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Dr Penny Olsen
Visiting Fellow

Phone: 61 2 6125 2536
Fax: 61 2 6125 5573


Main Research Interest
Evolutionary ecology and conservation biology

I finished my BSc hons on Antechinus at ANU in 1969 and found work as an Experimental Officer with Division of Wildlife & Ecology, CSIRO (then known as Division of Wildlife Research, now known as Sustainable Ecosystems), where I studied the ecology of water rats and the effect of predation on feral mouse populations. In 1981 I took a few years off to raise my two kids, but carried on research on birds of prey. A mid-life crisis sent me back to uni to do a PhD on the breeding ecology of raptors, which I completed in 1991. Since then I've been fortunate to win an ARC post-doc to study sex allocation in peregrine falcons, which led me to research on lifetime reproduction, for which I was granted an ARC Fellowship. Since 1999 I have been a consultant to various government departments and a visiting Fellow at ANU. I also write books and work as Editor of the Birds Australia quarterly magazine, Wingspan.

Research Interests
Although much of my research career has focused on Peregrine Falcons, I am interested in almost anything concerned with birds of prey, both diurnal and nocturnal, or indeed with birds in general. Conservation biology is also a strong interest, which I indulge by my involvement in a long-term program to re-establish a population of owls on Norfolk Island, from the one individual female Norfolk Island Boobook that remained in 1986.

Selected Publications
Newton, I. & Olsen, P. (eds) (1990). Birds of Prey . IPC: Sydney.

Olsen, P.(ed.)(1993). Australian Raptor Studies . Australasian Raptor Association, R.A.O.U.: Melbourne.

Olsen, P (1995). Australian Birds of Prey . University of New South Wales Press: Sydney & Johns Hopkins: Baltimore. 256 pp.

Olsen, P (1998). Australia's Pest Animals: New Solutions to Old Problems . Kangaroo Press, Sydney. 160 pp.

Olsen, P (2001). Feather and Brush: Three Centuries of Australian Bird Art . CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne. 227 pp.

Book chapters
White, C., Olsen, P. & Kiff, L. (1994). Falconidae. In Handbook of the Birds of the World . Vol II. Eds. J. del Hoyo & A. Elliot. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.

Olsen, P. (1999). Twenty-one species accounts on the Australasian strigids. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. IV. Eds. Jurgen H. Haffer, Josep Del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, Jordi Sargatal. Lynx: Barcelona.

Papers in refereed journals
Olsen PD & Olsen J (1987) Sexual size dimorphism in raptors: intrasexual competition in the larger sex for a scarce breeding resource, the smaller sex. Emu 87: 59-62.

Olsen, P.D. & Cockburn, A. (1993). Do large females lay small eggs?: sexual size dimorphism and the allometry of egg and clutch volume. Oikos 66: 447-453.

Olsen, P., Barry, S., Baker, G.B., Mooney, N., Cam, G. & Cam, A. (1998) Assortative mating in falcons: do big females pair with big males? J. Avian Biol. 29: 197-200.

Olsen, P., Doyle, V. & Boulet, M. (1998) Variation in male provisioning in relation to brood size in Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus. Emu 98: 297-304.

Norman, J., Olsen, P. & Christidis, L. (1998). Molecular genetics confirms taxonomic affinities of the endangered Norfolk Island Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae undulata.

McDonald, PG, Olsen, P & Cockburn, A (2004). Weather dictates reproductive success and survival in the Australian Brown Falcon Falco berigora . J. Anim. Ecol. 73: 683-692.

McDonald, P.G., Olsen, P.D., & Cockburn, A. (2005) Selection on body size in a raptor with pronounced reversed sexual size dimorphism: is bigger better? Behavioral Ecology 16: 4-56.

Edwards, E.D., Cooney, S.J.N., Olsen, P.D., Garnett, S.T. 2007. A new species of Trisyntopa Lower (Lepidoptera: Oecophoridae) associated with the nests of the hooded parrot (Psephotus dissimilis, Psittacidae) in the Northern Territory. Australian Journal of Entomology 46: 276-280.

Olsen, P, Weston, M, Cunningham, R &   Silcocks, A (2004). State of Australia's Birds 2005. Wingspan 13 (4) supplement 24pp.

Olsen, P, and Weston, M (2004). State of Australia's Birds 2004: Water, Wetlands and Birds . Wingspan 14 (4) supplement 24pp.

PhD students
Carolyn Blackmore: The breeding biology and behaviour of the grey-crowned babbler ( Pomatostomus temporalis )

Debbie Saunders: Swift Parrot winter habitat identification

Stuart Cooney: The breeding ecology of the hooded parrot ( Psephotus dissimilis )

Robert Gosford: Ethno-biological source material for avian population histories: an assessment of material relevant to the avian populations of three central Australian Bioregions

Past Students
Andrew Burton: Burton, A.M. 1991. Resource partitioning between two sympatric goshawks in the Australian wet tropics. PhD thesis, James Cook University

Mark Boulet: Boulet, M. 1997. Parental resource allocation to offspring in the Peregrine Falcon. Honours thesis, ANU

Janet Gardner: Gardner, J.L. 2002. Social behaviour and breeding biology of the Speckled Warbler. PhD thesis, ANU

Tom Aumann: Aumann, T. 1999. Riparian raptor assemblages in the Australian arid zone. PhD thesis, ANU

Paul McDonald: McDonald, P. 2003. Reproductive success, dimorphism and sex allocation in the Brown Falcon Falco berigora. PhD thesis, ANU

Jill Shephard: Shephard, J.M. 2003. A multi-scale approach to defining historical and contemporary factors responsible for the current distribution of te White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster ( Gmelin, 1788) I Australia. PhD thesis, Griffith University

Other Activities
Member of the Flora and Fauna Committee, ACT, which considers species and communities proposed for listing as threatened, contributes to the preparation and review of Action Plans and advises the Minister on nature conservation matters in general.

Member, Birds Australia Research & Conservation Committee which advises Birds Australia on research matters.

Consultant, Department of Environment & Heritage--adviser to Norfolk Island Owl recovery effort.

Member, representing Birds Australia, on NRA (Sustainable Resource and Conservation Standing Committee).