Professor Mike Letnic
Field of Research: 
Ecology, wildlife management, conservation biology
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2079
Room 5112, Level 5
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052

Research & Current Projects

My research is focused on the conservation, management and restoration of ecosystems. I am currently investigating new approaches to improve the outcomes of threatened species reintroductions, the utility of rewilding as an approach for ecosystem restoration, the role that top predators play in sustaining biodiversity and managing the impacts of introduced species including feral cats, foxes, feral goats and cane toads.

Burrowing bettong.  Can the reintroduction success of predator naïve threatened mammals be enhanced by improving their anti-predator behaviour prior to release.

Dingoes play a vital role in sustaining Australia’s biodiversity. Dingoes make ecosystems safer for native animals because they suppress populations of introduced predators.


Research in the Media

The Atlantic: How extinction shaped the Australian outback

Kapow! Ecology: Dingoes run the show… right down to the shrubs

The Conversation: Tiny desert mice could help save Australia's grasslands from invasion

The Conversation: Bringing devils back to the mainland can help native species

Sydney Morning Herald: Extinct mammals to be reintroduced to NSW National Parks  

ABC News: Fencing Can Stop Cane Toads Spreading

BBC News: Dingoes could help rare species

Daily Telegraph: See the crocodile killed by cane toads

ABC Rural: Going croc spotlighting


Research Students


Understanding how apex predators control ecosystem nutrient dynamics

Opportunities exist for PhD and honours students to participate in an exciting new ARC funded project at University of New South Wales examining the effects that removal of dingoes has on the fate and distribution of nutrients in the Strzelecki Desert. The project will study mammals, plants, soils, birds and invertebrates and will span three key theoretical areas: trophic cascades, facilitation cascades and ecosystem stoichiometry using a combination of experimental field studies, drones and remote sensing.

Click here for more information


Charlotte Mills (PhD candidate) Influence of rewilding programs on plant assemblages

James Rees (PhD candidate) Apex predators influence on bird assemblages

Dan Hunter (PhD candidate) Impacts of apex predators on forest ecosystems

Lisa Steindler (PhD candidate) Anti-predator responses of reintroduced mammals

Nicholas Tong (MPhil candidate) Apex predators influence on lizard assemblages


Viyanna Leo (PhD) Effect of dingoes on tropical ecosystems

Nick Colman (PhD UWS) Effects of dingoes on the forested landscapes of eastern Australia

Ben Feit (PhD UWS) Cane toad dispersal and their effects on goannas in semi-arid Australia

Chris Gordon (PhD UWS) Effect of a top-order predator on shrub communities

Louise Pastro (PhD USyd) The effect of fire on biodiversity in central Australia (co-supervised with Professor Chris Dickman)



BIOS3601 Advanced Field Biology (Course Coordinator)


Key Publications (my students names are underlined)

Gordon C, Eldridge D, Ripple WJ, Crowther MS, Moore BD, Letnic M (2017) Shrub encroachment in an arid landscape is linked to extirpation of an apex predator. Journal of Animal Ecology 86, 147-157.

Atkins R, Blumstein DT, Moseby KE, West KE, Hyatt M, Letnic M  (in press) Deep evolutionary experience explains mammalian responses to predators. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

Moseby K, Blumstein DT & Letnic M (2015). Harnessing natural selection to tackle the problem of prey naïveté. Evolutionary Applications 9, 334-343.

Gordon CE & Letnic M (2015) Functional extinction of a desert rodent: implications for seed fate and vegetation dynamics.  Ecography. 10.1111/ecog.01648.

Hunter D, Britz T, Jones M & Letnic M (2015) Reintroduction of Tasmanian devils to mainland Australia can restore top-down control in ecosystems where dingoes have been extirpated. Biological Conservation 191, 428-435.

Gordon CE, Feit A, Gruber J & Letnic M (2015) Mesopredator suppression by an apex predator alleviates the risk of predation perceived by small prey Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282, 20142870.

Gordon CE, Feit A, Gruber J & Letnic M (2015) Mesopredator suppression by an apex predator alleviates the risk of predation perceived by small prey Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282, 20142870.

Leo V, Reading R & Letnic M (2015) Interference competition: odours of an apex predator and conspecifics influence resource acquisition by red foxes. Oecologia 179, 1033-1040.

Letnic M, Dempster T, Jessop TJ & Webb JK (2015) Restricting access to invasion hubs enables sustained control of an invasive vertebrate. Journal of Applied Ecology 52,341-347.

Lawes M, Fisher DO, Johnson CN, Frank AS, Fritz S, McCallum H, VanDerWal J, Abbot B, Legge S, Letnic M, Thomas CR, Thurgate N, Fisher A, Gordon IJ & Kutt A (2015) Correlates of recent declines of rodents in northern and southern Australia: habitat structure is critical. Plos One 10, e0130626

Newsome T, Ballard, G, Crowther MS, Glen AS, Dellinger J, Fleming P, Greenville A, Johnson CN, Letnic M, Moseby K, Nimmo D, Nelson M, Read J, Ripple W, Ritchie E, Shores C, Wallach A, Wirsing A & Dickman C (2015) Resolving the value of the dingo in ecological restoration. Ecological Restoration 23, 201-208.

Feit B, Dempster TD, Gibb H & Letnic M (2015) Invasive cane toads’ predatory impact on dung beetles is mediated by reservoir type at artificial water points.  Ecosystems 18,826-838.

