Director, Centre for Integrative Ecology
Director, TechnEcology Research Network
Past President, Ecological Society of Australia
Associate editor, Journal of Applied Ecology
Associate Editor, Austral Ecology
New PhD and Post-doc positions coming up; mammal and waterbird surveys using new technologies. More information available soon.
The Federal Court today (Friday 8 May 2020) ruled against the Australian Brumby Alliance and in favour of Parks Victoria. Parks Vic can now get on with its feral horse management strategy, after a long and frustrating hiatus. The judge rejected the ABA claims that feral horses have heritage status, they may be genetically different in some important way, and they have ecological value. The judge accepted the science, presented by Dick Williams, James Shannon and Mark Norman that feral horses cause substantial ecological damage, and essentially reiterated that national parks, legally, are for conserving Australian native species and not feral horses.
Federal Court Ruling; can Vic Parks implement its feral horse management strategy?
Planned burns, logging regeneration burns and backyard burns all deliver smoke into your lungs. Do you want that at the same time as a respiratory disease?
By all means, rescue an injured koala. But by pulling out weeds, you could also help rescue a whole ecosystem.
Despite feral horses being on the ten dollar note, in children’s stories, poems and romantic legislation, they still seem to be following the predictions of ecologists by increasing in numbers, destroying ecosystems and trampling threatened species. The latest survey results are as horrifying as they are expected.
New video: My Ecological Society of Australia President’s address on stand up comedy, lay preaching and science suppression.
How people of NSW vote in Saturday’s election has big ramifications for how national parks are managed in NSW, and potentially other States. Which side of the fence do the parties sit on?
First peer-reviewed journal articles documenting impacts of feral horses in the Australian alps, clarifying misconceptions about feral horse management options and providing clear, evidence-based management recommendations.
Professor Don Driscoll; Dr Benjamin Scheele; Dr Tein McDonald
Prof Richard James (Dick) Williams
Alexandra R. Knight
Roger Good Stuart Johnston
Geoff Robertson John Wright Daniel Brown Kally Yuen David Tongway
Martin Schulz Mellesa Schroder Ken Green
Jessica Ward‐Jones Ian Pulsford Richard Thackway Dipak Bishwokarma David Freudenberger
Rebecca C. Cherubin Susanna E. Venn Don A. Driscoll Tim S. Doherty Euan G. Ritchie
Nicholas J. Beeton Christopher N. Johnson
Don A. Driscoll Graeme L. Worboys Hugh Allan Sam C. Banks Nicholas J. Beeton Rebecca C. Cherubin Tim S. Doherty C. Max Finlayson Ken Green Renée Hartley Geoffrey Hope Chris N. Johnson Mark Lintermans Brendan Mackey David J. Paull Jamie Pittock Luciana L. Porfirio Euan G. Ritchie Chloe F. Sato Ben C. Scheele Deirdre A. Slattery Susanna Venn David Watson Maggie Watson Richard M. Williams
HDR Scholarship – Wildlife to Wellbeing; the multiple values of citizen science and new technology. A unique cross-disciplinary PhD opportunity
Biodiversity, including our native plants and animals, faces many threats, with many species undergoing severe declines. Arresting these declines requires up-to-date knowledge of changes in biodiversity and a solid engagement of society with nature. TechnEcology is Deakin University’s research network bringing together ecology, technology, arts, education, economics, health, wellbeing and phsychology. TechnEcology’s vision is to generate a wildlife monitoring revolution that engages the community, with quantifiable environmental, health and economic benefits.
This is a truly cross-disciplinary PhD project, with supervision from five distinct discipline areas. The PhD will draw its data from a citizen science project and social surveys that TechnEcology is leading with partners in the Arthur Rylah Institute, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Land for Wildlife.
Closes 31 January 2019. Position filled.
Feral Horse Impacts: The Kosciuszko Science Conference
Scientists gathered in Canberra to evaluate the evidence of impacts of feral horses in the Australian high country. The impacts are spatially widespread, affect many different taxonomic groups and degrade a range of ecosystems. See the abstracts here.
You can also look forward to a special edition of the journal Ecological Management & Restoration which will expand on some of these papers, as well as adding new perspectives from sociologists and a historic perspective of restoration in Kosciuszko, restoration that is rapidly being undone by feral horses.
Casual Position in outreach and citizen science
The Deakin University TechnEcology Research network currently has a Casual_Outreach_Officer CITIZEN SCIENCE. Closing September 16 2018. POSITION FILLED
NEW PhD Opportunity (POSITION FILLED)
New South Wales proposes extremist legislation that defies ecological reality; Feral Horses in Kosciuszko National Park. Read about it here.
A biodiversity-crisis hierarchy to evaluate and refine conservation indicators
Nature Ecology & Evolution
New paper using a biodiversity-crisis hierarchy to evaluate Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi indicators. There are major gaps. Your challenge now is to find where your daily life intersects with components of the hierarchy and take action to make a change. See the video for some suggestions.
