Agriculture and habitat fragmentation

I lead a number of projects at our study landscapes in central New South Wales that contain remnant mallee woodlands amongst cropland. We are studying both short- and long-term population and behavioural responses to habitat fragmentation and degradation. These projects include:

  • Long-term response of reptiles, beetles and small mammals to habitat fragmentation (sampled in 1999 and 2016).
  • Spatial ecology of dragons in agricultural landscapes, Honours student Charlie Fist (funded by the Australian Academy of Sciences).
  • Drivers of keystone habitat (spinifex grass) cover and condition, PhD student Kris Bell (funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation).
  • Response of reptiles to grass invasion and keystone plant decline, PhD student Sara Balouch (funded by the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment).
  • Sara is also conducting related work in Chakwal District, Pakistan on the impacts of agricultural land management on reptiles (funded by National Geographic and the Rufford Foundation).

Invasive predators

Invasive mammalian predators, such as rats and cats, are arguably the most damaging group of alien taxa for global biodiversity, having contributed to a large number of extinctions. Understanding the ecology and impacts of these species and developing appropriate management strategies is a primary concern of conservation biologists, particularly on islands. My work on invasive predators ranges from local studies of control actions up to global analyses of impacts and contributions to policy development.

*Recently we were awarded a grant from the Hermon Slade Foundation (Conserving threatened mammals in the face of fire and predation) to assess whether providing artificial refuges after bushfires can reduce the impacts of cats and foxes on small mammals and improve their survival and population size.

Key publications:
— Invasive predators and global biodiversity lossProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
Stop jumping the gun: a call for evidence-based invasive predator managementConservation Letters.
— Multiple threats, or multiplying the threats? Interactions between invasive predators and other ecological disturbances. Biological Conservation.
A continental-scale analysis of feral cat diet in AustraliaJournal of Biogeography.
A critical review of habitat use by feral cats and key directions for future research and management. Wildlife Research.
Response of feral cats to a track-based baiting programme using Eradicat baitsEcological Management & Restoration.

Cat infographic _high res


Spatial and community ecology

I work on reptile spatial and community ecology, particularly in fragmented landscapes. I study how animals respond to landscape degradation and restoration, and how management actions can be optimised to produce the greatest biodiversity outcomes. I’m driven to understand how we can better measure and integrate data on animal movements to inform theory and practice.

Fire ecology

With two-thirds of the Earth’s land area considered fire-prone, fire is one of the planet’s most widespread ecosystem modifiers. Trends for increased fire frequency, size and intensity in many parts of the world mean that understanding the effects of fire on plants and animals is essential for species conservation. I have ongoing fire ecology projects in both intact and urban landscapes in western and eastern Australia.

Key publications:
Fanning the flames of Australian wildfiresNature.
— Rapid recovery of an urban reptile community following summer wildfire. PLOS ONE.
—  A game of cat-and-mouse: microhabitat influences rodent foraging in recently burnt, but not long unburnt shrublands. Journal of Mammalogy.
Response of a shrubland mammal and reptile community to a history of landscape-scale wildfire. International Journal of Wildland Fire.
Effects of long-term fire exclusion and frequent fire on plant community composition: a case study from semi-arid shrublandsAustral Ecology.
Ecosystem responses to fire: identifying cross-taxa contrasts and complementarities to inform management strategies. Ecosystems.
Conserving long unburnt vegetation is important for bird species, guilds and diversityBiodiversity and Conservation.
Response of mammals to time since fire, vegetation type and habitat structure in the Big Desert-Wyperfeld reserve complex. Unpublished report.



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