Fisher DO, Johnson CN, Lawes MJ, Fritz SA, McCallum H, Blomberg SP, Van Der Waal J, Abbott B, Frank A, Legge S, Letnic M, Thomas CR, Fisher A, Gordon IJ & Kutt A. (2015) Response to commentary by Woinarski (Critical-weight-range marsupials in northern Australia are declining: a commentary on (Fisher et al., 2014). The current decline of tropical marsupials in Australia: is history repeating? Global Ecology and Biogeography 24, 123-125

Colman NJ, Gordon C, Crowther MS & Letnic M (2014) Lethal control of an apex predator has unintended cascading effects on forest mammal assemblages. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B  281, 20133094.

Webb JK, Letnic M, Jessop TJ & Dempster T (2014) Behavioural flexibility allows an invasive vertebrate to survive in a semi-arid environment. Biology Letters 20131014.

Crowther MS, Fillios M, Colman N & Letnic M (2014) An updated description of the Australian Dingo (Canis dingo, Meyer, 1793). Journal of Zoology293, 192-203.

Letnic M, Webb JK, Jessop TJ, Florance D & Dempster T (2014)  Artificial water points facilitate the spread of an invasive vertebrate in arid Australia. Journal of Applied Ecology 51, 795-803.

Pastro L, Dickman CR & Letnic M (2014) Fire type and hemisphere determine fire effects on alpha and beta diversity of vertebrates: A global meta-analysis. Global Ecology and Biogeography 23, 1146-1156.

Ripple, W. J., J. A. Estes,  R. L. Beschta, C. C. Wilmers, E. G. Ritchie, M. Hebblewhite, J. Berger, B. E., M. Letnic, M. P. Nelson, O. J. Schmitz, D. W. Smith, A. D. Wallach & A. J. Wirsing (2014) Status and ecological effects of the world's largest carnivores. Science 343,124184-1241484.

Letnic M, Gordon C &Tischler M (2013) Desert small mammal responses to wildfire and predation in the aftermath of a La Nińa driven resource pulse.  Austral Ecology38, 841-849.

Fisher DO, Johnson CN, Lawes MJ, Fritz SA, McCallum H, Blomberg SP, Van Der Waal J, Abbott B, Frank A, Legge S, Letnic M, Thomas CR, Fisher A, Gordon IJ & Kutt A. (2014) The historical and current decline of tropical marsupials in Australia. Global Ecology and Biogeography 23, 181-190.

Letnic M, Fillios M & Crowther M (2012) Could direct killing by larger dingoes have caused the extinction of the thylacine from mainland Australia? PLos One 7, e34e877.

Ritchie EG, Elmhagen B, Glen AS, Letnic M, Ludwig, G & McDonald RA (2012) Ecosystem restoration with teeth: what role for predators? Trends in Ecology and Evolution27, 265-271.

Letnic M, Ritchie E & Dickman CR (2012) Top predators as biodiversity regulators: the dingo Canis lupus dingo as a case study. Biological Reviews 87, 390-413.

Pastro L, Dickman CR & Letnic M (2011) Burning for biodiversity or burning biodiversity? Prescribed burning vs wildfire impacts on plants, lizards and mammals. Ecological Applications21, 3238-3253. 

Letnic M & Dworjanyn SA (2011) Does a top predator reduce the predatory impact of an invasive mesopredator on an endangered rodent? Ecography 34, 827-835. 

Florance D, Webb JK, Dempster T, Worthing A, Kearney MR & Letnic M (2011) Excluding access to invasion hubs can contain the spread of an invasive vertebrate. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B278, 2900-2908. 

Letnic M, Greenville A, Denny E, Dickman CR, Tischler M, Gordon C & Koch F (2011)  Does a top predator suppress the abundance of an invasive mesopredator at a continental scale? Global Ecology and Biogeography 20, 343–353. 

Letnic M & Dickman CR (2010) Resource pulses and mammalian dynamics: conceptual models for hummock grasslands and other Australian desert habitats. Biological Reviews 85, 501-521. 

Letnic M, Koch F, Gordon C, Crowther, MS & Dickman, CR (2009) Keystone effects of an alien top predator stem extinctions of native mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B276, 3249-3256

Letnic M, Webb JK & Shine RS (2008) Invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus) cause mass mortality of freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) in tropical Australia. Biological Conservation 141, 1773-1782. 

Letnic M & Connors G (2006) Changes in the distribution and abundance of saltwater crocodiles, Crocodylus porosus, in the upstream, freshwater reaches of rivers in the Northern Territory, Australia. Wildlife Research 33, 529-538.

Letnic M & Dickman CR (2006) Boom means bust: interactions between the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), rainfall and the processes threatening mammal species in arid Australia. Biodiversity and Conservation15, 3847–3880.

Letnic M, Dickman CR & Tamayo B (2005) The responses of mammals to La Nina (El Nino Southern Oscillation) - associated rainfall, predation and wildfire in central Australia. Journal of Mammalogy 86, 689-703.

Letnic M, Dickman CR, Tischler M, Tamayo B & Beh CL (2004) The responses of small mammals and lizards to fire and rainfall in arid Australia. Journal of Arid Environments 59, 85-114.

Letnic M (2000). Dispossession, degradation and extinction: environmental history in arid Australia. Biodiversity and Conservation 9, 295-308.