Animal patterns and 3D camouflage

How to hide in a 3D world?


Prey animals have evolved a dazzling array of colour patterns that are used to confuse, distract, startle and intimidate their predators. This project will examine the intriguing possibility that patterning may also generate illusory effects, by interfering with predators’ mechanisms of 3D shape perception.

You will test 3D shape discrimination and the detection/recognition of different pattern components using behavioural experiments with animal predators. The project has broad applications in diverse fields such 3D animation, computer vision and military defense.

The successful PhD applicant will develop methods to manipulate 2D images and virtual 3D objects. These visual stimuli will then be used to conduct behavioural tests of animal vision and perception to test fundamental camouflage theory.

Project goals:

  • To develop methods for quantifying depth information in natural visual scenes.
  • To test the mechanisms of shape perception in animals
  • To establish whether 3D body patterns enhance camouflage 

Suggested readings


Research team leader: Dr Jennifer Kelley

I am a behavioural ecologist with a strong background in predator-prey interactions, and a particular passion for understanding the link between animal colouration and behaviour. Specifically, I am interested in why particular patterns (spots, stripes etc.) evolved and how they function to alter or manipulate the behaviour of the viewer (i.e. predator, conspecific). My work also examines how altered visual environments (e.g. turbidity) influence colour pattern function. Most of my work has been with fishes (marine and freshwater), but I also work on moths because of their incredible wing patterning.


Funding and Collaborations



    • If you are a researcher keen to collaborate on this project, please get in touch with the Research Team Leader.



How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project:
    • The candidate will have experience and/or emerging interests in key disciplines such as behavioural ecology, computer vision, 3D modelling, and animal vision.
    • Proficiency using image analysis (e.g. Photoshop, ImageJ) or 3D computer animation software (e.g. Blender, Maya) would be advantageous.
    • Knowledge of data manipulation and analysis using R is desirable.
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.