My research happens at the interface between several disciplines:
- the ecology that underpins our understanding of species distribution and abundance, and their response to different threats
- the sampling methods to study wildlife and habitats, with an emphasis on evaluating the role of new and emerging technologies in improving data amount & quality
- modern statistical methods in ecological modelling, including survey design and optimal monitoring
- decision theory as a framework for management decisions in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management.
I am currently active in the following areas:
Many technological advances are becoming cheap enough that their deployment in wildlife and ecological surveys has become feasible, opening a world of opportunities. From drones to tiny radio-transmitters, technology could be changing the way we sample our environment!
With my background in Engineering and Statistics, I’m interested in exploring how new and emerging technologies can be integrated with good survey design and sound statistical analysis within a biodiversity conservation decision framework to improve the way we survey the natural world and open new possibilities. I have a particular interest in novel approaches to collaborative innovation like open-source technology.
I’m currently leading several projects that trial technologies for monitoring (particularly drones, thermal sensing and acoustics) and study their cost-efficiency compared to more traditional survey methods. These include:
- thermal cameras on drones as a tool to monitor the elusive Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi) in tropical Queensland, in collaboration with biologist Roger Martin.
- thermal cameras on drones to monitor threatened marsupials in semi-arid environments at Scotia Sanctuary (NSW), in collaboration with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
- acoustic monitoring of threatened species, including the spotted-tree frog, in collaboration with Karen Rowe (Museums Victoria), Matt West (UMelb) and Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita. We will trial the use of the new low-cost acoustic sensor AudioMoth.
Species distribution modelling
One of my main research interests is in species distribution modelling (‘SDM’) and their use as a decision-support tool in conservation. SDMs have been a hot topic for the last years and I’m interested in promoting the right use of existing modelling tools as well as the interface to conservation decisions of different kinds, including optimal monitoring and spatial conservation planning. I also work on various methodological aspects of SDMs, like the effect that imperfect detection of species during surveys can have on inference and decisions based on SDMs. Most of my work in this area is conducted in collaboration with Jane Elith, Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita and Brendan Wintle.
Some of my areas of interest within the vast world of correlative SDMs include: the impact of species’ imperfect detection in data collection; model averaging and ensembles; integration of different types of data; the interface with demographic and mechanistic SDMs.
I’m the coordinator of a fully-online subject at Masters level on Modelling species distributions and Niches. The subject started in 2016 and was developed with Jane Elith, Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita and Mike Kearney. It is probably one of the few that includes both correlative and ecophysiological SDMs!
Occupancy modelling under imperfect detection
I collaborate with Guruzeta Guillera-Arroita on different methodological aspects of occupancy modelling under species imperfect detection, including survey design aspects (e.g. power analysis) and novel types of data (eDNA).
I have been involved in two research projects related to adaptive management in the semi-arid north of the state of Victoria:
- Adaptive management of the threatened malleefowl Leipoa ocellata, with CindyHauser, Mike Bode, Brendan Wintle, Libby Rumpff, Parks Victoria & the Victorian Malleefowl Recovery Group.
- Adaptive management of semi-arid woodland vegetation and kangaroo population control at Wyperfeld National Park with Cindy Hauser, Yung En Chee, Brendan Wintle & Parks Victoria.
I also participated in a project to explore the potential and promote the implementation of adaptive management in the context of decisions related to conservation captive breeding and translocations, in collaboration with QAEcologists Stefano Canessa, Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita and Darren Southwell, and researchers from the USGS, and the Reintroduction (RSG) and the Conservation Breeding (CBSG) Specialist Group of the IUCN.
Demography and population dynamics
Seabirds are fantastic creatures for many reasons and I keep an interest in seabird ecology and demography (and the statistical methods used to study these) that stems from my PhD time. Iam still collaborating with Professors Mike Harris and Sarah Wanless, seabird ecologists at the Centre of Ecology & Hydrology in the UK, and I am certainly open to new collaborations within this area.
If you have common interests or are a student and have ideas for Masters or PhD projects, get in touch and I’ll be happy to discuss these!