Hall of Fame: Students

Everyone on this page was a student while the lab was based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Student alumni from Macquarie are listed individually, below the link for this page.

Pius Korner-Diploma 1999

Pius Korner-Diploma 1999

Pius was my first student. He finished a PhD back in Switzerland and currently runs a nature reserve with his wife. Pius studied species recognition in Platysaurus.

Korner, P., M.J. Whiting, and J.W.H. Ferguson. 2000. Interspecific aggression in flat lizards suggests poor species recognition. African Journal of Herpetology 49:139-146.

Statistical Analyses and Consulting Ecological Statistics

Das Naturlehrgebiet Buchwald

Lanral Ruddock-MSc 2000

Lanral Ruddock-MSc 2000

Lanral did his MSc at the University of Stellenbosch under the supervision of Professor Hannes van Wyk and Martin Whiting. His thesis work was on Cordylus giganteus, a species that lives in colonies in grasslands, in burrows.

Ruddock, L. 2000. Social Structure of the Lizard, Cordylus giganteus. Unpubl. master’s thesis, Univ. of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Also see: Losos, J.B., P.L.N. Mouton, R. Bickel, I. Cornelius, and L. Ruddock. 2002. The effect of body armature on escape behaviour in cordylid lizards. Animal Behaviour 64: 313-321.

He lived in New Zealand for a while, where he did lots of kite boarding. (Lanral is an expert kite boarder and involved in research and development.) Lanral may be living in the US and still involved in kite boarding:

Monica Wyman-Diploma 2001

Monica Wyman-Diploma

Monica worked on two separate, unrelated projects: foraging ecology of skinks and species/mate recognition in flat lizards. She recently completed her PhD back in Switzerland, having done her field work in Mali (after hastily leaving Côte d’Ivoire during a rebel incursion!). She is currently working in the Swiss Office for Federal Health. She has twin children, Anastasia and Leonardo.

Wymann, M.N., and M.J. Whiting. 2002. Foraging ecology of rainbow skinks (Mabuya margaritifer) in southern Africa. Copeia 2002:943-958.

Wymann, M.N., and M.J. Whiting. 2003. Male mate preference for large size overrides species recognition in allopatric flat lizards (Platysaurus broadleyi). Acta Ethologica 6:19-22.

Rhett Smart-MSc 2001

Rhett Smart-MSc

Rhett’s thesis focused on lizard conservation biology in communal lands near the Kruger National Park. He then worked as an environmental consultant in Gauteng before moving to Cape Town. Rhett is currently working for Global Vision International, as a field biologist in Patagonia.

Smart, R.M., M.J. Whiting, and W. Twine. 2005. Lizards and landscapes: Integrating field surveys and interviews to assess the impact of human disturbance on lizard assemblages and selected reptiles in a savanna in South Africa. Biological Conservation 122:23-31. (Published online in 2004.)

Leann Reaney-MSc 2002

Leeann Reaney-MSc

Leeann worked on the ecology and mating system of tree agamas. Lee then spent a year teaching English in Taiwan before returning to SA to spend about 3 months working in the lab, where she was a spectacular help and did lots of collaborative work with Martin. Leeann did her PhD (2004-7) at Australian National University working on fiddler crabs in Darwin with Pat Backwell. Leeann then did a postdoc with Rob Knell at the School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London. Leeann is living in Melbourne.

Reaney, L.T., and M.J. Whiting. 2002. Life on a limb: ecology of the tree agama (Acanthocercus a. atricollis) in southern Africa. Journal of Zoology, London 257:439-448.

Reaney, L.T., and M.J. Whiting. 2003. Are female tree agamas (Acanthocercus atricollis atricollis) turned on by males or resources? Ethology, Ecology & Evolution 15:19-30.

Simon Lailvaux-MSc 2002

Simon Lailvaux-MSc

Simon worked on Platysaurus i. wilhelmi at Pullen Farm near Nelspruit. His MSc focused on intersexual differences in performance in relation to temperature and predation risk. He then completed his PhD at Tulane University in New Orleans, working in Duncan Irschick’s lab. This was followed by a postdoc in Belgium, followed by a postdoc in Australia with Rob Brooks (University of NSW). Simon now has a tenure-track position at the University of New Orleans.

