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Tessa Smith


About me

I am a PhD student with the DEEP group looking at spatial patterns of beetle distributions in Tasmanian wet forests.

Key interests

  • Entomology

  • Biogeography

  • Palaeoecology

  • Ecology

  • Science communication 

My PhD Research


Supervisors: Barry Brook, Christopher Johnson and Nicholas Porch (Deakin University). 

This project looks at the distribution of leaf-litter dwelling beetle species and assemblages across Tasmanian wet eucalyptus forests and cool temperate rain forests. It investigates whether modern distributions were influenced by past climates and ice ages, and whether there is evidence for refugia for leaf-litter beetles. Distributions of beetles will be compared to those of other animals and vegetation, to suggest areas for protection.



McDowell, MC, Eberhard, R, Smith, TR, Wood, R, Brook, BW, Johnson, CN (2022) Climate change without extinction: Tasmania's small-mammal communities persisted through the Last Glacial Maximum–Holocene transition. Quaternary Science Reviews 291, 107659.

Mata, L, Hahs, AK, Palma, E, Backstrom, A, King, T, Olson, AR, Renowden, C, Smith, TR, Vogel, B (2021) Large ecological benefits of small urban greening actions. bioRxiv 2021.07.23.453468.

Mata, L., Andersen, A., Morán Ordóñez, A., Hahs, A., Backstrom, A., Ives, C., Bickel, D., Duncan, D., Palma, E., Thomas, F., Cranney, K., Walker, K., Shears, I., Semeraro, L., Malipatil, M., Moir, M., Plein, M., Porch, N., Vesk, P., Smith, T., Lynch, Y. (2020). Indigenous plants promote insect biodiversity in urban greenspaces. Ecological applications. In press.

Benno A. Augustinus, Suzanne T.E. Lommen, Silvia Fogliatto, Francesco Vidotto, Tessa Smith, David Horvath, Maira Bonini, Rodolfo F. Gentili, Sandra Citterio, Heinz Müller-Schärer, Urs Schaffner (2020). In-season leaf damage by a biocontrol agent explains reproductive output of an invasive plant species. NeoBiota 55: 117-146.

Porch, N., Smith, T. R., and Grieg, K. (2020). Five new Pycnomerus Erichson (Coleoptera: Zopheridae: Pycnomerini) from Raivavae, French Polynesia. Zootaxa 4718 (2): 239–250.


Porch, N. & Smith, T. R. (2017). New Pycnomerus Erichson (Coleoptera: Zopheridae: Pycnomerini) from Rimatara, French Polynesia. Zootaxa 4327(1): 15. DOI:




Mata L, Ives CD, Garrard GE, Gordon A, Backstrom A, Cranney K, Smith TR, Stark L, Bickel DJ, Cunningham S, Hahs AK, Hochuli D, Malipatil M, Moir ML, Plein M, Porch N, Semeraro L, Standish R, Walker K, Vesk PA, Parris K, Bekessy SA (2015) The Little Things that Run the City – How do Melbourne’s green spaces support insect biodiversity and promote ecosystem health?  Report prepared for the City of Melbourne. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.18628.53120


Kirk H, Smith T, Backstrom A, Morán-Ordóñez A, Garrard GE, Gordon A, Ives CD, Bekessy SA, Mata L. (2017) Our City’s Little Gems – Butterfly diversity and flower-butterfly interactions in the City of Melbourne. Report prepared for the City of Melbourne. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.32050.30409


My research history


2017-2019: Research Assistant (CABAH)


2014-2017: Research Assistant (Deakin University, RMIT University, and the University of Fribourg)

Since completing honours I have worked in environmental consulting and at a Research Assistant at universities in Australia and Switzerland. This included working at the  Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group at RMIT University studying urban ecology of insects in the City of Melbourne in the project ‘The Little Things that Run the City’ and fieldwork with the University of Fribourg, Switzerland surveying the interactions between an invasive weed (Ambrosia artemisifolia) and its biocontrol agent (Ophraella communa).

2010 - 2014: Early Work (Undergraduate and Honours) 

I completed my Honours at Deakin University studying ‘The consequences of marine-derived avian nutrient input into island ecosystems: Palaeoecological insights from Rimatara, French Polynesia” with Dr. Nicholas Porch.

Magnagno, Italy, July 2016.jpg

Science communication

2018-ongoing: Science in the Pub Tasmania

As part of the Science in the Pub Tasmania organizing committee I organise monthly science communication events in Hobart. 

2018-2019: Pint of Science Hobart

I volunteered as the City Coordinator ​and MC in 2018 and 2019 when the event was held at the Republic Bar and Cafe and Shambles Brewery in Hobart.

2019: Girls Dig Dinosaurs, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

I was an invited speaker and MC for an event on International Womens Day celebrating women in Paleontology and Earth Sciences to coincide with TMAGs 'Dinosaur rEvolution: Secrets of Survival' exhibition.

2015: The Laborastory, Talk on 'My Science Hero Linnaeus'

The Laborastory is a science storytelling event in Melbourne that gets scientists to tell the stories of their heroes and people that inspired them. Listen here .

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