubious privilege of working on the buff-footed Antechinus, a small semelparous marsupial with ninja-like performance skills that sort of make up for its absolute contrariness. You can read all about my PhD adventures here.

Personal Interests

Most of my favourite things involve escaping off into the wilderness with my hiking boots, tent, and binoculars. I’m also a bit of a bookworm, and I love cooking (and baking, and coconut icecream making!). I’m also keen on travelling, road trips, checking out local bands, watching awful but hilarious b‑grade movies, and hanging out with my fantastic friends and family.



Wheatley R, Angilletta Jr. MJ, Niehaus AC & Wilson RS. (2015) How fast should an animal run when escaping? An optimality model based on the trade-off between speed and accuracy. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 55, pp. 1166-1175. DOI: 10.1093/icb/icv091
Kesselring H, Wheatley R & Marshall DJ. (2012). Initial offspring size mediates trade-off between fecundity and longevity in the field. Marine Ecology Progression Series, 465, pp. 129-136. DOI: 10.3354/meps09865