Lailvaux, S.P., G.J. Alexander, and M.J.Whiting. 2003. Sex-Based Differences and Similarities in Locomotor Performance, Thermal Preferences, and Escape Behaviour in the Lizard Platysaurus intermedius wilhelmi. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 76:511-521.

Sue McConnachie–Honours 2000, PhD 2006

Sue McConnachie-MSc

Sue was my first honours student. Her project was on the costs of tail loss in crag lizards. She then did a PhD on crag lizard ecophysiology (cosupervised with Graham Alexander). She is currently living in Hilton and completed a postdoc with Mike Perrin at the University of Kwazulu-Natal at Pietermaritzburg where she is now working as a tutor.

McConnachie, S.M., and M.J. Whiting. 2003. Costs associated with tail autotomy in an ambush foraging lizard, Cordylus melanotus melanotus. African Zoology 38: 57-65.

McConnachie, S., G.J. Alexander and M.J. Whiting. 2007. Lower temperature tolerance in the temperate, ambush foraging lizard Pseudocordylus melanotus. Journal of Thermal Biology 32:66-71.

McConnachie, S., G.J. Alexander, and M.J. Whiting. 2009. Selected body temperature and thermoregulatory behavior in the sit-and-wait foraging lizard Pseudocordylus melanotus melanotus. Herpetological Monographs 23:108-122.

Kathy Hernstad–Honours 2001

Kathy Hernstad-Honours 2001

Kathy was my first ‘non-reptilian’ student. (Read that as you will!) Kathy worked on carotenoid-based sexual selection in Malawian cichlids for her honours thesis.

Kathy maintained cichlids on low and high carotenoid diets and measured mate preference in relation to signal quality.

She is living in London. Kathy is currently working as a personal trainer and nutritional adviser.

Kathy is most definitely the fittest student Martin has ever had!

Check out soul4cycle


Tasmin Rymer–Honours 2002

Tasmin Rymer-Honours

Tasmin’s honours thesis was on Kalahari tree skinks and tree selection in relation to the presence and extent of sociable weaver nests. She tested whether skinks gain benefits (e.g., reduced predation risk) by selecting trees containing sociable weaver nests.

Tasmin then moved to the University of Pretoria to do a masters before returning to Wits to do a PhD with Prof. Neville Pillay.

Tasmin is currently at James Cook University in Townsville, in the School of Marine and Tropical Biology.

Belinda Lewis–Honours 2003, MSc 2007

Belinda Lewis-Honours, MSc

Belinda worked on pheromonal recognition between two sister taxa of flat lizards: Platysaurus broadleyi and Platysaurus capensis. Belinda completed her masters on sexual selection and signalling in the Waterberg flat lizard (Platysaurus minor) in December 2006 and graduated in 2007.

Belinda has gone on to great things. She is is currently head of product strategy at Praekelt Digital.

Lewis, B.A., M.J. Whiting, and J. Stapley. 2007. Male flat lizards prefer females with novel scents. African Zoology 42:91-96.

Kinesh Chetty-Honours 2003

Kinesh Chetty-Honours

Kinesh did the OTS (Organisation for Tropical Studies through Duke University) programme in Costa Rica. After returning to South Africa he did his honours project at Wits Rural Facility studying anthropogenic disturbance on tree agamas.

Kinesh subsequently completed an MSc with Andrew Mckechnie at Wits before entering the private sector. He first worked as a project manager for EcoSecurities.

Kinesh is the founder and managing director at GreenerFuture.

Whiting, M.J., K. Chetty, W. Twine and P. Carazo. 2009. Impact of human disturbance and beliefs on the tree agama Acanthocercus atricollis atricollis in a South African communal settlement. Oryx 43:586-590.

Jörg Melzheimer–Diploma 2003

Jörg Melzheimer–Diploma

Jörg was registered at the University of Potsdam in Germany. He was co-supervised by Martin Whiting and worked on Kalahari tree skink habitat modelling as part of the BIOTA project.

Thesis title: Spatiotemporal habitat use with particular emphasis on landscape structure related dispersal events of Trachylepis striata and Trachylepis spilogaster.

