COX, Tarnya

Tarnya Cox

Research interests

  • Thermal imaging technologies for pest animal management
  • Improving detection and survey methods for animal surveys
  • Invasive predator management
  • Wildlife disease
  • Repellents for vertebrate pests using predator scents
  • Vertebrate pest management
  • Animal behaviour


Tarnya Cox is a Research Scientist with the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit (VPRU) in the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Tarnya joined the VPRU in 2010 as part of the RHD-boost project team, which improved biological control of the introduced European rabbit through the introduction of an additional strain of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV).

Tarnya’s current fields of research are in the use of new and emerging technologies (e.g. thermal imaging and drones) to improve both pest animal and native wildlife detection and management. Tarnya also collaborates with universities, other State agencies and commercial providers in the development of autodetection algorithms for use on thermal footage for the detection of target species, and is frequently consulted on the design, implementation and analysis of thermal-based animal surveys. Additionally, Tarnya is a region leader for the NSW state-wide research program on improving the management of feral cats across the landscape, and determining how these control programs may benefit native wildlife.

Previously Tarnya has undertaken research projects on identifying prey species of owl through bone fragments, zoonotic disease in flying foxes, predator odours as chemical fences for grazing pests, lethal trap efficacy for grey squirrels, bait uptake rates in mouse plagues, the role of benign caliciviruses in RHDV1 resistance, the impact of multiple strains of RHDV on rabbit populations, the role of juvenile rabbits in calicivirus transmission, and has experience in ecological methods including fauna capture, handling and identification techniques.


  • Assoc.Dip (Wilderness Reserves and Wildlife) – University of Qld 1997
  • B.App.Sc. (Wildlife Biology)(Hons) – University of Qld 2003
  • PhD Wildlife Ecology and Management – University of Qld 2010

Current projects

  • The use of thermal imaging technologies to improve pest animal detection and management
  • Developing strategies for effective feral cat management
  • Multi-strain dynamics and rabbit calicivirus epidemiology
  • National rabbit biocontrol optimisation
  • Understanding RHDV2 interaction with other RHDVs and its potential as an additional rabbit biocontrol agent

Recent publications

2021 – Taggart P, Hall R, Cox TE, McLeod S and Strive T, Changes in virus transmission dynamics following the emergence of RHDV2 shed light on its competitive advantage over previously circulating variants, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases

2021 – Cox TE, Matthews R, Halverson G and Morris S,Hot stuff in the bushes: thermal imagers and the detection of burrows in vegetated sites, Ecology and Evolution

2021 - Elfekih S, Metcalfe S, Walsh TK, Cox TE, Strive T, Genomic insights into a population of introduced European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus in Australia and the development of genetic resistance to Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus (RHDV) Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, DOI:10.1111/tbed.14030

2020 – Strive T, Piper M, Huang N, Mourant R, Kovaliski J, Capucci L, Cox TE and Smith I, Retrospective serological analysis reveals presence of the emerging lagovirus RHDV2 in Australia in wild rabbits at least five months prior to its first detection Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 67(2):822-833, DOI: 10.1111/tbed.13403

2020 - Brown S, Wells K, Roy-Dufresne E, Campbell S, Cooke B, Cox T and Fordham D, Models of spatiotemporal variation in rabbit abundance reveal management hotspots for an invasive species Ecological Applications (accepted 6 January 2020)

2019 – Cox TE, Ramsey DSL, Sawyers E, Campbell S, Matthew J and Elsworth P, The impact of RHDV-K5 on rabbit populations in Australia: an evaluation of citizen science surveys to monitor rabbit abundance, Scientific Reports, Sci Rep 9, 15229,

2019 – Ramsey DSL, Cox T, Strive T, Forsyth DM, Stuart I, Hall R, Elsworth P and Campbell S, Emerging RHDV2 suppresses the impact of endemic and novel strains of RHDV on wild rabbit populations Journal of Applied Ecology, doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13548

2019 - Roy‐Dufresne E, Saltré F, Cooke BD, Mellin C, Mutze G, Cox T and Fordham DA, Modelling the distribution of a wide-ranging invasive species using the sampling efforts of expert and citizen scientists, Ecology and Evolution, doi/abs/10.1002/ece3.5609

2019 - Roy-Dufresne E, Lurgi M, Brown S, Wells K, Cooke B, Mutze G, Peacock D, Cassey P, Berman D, Brook B, Campbell S, Cox T, Daly J, Dunk I, Elsworth P, Fletcher D, Forsyth D, Hocking G, Kovaliski J, Leane M, Low B, Kennedy M, Matthews J, McPhee S, Mellin C, Mooney T, Moseby K, Read J, Richardson B, Schneider K, Schwarz E, Sinclair R, Strive T, Triulcio F, West P, Saltre F, and Fordham D, The Australian National Rabbit Database: 50 years of population monitoring of an invasive species Ecology (accepted 04 April 2019)

2019 - Strive T & Cox TE, Lethal biological control of rabbits - the most powerful tools for landscape-scale mitigation of rabbit impacts in Australia. Australian Zoologist (accepted 31 March 2019)

2018 – Wells K, Fordham DA, Brook BW, Cassey P, Cox T, O’Hara RB and Schwensow NI, Disentangling synergistic disease dynamic: Implications for the viral biocontrol of rabbits. Journal of Animal Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12871

2018 – Allen BL, Cox TE, Fleming PJS, Meek PD and Russell JC, Wildlife conservation management on inhabited islands, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 25:1, 1-4, DOI: 10.1080/14486563.2018.1424500

2017 – Mahar J, Hall R, Peacock D, Kovaliski J, Piper M, Mourant R, Huang N, Campbell S, Read A, Urakova N, Cox T, Holmes E and Strive T, Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (GI.2) is replacing endemic strains of RHDV in the Australian landscape within 18 months of its arrival. Journal of Virology, 92(2), DOI: 10.1128/JVI.01374-17

2017 – Cox TE, Liu J, van de Ven R and Strive T. Different serological profiles to co-occurring pathogenic and non-pathogenic caliciviruses in wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) across Australia. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 53(3).

Fields of research

  • 050103 Invasive Species Ecology
  • 060201 Behavioural Ecology
  • 060801 Animal Behaviour
  • 060399 Evolutionary Biology not elsewhere classified

Australian Bureau of Statistics classifications

Keyword/phrase list of research interests

  • Vertebrate pests
  • Animal behaviour
  • Wildlife biology
  • Environmental management
  • Monitoring techniques
  • Wildlife disease

Contact details