Read the Paper http://rdcu.be/JRGI
See the video https://youtu.be/iICpI9H0GkU
See behind the scenes https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8
The Victorian government released the “Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018–2020 (Draft)” on the Friday before the summer break, in the hope that no-one notices. Comments on the draft plan are due before February 2nd.
Read my evaluation of the plan here
Australia’s native plants and animals are integral to the success of our society. We depend on wildlife to pollinate many of our crops. Most of our cities depend on effective water catchments to provide clean water. And medical scientists are making important breakthroughs in managing disease and health issues based on discoveries in nature. Our nature inspires us in all kinds of ways, and you can build major industries around that; the Great Barrier Reef is reportedly worth A$56 billion to the Australian economy.
It is therefore surprising to read the Australian Conservation Foundation and WWF Australia budget submission that the Australian government has slashed environmental spending by one third since 2013.
Read why this is a problem here.
There are two really easy things everyone can do to help reverse the declining trends in environmental funding. The first thing is to talk about it. Calling all journalists, bloggers, and social media users (I think that’s everyone); report levels of environmental funding compared with what is needed to do the job. Report and share both track-record of environmental funding and promised budgets as we approach each election. The second thing to do is vote. You don’t have to lie in the path of a coal-train or chain yourself to a tree as the bulldozers and chainsaws move in. All you need to do is vote for the party that will provide the greatest support for the environment. A massive vote for the environment will send a message to all politicians that the environment must be looked after; our livelihoods and well-being depend on it. And you can go back to voting for whatever party aligns with your principal ideology at the next election; vote for the environment once to fix the funding shortfall.
The threat posed by horses to Australia’s high country species and ecosystems grows, while the Victorian and NSW Governments decide on how to manage the problem. The massive environmental impacts of feral horses in the alps were graphically illustrated in the submission to the Independent Technical Reference Group by Friends of Currango Inc. They have first-hand experience of managing land in the north of Kosciuszko National Park since the 1970s, and provide an account of the changes they have observed.
The before-after photographs drive home the statistics in the review of the 2008 Kosciuszko horse management plan which reported that 76% of stream banks were degraded in areas with horses but only 11% were degraded in areas without horses. This unambiguous damage is why the Ecological Society of Australia has called on the Premiere of NSW to rapidly reduce the number of horses throughout Kosciuszko, using aerial culling, which is the only feasible method given the size of the horse population, and is the method with the fewest welfare concerns.
The Australian Government’s threatened species prospectus was released in March, as a plan to attract investment from industry and philanthropists. It’s a fantastic communications exercise, maybe even an essential one, but why isn’t the government funding these programs directly? And why aren’t any invertebrates in the prospectus. We address these issues in this exciting first article from the Ecological Society of Australia comms team.
Australian Ecologists’ Letter to the NSW Premier in support of feral horse control
Public comments on the Kosciuszko National Park draft Wild Horse Management Plan, 2016 closed on the 19 August.
As reported in The Guardian, 41 ecologists, including eminent alpine ecologists and those with expertise in making cost-effective land management decisions sent a letter to the NSW Premier Mike Baird. In the letter we expressed support for the Kosciuszko National Park Draft Wild Horse Management Plan 2016. We strongly support a rapid reduction in horse numbers. We also point out that aerial culling is the most humane and effective method for reducing horse numbers. We argue that horse numbers need to be rapidly reduced to very low numbers in a shorter time frame than is currently proposed to protect fragile alpine ecosystems and species.
Review the latest news from the Ecological Society of Australia meeting on twitter #ESA15 and #ESA16
I started in my new position at Deakin University, Melbourne Burwood Campus, in the last week of August 2015.
Our paper, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, flags a major opportunity to avoid future damage to the natural environment. The paper highlights the ongoing risks that new pasture varieties will become invasive, degrade natural ecosystems and escalate the cost of land management. The paper urges governments, industry and farmers to take action now so that past land management mistakes are not repeated, or made worse.You can access the paper and supporting information. The PNAS version can be found here.
The new video tells the story in 3.5 minutes using a quirky combination of stop-motion animation and editing tricks.
Or read The Conversation article
To see the evidence behind the story, visit the ESA Hot Topic
Horse management in Australia’s high country is discussed in my recent article in The Conversation, co-authored by Dr Sam Banks. It also documents our observation of cannibal horses……….
NEWS: This story was the winner in the ANU’s Strategic Communications and Public Affairs annual media awards night 2014 in the category “Quirkiest/Most Unusual Story”.
The last forest skink died recently, representing the first reptile extinction in Australia. John Woinarski, Hal Cogger and I argue in The Conversation that the legacy of this extinction should not be a shoulder shrug.
See the video behind my paper: The Matrix in Ecology
And see the paper that it is based on:
DRISCOLL, D. A., BANKS, S. C., BARTON, P. S., LINDEMAYER, D. B. & SMITH, A. L. (2013). Conceptual domain of the matrix in fragmented landscapes. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 605-613. Download Preprint
or see the official version at TREE