The Lab

Multidisciplinary research

Anne Eichholtzer (PhD). Wildlife to Wellbeing; the multiple values of citizen science and new technology.

Movement, spatial population dynamics, conservation in fragmented landscapes

Tim Doherty (Alfred Deakin Post-Doctoral fellow) Spatial and movement ecology in fragmented and burnt landscapes.

Sara Balouch (PhD) Impact of Agriculture Land Management on Reptiles in Chakwal Pakistan, and central NSW Australia. Collaborators: Tim Doherty, Muhammad Rais (Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan)

Tim Garvey (PhD) Devising commercial forest practices that support metapopulations of threatened Tasmanian frogs L. raniformis and L. peronii. Collaborators: Pep Turner, Amy Koch (Tas Forest Practices Authority)

Kendrika Gaur (PhD)

 

Completed

PhD

Nicole Hansen (PhD, 2018) Herpetofauna responses to agricultural matrix management

Kat Ng (PhD 2018) Beetle responses to agricultural matrix management

Stephanie Pulsford (PhD 2017) Reptile and frog responses to different farm management  practices in grazing landscapes

Geoff Kay (PhD 2016) Development of agri-environment schemes for the conservation of reptiles in a highly fragmented woodland ecosystem

Nélida Villaseñor (PhD 2016) Better urban development designs; a study of frogs and mammals across a forest-urban gradient.

John M Evans (PhD 2015) Does dispersal influence extinction risk in a fragmented landscape? Beetles in the Wog Wog fragmentation experiment. Collaborators: Sam Banks, Kendi Davis and Brett Melbourne (University of Colorado, Boulder).

Martin Westgate (PhD 2014) Landscape Ecology of Amphibians in Booderee National Park

Nicole Sweaney (PhD 2014) Landscape Transformation; Impact on Butterflies and Beetles in South-Eastern Australia. Collaborators: David Lindenmayer, Nick Porch

Sacha Jellinek (PhD 2012) The value of revegetated linear strips and patches of habitat for faunal conservation: Reconciling ecological and landholder perspectives. Collaborators: Kirsten Paris, Brendan Wintle,

 

Honours Projects

Charles Fist (Hons 2018) Movement patterns of the eastern bearded dragon in a fragmented agricultural landscape: the effects of sex, size and strips.

Samantha Wallace (Hons 2018) Is agricultural intensification a threat to frogs?  Collaborators: Anthony and Michelle Cassanova.

Nicole Sweaney (Hons 2010) Influence of fire, large logs, and their interaction on beetle biodiversity in Mountain Ash forests of Victoria. Collaborators: David Lindenmayer

Kat Ng (Masters 2013) Detectability of the global weed Hypochaeris radicata is influenced by species, environment and observer characteristics

Stephanie Pulsford (Hons 2012) What’s left behind? The impact of biological legacies on beetle populations after fire.

Sacha Jellinek (Hons 2003) Reptiles in urban forest remnants

Mitchell Barbara (Hons 2012) Temporal responses of small mammals to matrix transformation. Collaborator; Sam Banks.

Amber Liaw (Hons 2005) Phylogeography of the thick-tailed gecko (Nephrurus milii). Collaborator: Steve Donnellan.

Adam Schutz (Hons 2006) Connectivity and Condition of Fragments influence the Reptile Fauna in a fragmented agricultural landscape

Brooke Swaffer (Hons 2006) Plant species recruitment & colonisation after fire in mallee ecosystems

Joel Williams (Hons 2011) Roadside connectivity does not increase reptile abundance or richness in a fragmented mallee landscape

 

On the brink. Threatened species

Tom Burns (PhD)  Mapping chytrid risk and disease vulnerability in the critically endangered Baw Baw frog.

Muhammad Jawad Jilani (PhD) Evaluation of role of Habitat Degradation, Drought and Chytrid fungus on decline of Myobatrachid Frogs

 

Completed

PhD

Ben Scheele (PhD 2014). How ecology intervenes in the impact of chytrid on amphibians.

Honours projects

Danielle Wallace (Hons 2018) Disease and disturbance: investigating the factors that drive amphibian reservoir host occurrence and distribution

Matt Sleeth (Hons 2017) Home range ecology and microhabitat use of the invasive wolf snake (Lycodon capucinus) of Christmas Island

Ben Scheele (Hons 2010) Climate Drying Causes the Rapid Decline of a Threatened Frog species in South-Eastern Australia

 

 

Restoration and invasive species

Kris Bell (PhD) The ecology and function of a keystone structure Triodia scariosa in degraded landscapes. Collaborators: Tim Doherty

Eilysh Thompson (PhD) The ecological effects and management of large feral herbivores in alpine ecosystems and the influence of dingos. Collaborators: Euan Ritchie, Susanna Venn

 

