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Research Scientist (Restoration Ecophysiology)
Biodiversity Conservation Centre
Kattidj Close
Kings Park Western Australia 6005
(+61 8) 9480 3923

Research themes

  • Comparative animal physiology
  • Conservation physiology
  • Animal ecophysiology
  • Biogeographical rules
  • Spatial and mathematical modelling
  • Landscape ecology
  • Marsupial biology
  • Insect biology
  • Pollination biology (in ecological and restoration contexts).

Academic background

Following a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Botany in 2004, I undertook Honours research in the comparative physiology of small Australian mammals. My research investigated ecological energetic patterns in Honey Possums (Tarsipes rostratus), and thermoregulatory patterns and heterothermy in Australian rodents (Pseudomys hermannsburgensis and Mus musculus). In 2012 I was awarded my PhD from UWA on the ecophysiological and behavioural adaptations of carnivorous marsupials (Sminthopsis spp) to energetic challenges, and how this was correlated with distributional size and specialisation to hyper-arid environments.

During my PhD I collaborated on projects investigating the ecophysiology of thynnine and ichnuemonid wasps, the physiological limitations of unique, desert-dwelling trap-door spiders and their conservation and management in mining operations, and the use of radioactive isotopes to measure energy requirements of diverse species of animals, including insects, in their natural environment. During 2011 this developed into a post-doctoral research fellowship based between The University of Western Australia and Kings Park and Botanic Gardens entitled 'The Spatial Energetics of Pollination Failure in Habitat Restoration'. My research on this project established novel approaches to quantify the impacts of thermal environments altered by habitat fragmentation on the insect pollinators of these ecosystems. We found an array of unexpected constraints on the thermal tolerance and energetics of some of Australia’s most tightly co-evolved plant/pollinator associations, including thynnine wasps, native and invasive bees, and scarab beetles. To aid the restoration of these fragmented ecosystems, we developed a new, ultra-high resolution spatial modelling approach that projects the habitat suitability and energetic requirement of a suite of insect pollinators across a 152 km2 restoration site of degraded, but high conservation-value Banksia woodland north or Perth. In a world first effort, we also used the biological turnover of radioactive isotopes to measure the cost of living of Honey bees (Apis mellifera) to test the energetic predictions made by these models in this landscape.

My most recent research activity at Kings Park has been in developing research into seed metabolic ecology. We have been optimising open-system and repeat-emission closed system respirometry technology to measure the energetics of seeds. Throughout this research we have begun to establish broad patterns of ecology an evolution on the metabolic rates of seeds, and how this relates to dormancy, longevity and storage behaviour, priming and patterns of rarity.

Throughout my academic career I have been associated with animal conservation and management through casual appointments with various environmental consultancies and the Department of Environment and Conservation, and two years on contract to private industry, consulting to mining and development interests across much of Western Australia. Although I have an academic interest in all things comparative physiology, in all taxa, and also a firm commitment to teaching a mentoring the next generation in these skills, I also believe that the academic pursuits are stale and difficult to justify without an applied focus.

Selected publications

Tomlinson S, Dixon KW, Didham RK and Bradshaw SD (2017) Landscape context alters cost of living in honeybee metabolism and feeding. Proceedings of the Royal Society B in press.

Nevill PG, Tomlinson S, Elliott CP, Espeland EK, Dixon KW and Merritt DJ (2016) Seed production areas for the global restoration challenge. Ecology and Evolution in press.

Tomlinson S (2016) Novel approaches to the calculation and comparison of thermoregulatory parameters: Nonlinear regression of metabolic rate and evaporative water loss in Australian rodents. Journal of Thermal Biology 57: 54-65.

Tomlinson S, Bradshaw SD, Didham RK and Dixon KW (2015) Physiological plasticity of metabolic rates in invasive and endemic Australian bee species. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 8: 835-844.

Tomlinson S, Arnall S, Bradshaw SD, Maloney SK, Munn A, Didham RK and Dixon KW (2014) Applications and implications of ecological energetics. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29: 280-290.

Nevill P, Bradbury D, Williams A, Tomlinson S and Krauss S (2014) Genetic and palaeo-climatic evidence for widespread persistence of the coastal tree species Eucalyptus gomphocephala (Myrtaceae) during the Last Glacial Maximum. Annals of Botany 113: 55-67.

Tomlinson, S.; Mathialagan, P.D. and Maloney, S.K. (2013). Special K: Testing the potassium link between radioactive rubidium (86Rb) turnover and metabolic rate. Journal of Experimental Biology 217: 1040-1045.

Tomlinson, S.; Maloney, S.K.; Withers, P.C.; Voigt, C.G. and Cruz-Neto, A.P. (2013). From doubly labelled water to half-life; validating radio-isotopic rubidium turnover to measure metabolism in small vertebrates. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 4: 619-628.

Tomlinson S, Withers PC. and Maloney SK (2012) Flexibility in Thermoregulatory Physiology of Two Dunnarts, Sminthopsis macroura and Sminthopsis ooldea (Marsupialia; Dasyuridae). Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 2236-2246.

Tomlinson S, Withers PC and Cooper C (2007) Hypothermia versus torpor in response to cold stress in the native Australian mouse Pseudomys hermannsburgensis and the introduced house mouse Mus musculus. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A 148:645-650.

See Sean's full list of publications on Google Scholar.

See Sean's Research Gate profile.


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