If money and time was no object, what research idea would you investigate?

I would like to investigate why people keep on sending spiders into space. It seems such a silly idea and nothing good comes of it.

Who was your PhD supervisor and what was the best thing you learned from them?

Dr Karl Saenger from Vienna University – he taught me about having regular meetings with students and to take ample time during the meetings to discuss the topic at length.

Which paper of yours do feel should have more recognition?

Our paper (Gaskett, Winnick & Herberstein, 2008. Am. Nat. 171: E206-E212) on how sexually deceptive orchids are so persuasive that male wasps ejaculate during pseudocopulation. This story has it all: sex, deceit, disappointments….

What is the worst review you’ve ever had?

Oh, the worst was very early on, when I tried to publish some papers from my PhD and the reviewer commented that this was the worst paper they had ever read and it is clear that I had no idea about anything….

Which other evolutionary biologist’s work do you most admire?

Hopi Hoechstra – I love how she combines genetic work with large scale field experiments

Dawkins or Gould?

Definitely Dawkins, although he has become quite grumpy lately…

Which book would you recommend to a student embarking on a science career?

The Selfish Gene – really got me thinking…

On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 = goody-goody and 10 = nightmare) how rebellious a teenager were you?

From my perspective, I was a six, my parents may object. I was quite stubborn and determined…I also enjoyed wearing ear-plugs at home, which I think my parents never noticed…

What TV series/DVD box set would you take with you to a desert island?

Definitely NOT Mcgyver. I would probably take the Simpsons…although in one episode Patty and Selma hijack Richard Dean Anderson…

Who would win a fight between a redback and a katipo (NZ spider)?

Sadly the redback is winning….

Cheese or chocolate?

Cheese! I produce vast amounts of lactase and digest any dairy product within seconds.

Tell us a secret that your colleagues don’t know about you

I can fold fitted sheets!

Mariella Herberstein is the head of the behavioural ecology research group in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in Sydney. Her research has a strong focus on spider behaviour and evolution (including sexual selection, mating strategies, signaling and deception), and she is a strong advocate of using spiders as model species. However, her research group conducts research on an enormous range of Australasian invertebrate species from mantises to assassin bugs to harlequin bugs to grasshoppers. Originally a native of Austria, Mariella has been a lynchpin of the Australasian evolutionary scene for nearly 15 years, but still bares a strong yearning for the mellifluous tones of the Eurovision song contest.