Completed

PhD

David Johnson (PhD 2018) Managing forb diversity in temperate grassy ecosystems

Andrew O’Reilly-Nugent (PhD 2019) Identifying impacts of invasive grasses on native species. Collaborators: Richard Duncan, Jane Catford

Honours projects

Bek Cherubin (Hons 2018) Impacts of feral horses on broad toothed rat and alpine water skink. Collaborators: Euan Ritchie, Tim Doherty, Susanna Venn

Alice McDougall (Hons 2014) Restoration of Aprasia parapulchella (pink-tailed legless lizard) habitat in the Molonglo Valley. Collaborators: Annabel Smith

Nick McKenzie (Hons 2003) Fox baiting techniques for Tasmania

 

 

Fire ecology, forest ecology

Darcy Watchorn (PhD). Do artificial refuges improve survival of small mammals after fire. Collaborators: Tim Doherty

Kristina MacDonald (PhD). Response of reptile communities to the interaction between fire and invasive predators (foxes, cats), and potential for artificial refuges to reduce their impact. Collaborators: Tim Doherty, Bronwyn Hradsky

 

Completed

PhD

Juliana Lazzari (PhD 2019) Fire and fragmentation interactions: effects on reptiles and small mammals in modified semi-arid landscapes

Annabel Smith (PhD 2012) Reptile dispersal and demography after fire: process-based knowledge to assist fire management for biodiversity

Rebecca Gibson (PhD 2013) Processes controlling fuel dynamics and fire regimes across environmental gradients in the Mediterranean region of south eastern Australia

Bianca Dunker (PhD 2014) Direct and genetic evaluation of the influence of fire on seed dispersal.

Laurence Berry (PhD 2015) Unburnt forest patches as refuges for mammals.

Amy Koch (PhD 2007)  Forest size structure and tree hollow occurrence

Honours projects

Laurence Berry (Hons 2011) The Effects of Fire Mosaic Patchiness on Bird Species Distribution

Luisa Teasdale (Hons 2010) Post-fire succession in an Australian mallee invertebrate community highlights some needs of fauna for fire management

Kwan Ling Ho (Hons 2013) The effects of permanent and temporary fire refugia on the distribution of invertebrates

Zohara Claire Lucas (Hons 2013) Interactions between habitat isolation and fire influence invertebrate communities.

Sally South (Hons 2010) Do dragons respond to fire? Natural history and spatial ecology of Amphibolurus norrisi in southern Australia.

 

 

More details for some projects…..

Movement and spatial population dynamics

Tim Doherty. Post Doctoral Fellow, Deakin University

Reptile spatial and community ecology

I’m interested in the application of metapopulation theories to fragmented landscapes and how we can better measure and incorporate data on animal movements. From an applied perspective, I’m interested in how animals respond to restoration of degraded landscapes and how these actions can be optimised to produce the greatest biodiversity outcomes.  My projects include exploring extinction debt using long-term data-sets, reptile landscapes-of-fear meet habitat fragmentation, and invasive predator impacts on native wildlife.

Collaborators: Euan Ritchie

 

 

 

Sara Balouch. PhD Scholar. Deakin University. 2017.

Reptiles in fragmented agricultural landscapes

This project will investigate the effects of invasion of remnant vegetation by native grasses or exotic weeds and loss of spinifex grass on reptile species richness and community structure, in extensively cleared agriculture landscapes of south-central New South Wales. The overall aim of the study is to determine the response of reptiles to ongoing habitat degradation. The study will also discover whether escape responses by reptiles depend on habitat condition. The study will provide in-depth knowledge of the consequences of loss of keystone plant species for reptiles, informing priorities for restoration including weed management in agricultural landscapes. Discoveries about the role of keystone structural plant species in these mallee ecosystems will support conservation efforts in a wider range of ecosystems currently facing rapid degradation.

Part of Sara’s PhD will be based in Pakistan investigating the impact of agriculture land management on reptile assemblages. The lack of published literature and data on reptile diversity in the agriculture landscapes of Pakistan requires immediate attention to understand their population statuses and contribution towards ecosystem services. This study will investigate the differences in reptile communities between natural forest and farmed areas and the response of reptiles to different farming practices (manual labour and mechanised farming). The positive conservation results to be achieved from the study will help in building collaboration and knowledge transfer between Australia and Pakistan to help deliver effective conservation outcomes. We will actively engage with local communities by providing training in research techniques to young Pakistani university students. This project will be achieved through established collaborations with the PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Pakistan and WWF Pakistan.

Collaborators: Tim Doherty (Deakin University); Muhammad Rais (PMAS-AAUR Pakistan); Masood Arshad (WWF Pakistan)

 

 

Tim Garvey. PhD Scholar. Deakin University. June 2017.

