Associate Professor Lisa Schwanz
Senior Lecturer
Field of Research: 
Vertebrate Evolutionary Ecology
Contact details:
+6129385 0034
Room 5108, Level 5 West
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052


Research & Current Projects

My research focuses on the evolution and ecology of phenotypic plasticity, particularly in reproductive strategies. When is plasticity adaptive, how does it evolve in different environments, and does it allow populations to track or adapt to changing conditions? I examine both the functional form of plasticity as well as the ecological and evolutionary consequences of plasticity in changing environments. I employ theoretical and empirical approaches to explore these questions, and focus on vertebrate study organisms. My main research foci are in the study of sex allocation in mammals and temperature-dependent sex determination, so I spend a lot of time thinking about sex ratios in long-lived vertebrates.

Topics of interest include:

  • Evolution and heritability of plasticity
  • Investment in sons vs. daughters in mammals
  • Allocation of resources into reproduction
  • Offspring size vs. number
  • Parental care
  • Physiological correlates of life-history trade-offs
  • Physiological mechanisms of sex allocation in mammals
  • Effects of incubation temperature on reptile sex determination and hatchling phenotypes
  • Thermal Ecology
  • The evolution of sex-determining mechanisms
  • Annual timing of reproduction in response to climate
  • Alterations in behaviour and reproduction under parasitic infection
  • Ecoimmunology and endocrinology

I plan to take on 2-3 PhD/Honours students in the next year. Students with an interest in research in the above areas should contact me via email to discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in students with interest in working with my captive jacky dragon colony or conducting field work on mammals or lizards at one of UNSW’s field stations at Fowlers Gap or Smiths Lake.

See also



  • Kahn, A., L.E. Schwanz, and H. Kokko. 2013. Paternity protection can provide a kick-start for the evolution of male-only parental care. Evolution 67:2207-2217. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12103
  • Robert, K.A., and L.E. Schwanz. 2013. Monitoring the Health Status of Free-ranging Tammar Wallabies Using Haematology, Serum Biochemistry and Parasite Loads. Journal of Wildlife Management 77:1232-1243.
  • Booksmythe, I., L.E. Schwanz, and H. Kokko. 2013. The complex interplay of sex allocation and sexual selection. Evolution 67:673-678. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12003.
  • Schwanz, L.E. and K.A. Robert. 2012. Reproductive ecology of wild tammar wallabies in natural and developed habitats on Garden Island, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology 60:111-119.
  • Schwanz, L.E., A. Previtali, M. Gomes-Solecki, D. Brisson, and R.S. Ostfeld. 2012. Immunochallenge reduces risk sensitivity during foraging in white-footed mice. Animal Behaviour 83:155-161.
  • Schwanz, L.E. , M.J. Voordouw, D. Brisson, and R.S. Ostfeld. 2011. Borrelia burgdorferi has minimal impact on the Lyme disease reservoir host Peromyscus leucopus. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 11:117-124. doi:10.1089/vbz.2009.0215
  • Schwanz, L.E., S. McGaugh, D. Warner, R. Di-Terlizzi, and A. Bronikowski. 2011. State-dependent physiological maintenance in a long-lived ectotherm, the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). Journal of Experimental Biology 214:88-97.
  • Schwanz, L. E. , D. Brisson, M. Gomes-Solecki, and R.S. Ostfeld. 2011. Linking disease and community ecology through behavioural indicators: immunochallenge of white-footed mice and its ecological impacts. Journal of Animal Ecology 80:204-214. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01745.x
  • Robert, K.A., and L.E. Schwanz. 2011. Emerging sex allocation research in mammals: marsupials and the pouch advantage. Mammal Review 41(1):1-22.
  • Schwanz, L.E. , R.-J. Spencer, R.M. Bowden, and F.J. Janzen. 2010. Climate and predation dominate early life-stages and adult recruitment in a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination: insight from a long-term study. Ecology 91:3016-3026.
  • Schwanz, L.E. , F.J. Janzen, and S.R. Proulx. 2010. Sex allocation based on relative and absolute condition. Evolution 64:1331-1345. doi 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00916.x
  • Robert, K.A., L.E. Schwanz, and H. R. Mills. 2010. Offspring sex varies with maternal investment ability: empirical demonstration based on cross-fostering. Biology Letters 6:242-245. doi 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0774.
    McGaugh, S., L.E. Schwanz, R.M. Bowden, J.E. Gonzalez, and F.J. Janzen. 2010. Inheritance of nesting behaviour across natural environmental variation in a turtle with temperature-dependent sex determination. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277:1219-1226. doi 10.1098/rspb.2009.1883.
  • Schwanz, L.E. , R.M. Bowden, R.-J. Spencer, and F.J. Janzen. 2009. Nesting ecology and offspring recruitment in a long-lived turtle. Ecology 90:1709. Archives E090-119
  • Schwanz, L.E. , and F.J. Janzen. 2008. Climate change and temperature-dependent sex determination: can plasticity in maternal nesting behavior prevent extreme sex ratios? Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81: 826-834.
    Top 5 Downloads from PBZ, month of December 2008
  • Schwanz, L.E. , and S.R. Proulx. 2008. Mutual information reveals variation in temperature-dependent sex determination in response to environmental fluctuation, lifespan and selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 275:2441-2448.
  • Schwanz, L.E. 2008. Persistent effects of maternal parasitic infection on offspring fitness: implications for adaptive reproductive strategies when parasitized.Functional Ecology 22:691-698.
    Schwanz, L.E. 2008. Chronic parasitic infection alters reproductive output in deer mice. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 62:1351-1358.
  • Schwanz, L.E. , J.G. Bragg, and E.L. Charnov. 2006. Maternal condition and facultative sex ratios in populations with overlapping generations. American Naturalist 168(4):521-530.
  • Schwanz, L.E. 2006. Schistosome infection in deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus): impacts on host physiology, behavior, and energetics. Journal of Experimental Biology 209:5029-5037.
  • Schwanz, L.E. 2006. Annual cycle of activity, reproduction, and body mass in Mexican ground squirrels (Spermophilus mexicanus). Journal of Mammalogy 87(6):1086-1095.
  • Schwanz, L.E. , and E.A. Lacey. 2003. Olfactory discrimination of gender by colonial tuco-tucos (Ctenomys sociabilis). Mammalian Biology 68 (1): 53-60.