He is currently working on a cheetah conservation project in Namibia, as part of his PhD. Here is a recent paper from the cheetah work:

Bettina B Wachter, Anne-Sophie AS Blanc, Jörg J Melzheimer, Oliver P OP Höner, Mark M Jago and Heribert H Hofer. An advanced method to assess the diet of free-ranging large carnivores based on scats.  PLoS One 7(6):e38066 (2012) PMID 22715373

Walter Reisinger-Honours 2004

Walter Reisinger-Honours

Walter was co-supervised by Devi Stuart-Fox and Barend Erasmus. His honours dealt with the conservation ecology of an undescribed, endangered dwarf chameleon. His honours project was published in Oryx:

Reisinger, W.M., Stuart-Fox, D. M. and Erasmus, B. F. N. 2006. Habitat associations and conservation status of an indigenous forest restricted dwarf chameleon from southern Africa. Oryx, 40:183-188.


Luke Schutz–Honours 2005

Luke Schutz-Honours

Luke was co-supervised by Devi and Martin.

Thesis title: Does the lizard Platysaurus broadleyi aggregate because of resource limitation or social factors?

Schutz, L., D. Stuart-Fox and M.J. Whiting. 2007. Does the lizard Platysaurus broadleyi aggregate because of social factors? Journal of Herpetology 41:354-359.


Toby Hibbitts–PhD June 2006

Toby Hibbitts-PhD

Toby’s PhD work focused on sexual selection & signalling in barking geckos in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa. Toby is back in Texas, working as a curator in the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection at Texas A&M University.

Hibbitts, T.J., E.R. Pianka, R.B. Huey, and M.J. Whiting. 2005. Ecology of the common barking gecko (Ptenopus garrulus) in southern Africa. Journal of Herpetology 39:509-515.

Hibbitts, T.J., and M.J. Whiting. 2005. Do male barking geckos (Ptenopus garrulus garrulus) avoid refuges scented by other males? African Journal of Herpetology 54:191-194.

Hibbitts, T.J., M.J. Whiting, and D.M. Stuart-Fox. 2007. Shouting the odds: vocalization signals status in a lizard. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61:1169-1176.

Trevor McIntyre–MSc Resource Conservation Biology 2006

Trevor McIntyre-MSc

Trevor completed his MSc thesis on the conservation biology of giant sungazers in the Welkom area, Free State Province. This work was conducted largely on mine properties belonging to Anglo Gold. He was co-supervised by Isabel Wiersbye.

Trevor put his masters on hold for a year, while he worked as a research assistant on Marion Island. He then worked as an environmental consultant before doing a PhD at the University of Pretoria.

T McIntyre, M J Whiting (2012)  Elevated metal concentrations in the Giant Sungazer lizard (Smaug giganteus) from mining areas in South Africa   Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology In press:

Helen Place-Honours 2006, PhD 2012

Helen Place-Honours

Helen worked on the influence of male status on colour expression and behaviour in Augrabies flat lizards:

“The role of colour and pheromones in reducing the costs of being subordinate” for her honours.”

We convinced Helen to continue working on flat lizards for her PhD. For her PhD, Helen studied colour signals in Platysaurus i. wilhelmi. She studied how hormones and immunocompetence interact and how signals are constrained. She also looked at how whole-organismal performance is influenced by this interaction.

Helen graduated with a PhD in 2012.

Melanie Ferreira-Martins-Honours 2007

Melanie Ferreira-Martins-Honours

Melanie did a comparative study of testis size and sperm morphology in relation to degree of sexual selection in a wide range of Africa lizard species.

Honours thesis: 2007. Influence of sperm competition risk on testes size and sperm morphology in cordylid lizards.

For this project she examined jars and jars of museum specimens and measured lizard testes and a range of morphological variables, before doing a comparative analysis in the context of sexual selection.

She was ably co-supervised by Phil Byrne, while he was a postdoc working in Martin’s lab.

Melanie has had great success running a business in tutoring high school students.

She is the owner/manager of A+ Tuition in Johannesburg.

Martin van der Meer-Honours 2007

Martin van der Meer-Honours

Martin worked on the ecology of the lizard genus Nucras. He was cosupervised by Bill Branch. He is now a PhD student at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.

van der Meer, M.J., Whiting, M.J., and W.R. Branch. 2010. Ecology of Southern African Sandveld Lizards (Lacertidae, Nucras). Copeia 2010:568–577.