Dr Anne Aulsebrook: Humans of BioSciences

Meet Dr Anne Aulsebrook, a research and teaching assistant in the School of BioSciences with a passion for bird watching. Anne completed her PhD in 2019 on the ways street lights affect sleep in urban birds, and was recently awarded a Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany. Anne also co-hosts and produces the Animalia science podcast about the weird and wonderful things that animals do.

Anne portrait
What was your PhD focused on and what will you be doing next? 

In 2019, I finished my PhD on how streetlights affect sleep in urban birds, which was supervised by Prof Raoul Mulder, A/Prof Theresa Jones and Dr John Lesku. I worked mostly with black swans and pigeons, recording brain activity and activity patterns under different types of lighting. Right now, I'm helping with many different projects, from the evolution of colour polymorphism in lizards (in the Stuart-Fox Lab) to sleep in mice. It has been great fun to work with different people to address such diverse questions.

Next year, I'll be starting a Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany. I originally planned to start my fellowship this year, but due to COVID-19, we decided to postpone!


How have you met the challenge of working from home?

Working from home has been mostly fine because I like working to a routine and have been able to stay productive. Fortunately, most of my current work is writing and analysing data but coronavirus has derailed many projects planned for this year that involved field work and international travel. This week, for example, I was supposed to be flying to Alaska to collect pilot data for my research fellowship. Perhaps I'll go bird watching in Melbourne's wintery weather instead.

Regular online catch ups with lab groups and other friends have been great for my sanity. It can be tougher connecting with students, and I really feel for the undergraduates trying to get through this semester. However, I'm thankful to be surrounded by caring folks who check up on each other. Now that we're home all the time, my partner and I have also started fostering a cat who has been excellent company.

Anne doing fieldwork

What do you enjoy doing outside of your work at the School of BioSciences?

Outside of my work, I enjoy reading (especially fiction), watching animated movies, listening to diverse podcasts, and working on my podcast Animalia, which I co-host and produce with Farley Connelly and David Roker. I also play piano and percussion, and love spending time outdoors. I am really looking forward to camping again.

Until recently, I worked at a library where I hosted many board games nights. Lately I have been playing online card games with my family, having weekly Netflix parties with friends, and spending more time playing video games (mostly DOTA 2).

Do you have any advice for undergraduate students?

The best advice I received as an undergraduate was to look for volunteering opportunities in fieldwork. I volunteered with a graduate researcher who was studying penguins, and it gave me so much insight into research and  fieldwork , and what my own interests are. It was also a lot of fun. I know that advice might not seem so relevant right now, with most fieldwork on pause. But once those field projects are up and running again, graduate researchers will need more support than ever.

It is also important to appreciate and be kind to the people around you. Though maintaining social connections is tougher than ever before, I think that makes it even more important. Many of my closest friends are people I met during my undergraduate degree. These friendships have been so important for my mental health and even my career. They are the people who will share your interests, may know about opportunities you don't, and who help keep you motivated and connected.

'Humans of BioSciences' is a special series to introduce the School of BioSciences' undergrad and postgrad students, our academics, professional staff and associates.