Professor of Terrestrial Ecology

School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Chair, Academic Freedom working group, Ecological Society of Australia

Associate editor, Journal of Applied Ecology

Associate Editor, Austral Ecology



Exciting new Honours project working with AWC in the mallee!

Opening for mid year start 2022. Comparing pitfall traps with video-traps at Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Scotia sanctuary.  Would suit someone with a drivers licence, who can do field work in remote areas, is able to work independently, has a strong undergraduate record and ideally who has an understanding of electronics or image analysis. Contact Don if interested.

Australian Academy of Science open letter to NSW Minister of Environment urging feral horse control in Kosciuszko National Park

Feral horses will rule one third of the fragile Kosciuszko National Park under a proposed NSW government plan

New 2 year post-doc position, applications close September 12 2021; position filled.

This new fixed-term position is funded by a grant to the Faculty of Science Engineering and Built EnvironmentSchool of Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) from the Bushfires and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.  This project will draw on expertise from Deakin’s schools of LES, Information Technology and Business and Law, in collaboration with Parks Victoria and the Arthur Rylah Institute. The project aims to develop, implement and evaluate new approaches to monitoring wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas and ducks.

With other team members, the successful applicant will gather data on abundance and habitat condition for Koalas, Kangaroos and ducks using both traditional survey methods and new technology-assisted methods.  In collaboration with IT specialists, large datasets will be used to train deep-learning algorithms that automate further data processing.  The successful applicant will lead or contribute to modelling species’ detection and occupancy using contrasting survey data and use geographic information systems to develop models of vegetation condition including models based on remotely sensed and UAV derived data.  The successful applicant will work closely with leading researchers in ecology and spatial data analysis in the Centre for Integrative Ecology at Deakin University. They will also collaborate with experts in information technology and cost-benefit analysis.

In addition to publishing scientific publications, the successful applicant will develop an array of transferrable skills in this position, including field work, project management and working collaboratively in a cross-disciplinary setting with academic and industry partners.

Full PD:

To apply:

Positions Opening soon

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH FELLOW: Emerging technologies for native wildlife assessment

PhD Scholarship: Emerging technologies for native wildlife assessment

Watch this space for opening times.

Positions filled

Senior field technician and project manager – endemic invertebrates post fire recovery

Applications closed Sunday 20th September 2020.

Download position description here.

Feral horses in the Australian Alps. Public webinar July 2 7pm

Slides with links to supporting evidence can be accessed here.

Feral horses, also called brumbies, are widespread throughout Australia. In the Australian Alps, feral horses have been subject to heated debate in the media and in the courts. With claim and counter-claim splashed across the tabloids, how can interested community members work out which arguments the evidence actually supports? In this seminar I will clarify the evidence behind questions that often come up in debate. What is the damage that feral horses cause in the Australian alps? What evidence is there that the damage is caused by horses and not other feral animals? How humane is aerial culling and how much do horses suffer if numbers are not managed? Are feral horses unique and irreplaceable? Answers to these questions and more will be explained, drawing on the scientific literature and historical facts.

Questions from the audience will be taken after the webinar, using the Q/A typed-question function and mediated by a valiant MC.

Jul 2, 2020 7:00 PM in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

Register for the webinar here.

New PhD and Post-doc positions coming up; mammal and waterbird surveys using new technologies. More information available soon.

National parks are for native wildlife, not feral horses: federal court

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?

The smoke from autumn burn-offs could make coronavirus symptoms worse. It’s not worth the risk

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?

How to contribute to bushfire recovery; pull out weeds.

By all means, rescue an injured koala. But by pulling out weeds, you could also help rescue a whole ecosystem.

Feral horse numbers more than double in the Australian Alps.

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.

NSW State Election puts Kosciuszko on the line

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?

Special edition of Ecological Management & Restoration

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.

Feral horses in the Australian Alps: an introduction to the special issue

Professor Don Driscoll; Dr Benjamin Scheele; Dr Tein McDonald

Science as an antidote to horse trading in the Australian Alps

Prof Richard James (Dick) Williams

Science and evolving community knowledge and opinion on feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park

Deirdre Slattery

How can the social sciences work with ecology in informing feral horse policy and management in south‐eastern Australia?

Alexandra R. Knight

Rehabilitation and revegetation of the Kosciuszko summit area, following the removal of grazing – An historic review

Roger Good Stuart Johnston

An assessment of feral horse impacts on treeless drainage lines in the Australian Alps

Geoff Robertson John Wright Daniel Brown Kally Yuen David Tongway

The occurrence of the Broad‐toothed Rat Mastacomys fuscus in relation to feral Horse impacts

Martin Schulz Mellesa Schroder Ken Green

Impacts of feral horses and deer on an endangered woodland of Kosciuszko National Park

Jessica Ward‐Jones Ian Pulsford Richard Thackway Dipak Bishwokarma David Freudenberger

Feral horse impacts on threatened plants and animals in sub‐alpine and montane environments in Victoria, Australia

Rebecca C. Cherubin Susanna E. Venn Don A. Driscoll Tim S. Doherty Euan G. Ritchie

Modelling horse management in the Australian Alps

Nicholas J. Beeton Christopher N. Johnson

Impacts of feral horses in the Australian Alps and evidence‐based solutions

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

Feral horse impacts: The Kosciuszko Science Conference

Casey Gibson

The Kosciuszko Science Accord

Notice of and reasons for the Final Determination

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.

More details here.

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


How are reptiles affected by the interaction of invasive predators and bushfires?

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

See the video

See behind the scenes

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.

FoC submission to ITRG re Horsest – Apr 2015 finalfinal2

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.

Filled: PhD Scholarship Frog Ecology and disease dynamics.

Filled: Research Fellow Terrestrial Ecology

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

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