Hello, my name is Elia Pirtle. I am a researcher and an artist based in Melbourne, Australia.
I completed my PhD in zoology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, supervised by Dr.s Michael Kearney and Christopher Tracy. My research focused on the effect of climate change on desert dwelling lizards – in particular the effect of hydration state on physiology and behavior. We know much about how lizards can actively regulate their body temperatures to a level of stability that rivals our own, but how they balance their water budgets under harsh conditions is poorly understood. Because climate change is expected to bring not just thermal stress, but hydric stress as a result of increased severity and duration of drought, this lack of understanding of reptilian water budgets leaves us potentially underestimating the effect climate change may have. The goal of my thesis was to determine how lizards might respond to increasing hydric stress as a result of climate change, using adaptations of behaviour and physiology, some as simple as closing their eyes in the heat of the day.
After my PhD, I spent a season working with growling grass frogs, which are one of Australia’s largest frogs (and will bask in the daytime like a lizard!). They are found within Melbourne, but are threatened as a result of habitat loss from urbanization, as well as a fungal disease and predation from invasive fish.
After getting to know the lizards and the frogs, I moved into the world of insects. I now work in sustainable agriculture research at cesar Pty Ltd. I spend most of my time on a biosecurity project aimed at preparing Australian agricultural industries for an exotic pest called a vegetable leafminer fly, and fill the rest of my time working on smaller projects aimed at building sustainable management plans for invertebrate pests.
Through it all, I am a scientific illustrator who is passionate about helping make science accessible through art. I have contributed illustrations to scientific journals, popular science magazines, research blogs, as well as logos to research groups and scientific conferences. If you need an illustration for a logo, a poster, a presentation, or a paper, or if you just want a nice painting for your office wall, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See the “Illustration Work” page for some examples of my artwork.