Biologist joins CDU as Outstanding Professor


Professor Sam Banks has been appointed as an Outstanding Professor at CDU

Professor Sam Banks has been appointed as an Outstanding Professor at CDU

A conservation biologist, who has studied species ranging from a tiny marsupial that can fit into the palm of a hand to enormous saltwater crocodiles, is the latest high-profile researcher to join Charles Darwin University.

Sam Banks has been appointed as an Outstanding Professor and will bring a wealth of knowledge on the use of cutting-edge genetic techniques to inform conservation and sustainable wildlife management.

“My work focusses on how animals respond to environmental change, in terms of wildlife connectivity, population stability and even individual behaviour,” Professor Banks said.

“Movement is vitally important for species existence, particularly in landscapes that are highly dynamic like the Top End. Whether it is to escape natural landscape change such as fire or human induced change, animals must be able to move to areas where resources are more favourable.”

Professor Banks said DNA sequencing played a big role in helping to understand patterns of plant and animal movements across the landscape.

“The use of landscape genetics in biodiversity research can help to discover and understand how populations respond to environmental change, giving us insights into how populations have changed over time and how they move across the landscape,” he said.

He said that new genetic approaches to biodiversity science had huge potential for application in the Northern Territory, where many areas are remote and difficult to access for much of the year.

“New methods of identifying species from DNA barcodes in water and soil could revolutionise the way we survey biodiversity,” he said.

Professor Banks, who joins CDU from the Australian National University in Canberra, has worked on a project to analyse the movements of saltwater crocodiles throughout the NT and on the impacts of fire on small mammals in the Kimberly.

“The NT is a dream for any biodiversity researcher interested in native animals,” he said. “I am also excited to work in a tropical environment instead of snow and sleet.”

Professor Banks has worked in wildlife ecology for almost a decade and has published more than 100 scientific articles.

He is keen to hear from prospective PhD candidates interested in conservation biology, landscape ecology and molecular ecology research.

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