Prof Keith Christian

Prof Keith Christian
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Professor - Savanna management & wildlife conservation
Primary research group: 
Animal Physiological Ecology


Keith Christian did his PhD on the determinants of space use by Galapagos Land Iguanas while at Colorado State University. He expanded his interests in tropical ecology while working at the University of Puerto Rico before moving to Australia in 1985. He was a foundation staff member at the university that is now known as Charles Darwin University in Darwin.

His interests include the physiological and behavioral adaptations of animals (particularly reptiles, amphibians and ants) in response to the physical environment. He has published in the areas of comparative physiology, physiological ecology, exercise physiology, thermoregulatory biology, respiratory physiology, biophysical ecology, and biological control.

Dr Renkang Peng and Keith have worked to establish methods for using weaver ants as biological control agents in tropical tree crops in northern Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, and East Timor. This work has shown that tree crops grown in association with weaver ants can produce higher quality produce with lower expenses than the conventional techniques of farming with insecticides. This work, also in conjunction with Karen Gibb, resulted in the team winning the Tropical Knowledge Research award from the Northern Territory Government in 2006.

Keith and his son Jake collect and polish rocks, and this led to a research project exploring the communities of cyanobacteria that live under translucent rocks, such as quartz, agate, and prehnite in the Wave Hill region of the Northern Territory. This work showed that the hypolithic cyanobacteria in northern Australia are only photosynthetically active for about 75 days a year, and although the cyanobacteria share some similarities with hypolithic communities on other continents at the generic level, at the “species” level, the Australian cyanobacteria are unique and extremely diverse.

My projects

The Long-necked turtle Chelodina mccordi is critically endangered under the IUCN red lis

The main focus of this research will be on poorly understood aspects of hatchling behaviour (soci

People I work with

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Dr Christine Schlesinger
Senior Research Fellow
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Assoc Prof Renkang Peng
Adjunct - Associate Professor
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Chris Tracy
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Dr Carla Eisemberg (De Alvarenga)
Research Associate
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Dr Teigan Cremona
Research Associate

My blog posts

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Charles Darwin never visited tropical Australia, but thanks to his former HMS Beagle shipmates, he has a legacy there.

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Although we might not like it, the cane toad is now a resident of the Top End, and this handsome specimen (right) appeared on the cover of the very first issue of the new journal Biology Open.

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Insecticides are inferior to weaver ants when it comes to protecting orchards.

My Places