Our lab is enthusiastic about developing new partnerships with government and NGOs who are interested in finding improved ways of managing landscapes for biodiversity conservation.  Contact Don to discuss how your cash investment could leverage a PhD scholarship through Deakin’s industry scholarship program, or a whole research fiesta through the ARC Linkage program.

Post Doctoral

Deakin University offers the Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.

If you are interested in joining our lab as an ADPRF (and you have a strong track record with several papers in high-ranking journals; ADPRFs are very competitive), please contact me to discuss your ideas for projects.

If you have a great idea on a theme relevant to our lab and you can gather financial support from industry partners, I am happy to discuss developing an ARC Linkage grant.



Supporting PhD students with a scholarship is now a high priority for Deakin University, which offers several types of PhD scholarships.

If you have a first-class honours result, and/or have published a paper, consider applying for a PhD.

Please email me to discuss topics that are currently available, or to suggest an area that interests you and aligns with our labs conservation themes.

Information technology in applied conservation and ecology.

If you have solid background in machine learning and image analysis and would like to contribute to revolutionising the way ecology is done in the field, there are opportunities opening up in cross-disciplinary research. Email me to discuss options.


If you have a great idea that would complement an existing PhD project, please contact me to discuss your ideas.

New Honours Projects for 2022-23

Comparing pitfall traps with automated video traps at AWC Scotia sanctuary

Background information:

Pitfall trapping arrays are commonly used as part of long-term monitoring programs to quantify reptile and small mammal presence and abundance. However, pitfall arrays require a substantial level of physical resourcing to implement. Remote camera traps deployed with drift fencing may present a viable alternative method for providing monitoring data on these taxa. Camera traps have the advantage of longer deployment periods and lower field resourcing requirements. The use of machine learning can also reduce post-processing workloads. Previous work in the Mallee region has shown that conventional heat-in-motion camera traps were equally effective at recording diurnal reptiles but were significantly less effective overall than pitfall arrays, providing lower estimates of species richness and excluding nocturnal species (Richardson et al. 2018).

Richardson, E., Nimmo, D.G., Avitabile, S., Tworkowski, L., Watson, S.J., Welbourne, D. and Leonard, S.W., 2018. Camera traps and pitfalls: an evaluation of two methods for surveying reptiles in a semiarid ecosystem. Wildlife Research, 44(8), pp.637-647.

Objectives of project:

To identify and quantify whether video camera traps are a feasible alternative method to time and resource expensive large-scale pitfall trapping surveys for accurately and reliably monitoring small mammal and reptile assemblages.


This project is a collaboration with Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and will be undertaken at their Scotia wildlife sanctuary, including co-supervision by AWC staff.  Field work for this project must take place in November, so would suit a mid-year start in 2022, but contact Don to discuss other options.

Frog conservation

Frogs have suffered enormous declines around the world due to habitat loss, often associated with agriculture, and the global pandemic disease caused by the chytrid fungus.  Major declines and even extinctions have occurred before scientists or land managers have had time to react because data have often been lacking.  In these projects, the successful applicants will undertake extensive field surveys then use statistical models to discover which environmental covariates explain patterns of occurrence of threatened or declining frogs.  Covariates may include different impacts of humans, such as land clearing and cropping, but also biological covariates that might represent disease risk, such as the presence of the reservoir host Crinia signifera. We will also consider landscape variables, like number of nearby wetlands and amount of native vegetation.  To complete one of these projects you must be willing to work at night in the field, in challenging environmental conditions. You must have a license to drive a manual car. You may be able to use your own car for the project, with costs reimbursed.

Specific projects on offer:

  1. Land-sharing despite intensifying agriculture. In collaboration with the community group Beyond Bolac, this project aims to discover the management regimes and landscape variables that determine where the endangered frog Litoria raniformis is able to survive. Suits mid-year start.
  2. Frogs versus forest management. Pseudophryne semimarmorata is listed as vulnerable in Victoria due to reported declines. In collaboration with the Ecology Centre, this project aims to discover how fire management influences this autumn-breeding frog. Suits February start.

Reconnecting landscapes through the matrix. A test using invertebrates.

Principal Supervisor: Professor Don Driscoll

Principal Supervisor contact details: d.driscoll@deakin.edu.au

Associate Supervisor: Dr Nick Porch nicholas.porch@deakin.edu.au

Associate Supervisor, external: Stephanie Pulsford, PhD Candidate, ANU.

Wildlife movement is critical.  It enables effective foraging within a home range, dispersal to new home ranges and range changes in response to climate change.  However, movement is severely curtailed by habitat loss associated with intensive agriculture. Our project aims to discover if wildlife movement can be improved through productive farmland by altering management within paddocks. By understanding the connectivity value of rotational grazing, fences, linear tree plantings, and addition of course woody debris, we will define new methods for enhancing ecological sustainability in production landscapes. Without this knowledge, opportunities for increasing connectivity may be foregone.

This project will involve converting a large invertebrate collection into data in Nick’s lab, undertaking statistical analysis with the close guidance of Don and Stephanie, then writing up the project with input from all supervisors.  For the right student, this project has the potential to lead to one or more publications, and a great early start to your career.


*Almost all of our projects require driving manual four-wheel drives.  You must have a licence to drive a manual vehicle to take on a field project.