Post-Doctoral Research Associate

University of Sheffield





My research focuses on how the form of biological structures, such as skulls relates to its function and the ecology of a species.

I have investigated a range of questions over my career – Were Neanderthals capable of speech or complex language, did the large flightless extinct birds of New Zealand compete for similar food resources and were Tasmanian tiger particularly susceptible to extinction because of restrictions in their diet?

Predominantly, I use X-Ray Micro Computed Tomography (microCT), medical CT and photogrammetry to gather three-dimensional representations of an organism’s anatomy. This information is used to better understand the functional ecology and behaviour in individual taxa within a comparative framework.

I am also interested in questions regarding the reproductive biology, behaviour and evolution of vertebrates. For my honours, I investigated geographic variation in acoustic signals of male Australian sea lions and how males respond to calls from local and foreign competitors. I am also passionate about conservation management and have been involved as a researcher, collaborator and volunteer to assist conservation research initiatives in Australia, Antarctica and the Maldives.

Whale watching

Research interests:

• Animal behaviour and behavioural ecology
• Avian reproductive biology and evolution
• Vertebrate form and function
• Feeding ecology and predator/prey relationships
• Conservation ecology



Attard, M. R. G., Wilson L. A. B., Worthy T. H., Scofield P., Johnston P., Parr W. C. H. and Wroe S. (2016) Moa diet fits the bill: virtual reconstruction incorporating mummified remains and prediction of biomechanical performance in avian giants. Proceedings of Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2043

Attard, M. R. G., Parr, W. C. H., Wilson, L. A. B., Archer, M., Hand, S. J., Rogers, T. L., Wroe, S. (2014) Virtual Reconstruction and Prey Size Preference in the Mid Cenozoic Thylacinid, Nimbacinus dicksoni (Thylacinidae, Marsupialia). PLOS ONE., 9 (4), e93088

D’Anastasio, R., Wroe, S., Tuniz, C., Arensburge, B., Mancini, L., Cesana, D. T., Dreossi, D., Ravichandiran, M., Attard, M. R. G., Parr, W. Agur, A. (2013) Internal microstructure and microbiomechanical modelling of the Kebara 2 Neanderthal hyoid: implications for the evolution of speech. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082261

Attard, M. R. G., Chamoli, U., Ferrara, T., Rogers, T. L. and Wroe, S. (2011) Skull mechanics and implications for feeding behaviour in a large marsupial carnivore guild: the thylacine, Tasmanian devil and spotted-tailed quoll. Journal of Zoology, 285 (4); 292-300.

Attard, M.R.G., Pitcher, B.J., Charrier, I., Ahonen, H., Harcourt, R.G. (2010) Vocal discrimination in mate guarding male Australian sea lions: Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Ethology, 116; 1-9.


Feature articles:

Attard, M. R. G. and Wroe, S. (2012) “The thylacine myth”. Australasian Science Magazine. (6): 19-22.

Attard, M. R. G. (2012) “Unveiling the mysteries of the Tasmanian Tiger”. The conversation.


Spoken presentations include:

2014, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Oral presentation. “Virtual reconstruction and prey preference of Tasmanian tiger’s ancient relative”, Berlin.

2014, 4th International Palaeontological Congress, Poster, “Moa diet fits the bill: clip and pluck feeding strategies of New Zealand’s Extinct giant flightless birds”, Mendoza.

2013, International Association for Ecology conference, Poster, “New insight from the old: Using stable isotopes to assess marsupial carnivore vulnerability to anthropogenic impacts”, London.

2013, Ecological Society of America conference, Oral presentation, “The risks of being big – The ecological and evolutionary significance of the thylacine’s body size and diet”, Minneapolis.

2013, Australian Mammal Society conference, Oral presentation, “Tracking long-term diet and habitat shifts in the world’s largest marsupial carnivores”, Sydney.

2012, Ecological Society of Australia conference, Oral presentation, “The thylacine myth: stable isotopes and skull biomechanics reveal their ‘actual’ diet and extinction risk”, Melbourne.

2012, Guest speaker at “Using virtual reconstruction and computational biomechanics to study form and function in biology” workshop, Sydney.

2011, 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Oral presentation, “Are you really what you eat: Influences of fasting on stable isotope ratios in male southern elephant seals”, Tampa.

2011, 13th Conference on Australian Vertebrate Evolution Palaeontology and Systematics, Oral presentation, “Skull mechanics and implications for feeding behaviour in a large marsupial carnivore guild”, Perth.

2011, 4th International Conference on the Mechanics of Biomaterials and Tissues, Oral presentation and poster, “Skull mechanics and its implications for feeding behaviour in a large marsupial carnivore guild”, Hawaii.



2013, Postgraduate Writing and Skills Transfer Award (AU$6,000), Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, University of New South Wales.

2012, Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Competition Winner (AU$5,000), University of New South Wales.

2012, Wiley-Blackwell Student prize (AU$300) for outstanding spoken presentation at Ecological Society of Australia conference.

2010, Postgraduate Forum Award, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia.
2009-12, Academic Postgraduate Award (AU$20,427 per annum), University of New South Wales.

2005-07, Academic Excellence Scholarship (AU$5,000), University of Western Sydney.

2005-07, University Dean’s Medal, University of Western Sydney.


2013, £300 INTECOL Student Travel Grant.

2012, AU$1,000 E&ERC Postgraduate Research Start-Up Grant, Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, University of New South Wales.

2012, AU$200 Ecological Society of Australia, Sponsorship for attendance to the Ecological Society of Australia conference
2011, AU$3,300 Postgraduate Research Student Support (PRSS) Scheme. University of New South Wales.
2011, AU$1,000 Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) Travel Grant.
2008, AU$500 Golden Key International Honours Society Scholarship.


Public outreach:

My research has been disseminated to the public through interviews on radio and television, feature articles and newspapers. A full list of media coverage is available at:


Life outside of the lab:

If I’m not in the lab crackin’ eggs, you’ll find me out on the skate track playing roller derby with my team mates