I am always keen to hear from interested and passionate people about potential student (Masters or PhD) projects whos research interests align with my own.

Some potential research projects are outlined below, but I am very happy to work on other ideas in my areas of research. Generally, my projects will be broadly focused on using applied and quantitative methods for better managing and conserving biodiversity at various scales, using a range of field and modelling-based approaches. I work closely with land managers and policy specialists for my research, so my research also typically has an applied focus. I am always open to developing projects with potential students that fall within my research area.

If you are interested in working together, please get in touch via email outlining:

  • Why you want to pursue further study and your relevant experience.
  • Your area of research interest and how it aligns with my research.

Please also check the University of Melbourne & School of Agriculture, Food & Ecosystem Science’s Website to ensure you are able to study through the University & for information on financial support.

Potential Projects

1) Modelling biodiversity responses to bushfire in East Gippsland, Victoria

The Black Summer bushfires in East Gippsland were unprecedented in their scale and severity. Rapid post-fire assessments suggested that the biodiversity impacts of the megafires were expected to be very large for a range of species, such as the Long-footed Potoroo and the Southern Brown Bandicoot. Validation of these predictions using pre- and post-fire monitoring data is therefore essential, so that management efforts and responses to future large fires can be better targeted. This project would use a large camera trapping dataset (>900 sites) from East Gippsland, Victoria collected both before and after the Black Summer bushfires to understand the impacts of the fires, understand factors that shape fauna recovery, identify important areas for conservation and inform ongoing fire and forest management in East Gippsland. Skills that could be developed include occupancy modelling, species distribution modelling and spatial analysis.

2) Management of interacting and compounding threats to mammals in south-western Australia

South-west Western Australia is a global biodiversity hotspot, home to some unique mammal fauna including Woylies (Brush-tailed Bettong), Numbats, Chuditch (Western Quoll) and Quenda (Southern Brown Bandicoot). However, these mammal species are threatened by a range of drivers, including invasive predators, bushfire and global change drivers (e.g. rainfall decline). This work would extend some of the work I conducted during my PhD to improve the management of key threats to south-west Australia’s mammal community and support the development of decision-support tools that will help to inform fire and predator management in the region. This will involve taking advantage of a number of existing monitoring datasets, including camera trapping, cage trapping and spotlighting datasets to better quantify species’ distributions and responses to threats and management actions to support biodiversity conservation in the Upper Warren region, Western Australia. Skills that could be developed include modelling of species distribution and abundance, spatial population modelling, decision science and prioritisation, and spatial analysis.

3) Modelling biodiversity responses to economy-driven threats

The new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework outlines a new framework for global biodiversity action. One of the actions within the framework requires the private sector and businesses to begin to systematically report on their impacts and exposure to nature-related risk (i.e. impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services). To achieve this target, support the Nature Positive agenda, and avoid perverse outcomes, economic sectors (e.g. the finance sector) need to understand the impacts their activities (e.g. investment decisions) could have on biodiversity across their supply chains. This will require models that can characterise species responses to these activities and threats, and fit-for-purpose metrics that can summarise these impacts across species and locations in a way that can be communicated to business and government. Skills that could be developed include spatial analysis, species distribution modelling and biodiversity metric development.

4) Quantifying the role of climate change in recent biodiversity declines

Climate change is causing large changes in Australia’s environment already, driven by rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and altered fire regimes. Recently, only 35% of threatened Australian taxon were identified as potentially benefiting from mitigating climate change (Kearney et al. 2020 Biological Conservation). This may be, in part, due to a lack of synthesised evidence of the role of climate change in Australian biodiversity declines to date (Kearney et al. 2020). Similarly, to guide conservation responses, the specific mechanisms of decline caused by climate change (e.g. increased mortality, reduced resource availability) need to be identified. This broad project could aim to address this gap using a range of approaches including meta-analysis, synthesis of monitoring data, trait analyses and species distribution modelling to identify species whose declines may be attributed, at least in part, to specific mechanisms of climate change. Skills that could be developed include spatial analysis, meta-analysis, species distribution modelling and ecological trait analyses.