Dr Helen Nahrung

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Dr Helen Nahrung


Research areas

  • insect–plant interactions
  • insect chemical and reproductive ecology
  • invasion biology
  • insect behaviour and physiology


Dr Helen Nahrung has over sixteen years' experience working on pest–insect biology and ecology towards sustainable pest management methods in plantation forestry. Her research focus is primarily on insect–plant co-evolutionary interactions, including host location mechanisms and host defence.

Helen was one of the lucky last Honours graduates from the Department of Entomology at The University of Queensland. She worked for four years on the biological control of weeds at the Alan Fletcher Research Station, and moved to Hobart in 1999 where she completed her PhD through the University of Tasmania and Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Production Forestry on one of the state’s most serious hardwood pests. She then undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at Queensland University of Technology, also in the field of forest entomology, and subsequently worked for six years on hardwood plantation pests with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries in the Forest Health Group. She has been a Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast since early 2012, where she is involved in the ongoing development and conduct of empirical research towards understanding the interactions between, and developing effective management methods for, forestry pests in Queensland. Her expertise is in insect–plant interactions, but she has also worked extensively with natural enemies, development of predictive population models, and insect reproductive ecology. She is also interested in the applied use of semiochemicals/chemical ecology for pest monitoring and management.

Helen works part-time between the USC Sippy Downs campus and the EcoSciences Precinct in Brisbane on several projects in hardwood, softwood and high-value timber plantations from Stanthorpe to the tropics, including chemical and landscape ecology, invasion characteristics, biological control, and population modelling.


Recent key publications of Dr Helen Nahrung include:

Nahrung HF & Swain AJ (2015) Strangers in a strange land: do coloniser traits in novel environments differ between aliens and natives? Biological Invasions 17: 699–709.

Hayes RA, Piggott A, Smith TE & Nahrung HF (2014) Corymbia phloem phenolics, tannins and terpenes: interactions with a cerambycid borer Chemoecology 24: 95–103.

Nahrung HF, Smith TE, Wiegand A, Lawson SA & Debuse V (2014) Host tree influences on longicorn beetle attack in subtropical Corymbia Environmental Entomology 43: 37–46.

Nahrung HF & Waugh R (2012) Eriophyid mites on spotted gums: population and histological damage studies of an emerging pest. International Journal of Acarology 38: 549–556.

Nahrung HF, Hayes RA, Waugh R & Lawson SA (2012) Corymbia leaf oils, latitude, hybrids and herbivory: a test using common-garden field trials. Austral Ecology 37: 365–373.

Research grants


Project                                                     Investigators          Funding body                        Year              Focus of research
Biocontrol of eucalypt pests in Mekong region Lawson S, Douangboupha B, Nahrung H, Griffiths M    Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research  2014–2017 Improving eucalypt productivity through biocontrol of key Australian pests
Sirex woodwasp in Queensland Nahrung H, Griffiths M University of the Sunshine Coast, National Sirex Coordination Committee, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2011–2015 Management of a new pest in subtropical softwoods
What's hot in wasp snot? Nahrung H, Cummins S, Wang T-F                                       University of the Sunshine Coast  2013–2014 Characterising bioactivity of phytotoxic venom
Ladybird hydrocarbon communication Nahrung H, Allen G University of the Sunshine Coast, University of Tasmania  2012–2013 Identifying semiochemicals involved in ladybird aggregation
Stem defects in hardwoods Debuse V, Lawson S, Nahrung H University of the Sunshine Coast, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry  2010–2013 Predicting and characterising attack by stem borers in eucalypts
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