Measuring frog habitat use and movement to improve management in plantation forestry

This project establishes a new relationship between Deakin University, the Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority (FPA), and the Tasmanian plantation forestry industry. We will examine how movement and population viability of two threatened frog species in Tasmania is modified by changes to land management associated with forestry operations. This knowledge will help support environmental certification for the industry, and provide the FPA with specific guidelines to mitigate impacts of management on threatened species. The project is framed in the context of spatial population dynamics, particularly metapopulation theory. The project also addresses the globally important anthropogenic impacts of land clearing, logging and weed control. This framing ensures our research has relevance beyond the Tasmanian study system.

The FPA is tasked with regulating native forest and plantation logging to ensure conservation of Tasmania’s fauna and flora, while supporting a sustainable forest industry. To meet this challenge, new information is needed about threatened frogs because current guidelines are based on best guesses and do not provide for adequately informed management recommendations to mitigate possible impacts of logging. New understanding about the relationship of forest practices with frog population dynamics will enable guidelines to be developed, supporting the legislative requirements of FPA, and the sustainable certification of the private forest industry in Tasmania.

Collaborators: Amy Koch, Pep Turner, FPA.

 

On the Brink. Threatened species

Tom Burns. PhD scholar. Deakin University

The Chytrid Landscape from a Baw Baw frog’s eye view.

This project will examine the impact of chytrid fungus on the Critically Endangered Baw Baw frog (Philoria frosti), an Australian endemic found only on the Baw Baw Plateau and escarpment area of the Central Highlands of Victoria.  In the mid-1980s 10,000 or more occurred across its limited range.  Now the wild population numbers in the low hundreds and are restricted to a fraction of their former range. Chytridiomycosis, is the likely cause of the decline.  This global pandemic disease caused by the chyrid fungus has driven many amphibians to extinction. However, there is little information on the impacts of chytrid on Baw Baw Frogs. This project seeks to redress this problem by investigating chytrid impacts and prevalence in Baw Baw frogs, and in their current and former range. We aim to understand the factors that determine the distribution of chytrid in the environment, with particular focus on identifying potential refuges and reservoirs of infection.  This information will be key to the future conservation of the species, in particular in paving the way for potential reintroduction of frogs from the captive populations to the wild.

Collaborators. Nick Clemann, ARI; Ben Scheele, ANU; Baw Baw Frog Recovery Team, Melbourne Zoo, Andrew Weeks, Melbourne University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restoration and Invasive species

Kris Bell, PhD Scholar, Deakin

Keystone habitat dynamics in agricultural landscapes

This project aims to understand the dynamics of a keystone habitat feature (spinifex Triodia scariosa) in remnant mallee woodlands in central New South Wales, Australia. Spinifex provides important habitat for many other species, but its persistence in agricultural areas may be threatened by weed invasion, competition and the alteration of other ecosystem processes. This project will involve field sampling, a manipulative experiment, and habitat mapping to assess spinifex availability across a range of site and landscape conditions. Funding has already been secured from the Hermon Slade Foundation and Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University.

Collaborators: The overall project is led by Dr Tim Doherty in Prof. Don Driscoll’s research group at Deakin’s Burwood (Melbourne) campus.

 

 

 

Fire Ecology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed Projects

Andrew O’Reilly-Nugent. University of Canberra.

Restoration in the face of competition and nutrient enrichment

This project will identify mechanisms of invasive species dominance by linking environmental and trait interactions to Australian grassland community structure. We will explore predictions of the growth-defence trade-off hypothesis using a trait-based framework to derive general predictive models of invasive species dominance.

Collaborators: Primary supervisor: Richard Duncan UCan; Jane Catford Univ. Southampten UK

 

Juliana Lazzari, PhD, ANU

Does fire interact with habitat fragmentation to increase risk of local extinctions?

Habitat loss and fragmentation is among the worst threats to biodiversity globally.  Fire also has a major influence on most aspects of plant and animal communities throughout the world, sometimes beneficial, sometimes disastrous.  In this project we have experimentally manipulated fire in mallee woodlands to examine the interaction of fire with fragmentation, examining responses of reptiles and beetles.

Collaborators: David Keith, UNSW; Sam Banks Charles Darwin University.

Melissa Wynn, PhD Scholar, ANU.

Threat mitigation to support reintroduction of critically endangered reptiles on Christmas Island.

This project aims to identify threatening processes acting upon the endangered, endemic reptiles of Christmas Island and develop ways to manage or control these threats to enable future reintroductions. Given catastrophic declines in these species, this project also aims to understand and mitigate the risk of further decline in the only endemic reptile that remains in the wild, Cyrtodactylus sadleiri. A widespread cat eradication program without concomittant rat control raises the possibility of meso-predator release. We are therefore also examining the interaction of rats and geckos using a baiting experiment.

