Contact Details

Senior Research Fellow
School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, BNE, QUEENSLAND 4072
+61 3365 4070

I studied Animal Physiology, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry as part of my undergraduate degree at the University of Tübingen in Germany before conducting research for my Diploma (Masters equivalent) at the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (Tübingen). Under the guidance of Nico Troje, Deszö Varju and Heinrich Bülthoff, I studied visual perception (animal and human) and was trained in various psychophysics methodologies. During my undergraduate degree, I spent 12 months at the University of Queensland where I was exposed to marine science. Combining my interests in visual systems and marine science I completed a PhD at the University of Queensland under the guidance of Justin Marshall and Jack Pettigrew working on ultraviolet vision of coral reef fishes. Since then I have held a number of postdoctoral positions at the University of Queensland, including a ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Research Interests: 
The central research interest of my lab is visual perception and neuroethology of reef fish. Focus areas are colour vision, ultraviolet sensitivity and pattern perception and their role in the ecology of fish. This research programme includes the assessment of the ability of reef fish to learn, remember and distinguish complex patterns and objects. We always assume that fish are relatively simple animals with limited cognitive abilities. Part of this research is aimed at challenging this notion using methodologies derived from human psychophysics.
A second interest of my lab is to investigate UV-protective mechanisms available to reef fish. Mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) are contained in fish mucus as well as in fish ocular media where they absorb ultraviolet radiation and thus protect the fish, however, this happens at the cost of limiting spectral sensitivity. In collaboration with Sophie Dove (Global Change Institute, UQ), we have started to investigate internal and external UV protection mechanisms. Specifically, we are interested to determine whether internal DNA repair mechanisms compensate for the lack of external MAA protection in fish with UV communication.
A third area of research interest is investigating the effect of coral bleaching (=coral reef colour change) on reef fish behaviour and survival from the perspective of visual perception of the fish. Previous research has found reduced numbers of fish and reduced diversity in bleached parts of reefs. The hypothesis we are investigating is that this reduced number and diversity is due to increased predation, which in turn is due to enhanced conspicuousness of reef-dwelling organisms seen against the bleached (white) instead of the healthy brown background coloration of the reef. Specific projects are designed to investigate possible consequences of coral reef bleaching on reef fish behaviour (colour communication) and survival during different life stages.

Selected Publications: 
Australian Coral Reef Society (ACRS)
Australian Neuroscience Society (ANS)
Applied Vision Association (AVA)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

International Society for Neuroethology (ISN)

Member, Centre of Marine Science (UQ)
ARC Discovery 2014 $360k
Siebeck, Wallis, Franz and Bshary
Pattern recognition in animals and machines: using machine learning to reveal cues central to identification of individuals
SeaWorld Rescue and Research Foundation 2012 $17k
Braun, Reef and Siebeck

How do coral reef fish cope with elevated UV levels

ARC Discovery 2010 $280k
Leis, Siebeck & Paris
Orientation in the pelagic environment: how do larval marine fish find their way home?
University of Queensland, SNIGS 2010 $32k
Siebeck, Fritsches & Wallis
Colour vision and motion detection in reef fishes
University of Queensland, MEI 2010 $205k
Scott et al
Zebrafish Behavioral Suite
Hermon Slade Foundation (Australia Pacific Science Foundation) 2008 $32k
Siebeck & Eckes
The role of natural sunscreens for the control of ultraviolet radiation damage in reef fish
SeaWorld Rescue and Research Foundation 2008 $15k
Eckes, Dove & Siebeck
UV sunscreens in reef fish mucus and UV-induced DNA repair systems in the tissues of reef fish
UQ, Vice-Chancellor strategic award 2007 $150k
Marshall & Siebeck
Coral Watch, Coral Bleaching monitoring
ARC Discovery and APD 2005 $267k
Hide and speak – Colour communication in reef fish
SeaWorld Rescue and Research Foundation 2005 $20k
Siebeck & Marshall
How does coral reef bleaching affect coral reef fish?
UQ startup grant 2005 $12k
Decoding the complex facial patterns of reef fish
Women’s International Science Collaboration 2004 $10k
Zamzow, Grutter & Siebeck
Role of UV screening pigments in fish mucus of cleaner fish
CRC Tourism 2002 $50k
Marshall, Hoegh-Guldberg & Siebeck
A kit for D.I.Y. reef monitoring: simple technology for assessment of coral health
Lizard Island Doctoral Fellowship, Australian Museum 2001, $7k
Neuroethology of colour on the reef
Qualifications and Awards: 
Diplom (Masters equiv.) in Biology / Biological Cybernetics - Max Planck Institute for biological Cybernetics & University of Tübingen, Germany - 1997
PhD in Marine Neuroscience – University of Queensland - 2002