Lasting legacy established in memory of Prof Michael Bull, researcher of sleepy lizards

Date posted: 27 December 2017

Hon Ian Hunter MLC

Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation

The South Australian Government is supporting a research fund established in memory of Professor Michael Bull, a university academic of high standing in local, national and international ecological circles.

Professor Bull will be best remembered for his three decades of research into sleepy lizards, which established that lizards have a unique social structure and distinct personalities.

Nature Foundation SA has established, and will manage, the Professor Mike Bull Research Fund for Emerging Young Nature Scientists which will support either a medal for academic excellence, an honours or PhD scholarship and/or funding for the ongoing biological survey of sleepy lizards.

Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter has provided $5,000 to kick-start the research fund.


Professor Bull was a highly regarded Flinders University academic who will be remembered for his long and successful research career, which advanced the understanding of evolutionary ecology, reptile conservation and host parasite relationships.

His primary research specialty was sleepy lizards, where his studies overturned the previous understanding of reptiles as recluses with no social structure.

His investigations revealed complex social networks between sleepy lizards, whereby they visit and share overnight safe zones with each other; navigate well outside of their own small territories and proved conclusively that sleepy lizards have long-term relationships and annual rituals.

Professor Bull’s academic career was underpinned by prolific research outputs (292 peer reviewed papers) and investment in post graduate students (he supervised 42 completed PhD students).

Donations to the Professor Mike Bull Research Fund for Emerging Young Nature Scientists can be made to Nature Foundation SA.


Quotes attributable to Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter

I’m pleased to support this memorial fund to honour the life and work of Professor Mike Bull.

Professor Bull was the principal researcher for the Pygmy Blue-tongue recovery team and through that, had a long association with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, where he acted as a mentor and educator to staff.

I’m pleased to support the research fund with a donation of $5,000 and look forward to this fund being used for research outcomes.

Quotes attributable to Nature Foundation SA President Bob Lott

Professor Bull has left a wonderful legacy in animal behaviour, ecology and conservation. He was an outstanding scientist and was well known and revered for his mentorship of students.

Nature Foundation SA has a particular interest in supporting this research fund as Professor Bull conducted and directed virtually all his research activity for many years on Tiliqua, the property purchased by the Foundation after a colony of the thought-to-be-extinct Pygmy Blue-tongue Lizard was discovered there.

Applications for awards from the research fund will be encouraged from across Australia with the research to be undertaken in South Australia.