Collaborators: Sam Banks, ANU; Christmas Island National Park staff; Eve McDonald-Madden, UQ.

 

David Johnson, PhD Scholar, ANU

Grassy ecosystem restoration

Large areas of grassland around the world have been highly modified from their naturally evolved state as a result of agricultural land use. Most forms of agriculture have a negative effect on forb diversity and abundance, and this is particularly true of grassy woodlands and grasslands in Australia.  To restore these landscapes, we need to discover the conditions that enable germination, establishment and survival of forbs. In this project we aim to identify factors which may limit forb seedling recruitment within grassy ecosystems and suggest ways to overcome them.  We also aim to understand the relative importance of possible ecological processes that drive plant community structure; habitat filtering, niche differentiation, niche saturation, intra- and inter-species competition, survival/growth trade-off strategies, and reproduction.  Through this project we hope to identify new ways to restore grassy ecosystems.

Collaborators: Primary Supervisor Phil Gibbons, ANU; Jane Catford Univ Southampton UK.

 

Geoff Kay. PhD Scholar, ANU

Regional, landscape and local drivers of reptile communities, species, and individual movement.

We examine spatial and environmental drivers of reptile community composition using occupancy data extending from southern NSW to SE Qld.  We also explore reptile movement through the agricultural matrix using phosphorescent powder to understand whether simple management techniques may improve connectivity across these fragmented landscapes.

Collaborators: Primary supervisor David Lindenmayer ANU, Saul Cunningham ex CSIRO, Phillip Barton ANU, Damian Michael ANU, Alessio Mortelliti, Univ of Maine.

 

Nicole Hansen, PhD Scholar, ANU.

When can reptiles use the matrix in agricultural landscapes?

Using the conceptual model of “matrix core effects” described in Driscoll et al 2013, this project will discover the kinds of changes in the matrix that can promote or limit movement of fauna through farming landscapes, and the consequences for populations of native species.  By considering matrix changes that farmers are already willing to adopt, we will provide practical guidance for policy development, restoration and stewardship payments that help maintain an ecologically sustainable agricultural sector.

The main focus of this project is how the movement and dispersal core effect is influenced by spatial and temporal variation and the temporal scale of changes in the matrix. We therefore focus on how matrix management, plantings and woody mulch influence reptile use, movement, survival and predation risk in production areas.

Collaborators: Damian Michael, ANU; Mal Carnegie, Lake Cowal Foundation; Local Land Services NSW.

 

Kat Ng, PhD Scholar, ANU

Distribution and movement of beetles in fragmented agricultural landscapes

My research will investigate how different intensities of cropping management in a highly fragmented agricultural landscape influence the distribution and movement of patch-dependent ground arthropods (focussing on beetles and predatory beetles) and how recent plantings and different intensities of cropping management influence movement into the matrix.  My findings may further contribute to testing a conceptual model of the matrix by Driscoll et al. (2013) to demonstrate its heuristic values (specifically the three core effects and their interactions: movement and dispersal, matrix resource base, and patch abiotic environment). Information from my research may identify specific crop and vegetation management that promotes movement of beneficial predators of crop pests at different times of the year.

Collaborators: Phillip Barton, David Lindenmayer, Sue MacIntyre ANU; Sarina MacFadyen CSIRO,  Mal Carnegie Lake Cowal Foundation; Local Land Services NSW.

 

Stephanie Pulsford, PhD Scholar, ANU.

Does grazing regime, fences, woody debris or plantings alter the matrix for reptiles?

We aim to explore the effectiveness of a number of easy and inexpensive methods for improving connectivity of native terrestrial animals. With the increase in land use intensification, climate change and rapid species loss it is important that we discover ways in which to better manage our landscapes so that animals can move to obtain essential resources, and to disperse. In this project we examine whether patch-matrix, continuum or variegated model concepts apply to reptiles in fragmented agricultural landscapes. We also examine the potential for course woody debris, fencelines, plantings and different grazing regimes to help improve connectivity for reptiles across farming landscapes.

Collaborators: David Lindenmayer, ANU; Phillip Barton, ANU; Local Land Services NSW.

 

Matt Sleeth, Honours, Deakin University.

Where might endemic lizards find refuge from an Invasive predator?

To understand how best to manage reintroduction of captive bred and wild reptile species on Christmas Island, we need to understand the ecology of one of their primary predators; the invasive wolf snake. We currently do not have adequate data to understand when the animals are active, where they hide, or life history details such as survival.  But this information is critical for building an informed control strategy.  Further, snake density may vary in response to other predators, such as rats and land crabs. If correct, this information may be useful for planning reintroductions into areas where native reptiles stand the best chance of survival.  We will use radio-tracking to examine wolf-snake home range and habitat use in areas with high and low densities of predators.

Collaborators: Euan Ritchie, Melissa Wynn, Christmas Island National Park staff.

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