School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences

Billie Ganendran

Billie Ganendran

PhD (Statistics) Candidate


Telephone:  +61 2 6268 8893
Fax:  +61 2 6268 8786
Location:  PEMS Sth, Room G26

Field of Study - Mathematics & Statistics

Supervisor:  Dr Leesa Sidhu

Co-Supervisor:  Associate Professor Harvi Sidhu, Dr Peter Dann (Phillip Island Nature Park and PEMS Visiting Fellow)

Research Topic - Climate Effects on Survival and Productivity of Little Penguins

Awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA), commenced February 2012.


‘Climate Effects on Survival and Productivity of Little Penguins’
In my PhD project I look at the potential effects of ecological influences, including climatic and oceanographic factors, on penguin survival. I use as my data set the Little Penguin Eudyptula minor colony which has been studied continuously on Phillip Island, Victoria since 1967 (Dann & Cullen 1990; Reilly & Cullen 1979). The security of the surviving colony is potentially threatened by environmental factors such as climate change, as well as anthropogenic threats posed by the thousands of visitors to the island each year. This study is one of the longest uninterrupted studies of vertebrates in the world and is headed by Dr Peter Dann from the Research Department of the Phillip Island Nature Park. Dr Dann is one of the co-supervisors for my PhD project.
A detailed mark-recapture-recovery analysis was originally conducted by Sidhu et al. (2007). This study incorporated several relevant group covariates (such as mean laying date, mean number of chicks fledged per pair and mean weight at banding) and individual covariates (such as date of banding and weight anomaly) directly into the likelihood. A subsequent analysis on the effect of wind on survival probabilities was carried out by Ganendran et al. (2011), while Sidhu et al. (2011) investigated the effect of seasonal sea surface temperatures on the survival of Little Penguins in their first year of life.
My project will be the first study to conduct a detailed examination of the effects of several environmental factors, such as sea surface temperatures, wind strength, ambient temperature and rainfall, on the survival of Little Penguins. I will also investigate the effects of marine productivity (by using chlorophyll a concentrations as a proxy) and patterns of current on the birds’ survival, and my results will assist in predicting the potential effect of climate change on the viability of this species. Such a study is crucial to improve our understanding of these birds and to ensure that the colony on Phillip Island continues to thrive for its own longevity, for the pleasure they bring to the thousands of visitors each year and for the economic benefits that flow on to the surrounding communities.

Dann, P. & Cullen, J.M. (eds), 1990, Survival, Patterns of Reproduction, and Lifetime Reproductive Output in Little Blue Penguins (Eudyptula minor) on Phillip Island, Victoria, AustraliaAcademic Press Inc, San Diego.
Ganendran, L.B., Sidhu, L.A., Catchpole, E.A., Dann, P. & Chambers, L.E., 2011, The effect of directional wind components on survival of Little Penguins Eudyptula minor, ANZIAM J (E), C1012 - C1030.
Reilly, P.N. & Cullen, J.M., 1979, The Little Penguin Eudyptula minor in Victoria I:? Mortality of Adults, Emu, 79, 97-102.
Sidhu, L., Catchpole, E. & Dann, P., 2007, Mark-Recapture-Recovery modeling and age-related survival in Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor), The Auk, 124(3), 815-827.
Sidhu, L., Dann, P., Chambers, L. & Catchpole, E.A., 2011, The effects of seasonal ocean temperatures in south-eastern Australia on the survival of first-year Little Penguins Eudyptula minor, Marine Ecology Progress Series. In Review.


  1. Ganendran, L.B., Sidhu, L.A., Catchpole, E.A., Dann, P., Chambers, L.E., 2011, The effect of directional wind components on survival of little penguins Eudyptula minor, ANZIAM Journal (E) 52: C949-C967.


  1. 8th Oamaru Penguin Symposium, Oamaru, New Zealand, 12 - 13 July, 2012, ‘Climate effects on survival and productivity of Little Penguins at Phillip Island, south-eastern Australia’.
  2. Canberra Mathematics Teachers Association Annual Conference, Canberra, 18 August, 2012, ‘Maths and Penguins: what do they have in common?’
  3. 16th Biennial Computational Techniques and Applications Conference, Brisbane, 23 - 26 September, 2012, ‘Is seabird survival affected by a changing climate?  A mark-recapture analysis of adult Little Penguins Eudyptula minor in south-eastern Australia’.
  4. Appearance on the ‘The Science Show’, ABC Radio, on 17 November, 2012.
  5. Joint ACT - NSW ANZIAM Meeting, Sydney, 22 - 23 November, 2012, ‘Is seabird survival affected by a changing climate?’. Awarded ‘Best Student Talk’.
  6. ‘The Maths of Planet Earth’ Public presentation at Questacon, Canberra, as part of a program run by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, 22 June, 2013, ‘Climate effects on seabird survival A statistical analysis of Little Penguins in south-eastern Australia’.
  7. Presentation at Australian Mathematical Sciences Student Conference (AMSSC) 2013, Australian National University, Canberra, 15 17 July , 2013, Effect of climate and oceanographic variables on survival of Little Penguins in south-eastern Australia’. Awarded Best Talk, Mathematics of Planet Earth.
  8. Presentation at 8th International Penguin Conference, University of Bristol, United Kingdom, 2 - 6 September, 2013, 'Effect of climate and oceanographic variables on survival of Little Penguins in south-eastern Australia'.


  1. 23 August, 2012, Three Minute Thesis Competition Heat Winner, UNSW Canberra.
  2. 25 September, 2012, Three Minute Thesis Competition Runner-up, UNSW Interfaculty Finals, ‘The curious mix of penguins and statistics’. (overall piece) (my segment)


  1. Statistical Society of Australia Inc., Canberra Branch
  2. Australian Mathematical Society Inc.
  3. Women in Mathematics Special Interest Group of AMSI.
  4. Australian Seabird Group
  5. Scientists in Schools Program (CSIRO), Partner school: Gungahlin College, ACT