A Research Kaleidoscope from Our 2019 Honours Cohort!
From species translocation for conservation to restorative value of urban green spaces, our 2019 honours cohort illustrate the kaleidoscope of projects tackled by the DEEP group. Over a third the way through, they have recently submitted their literature reviews and are ready to get stuck into the bulk of their research. We love to share the diversity of DEEP work and our honours students provide a pertinent example. Two of the projects have a strong conservation focus for specific species or genera, another has a strong methodological basis, while the fourth is interested in human interactions with environment in an urban setting. All slot into the research aims of our group, considering ecological and evolutionary dynamics, global change and conservation biology. Let’s take a more detailed look at the range of projects from our honours students this year.
Gabby’s project is investigating the relationship between green space quality and socioeconomic status in Tasmania. The distribution of good quality green spaces is an environmental justice issue because green spaces are important for human health and wellbeing. Gabby is focusing on two types of urban green spaces in Tasmania: forests and parks. For each site she will be measuring green space quality using a natural environment scoring tool (NEST) and collecting survey data from green space visitors. The end goal of this research is to determine if there is an equal distribution of good quality green spaces between different socioeconomic groups in Tasmania.
Seabirds are the most threatened avian group globally, and the family Procellariiformes (albatrosses, petrels, and storm petrels) are the most threatened seabirds. Many processes threaten members of this family, but one that is particularly significant is anthropogenic climate change. However, direct investigations of how climate change impacts procellariiformes, especially when foraging at sea, are sparse. Peter’s project is addressing this knowledge deficit by investigating climate driven shifts in habitat suitability for procellariiformes at sea, using populations of Gadfly Petrels (Pterodroma sp.) off south-east Australia as an exemplar. To achieve this, Peter is analysing historical data from Tasmania and Victoria, generated from an ongoing citizen-science project spanning a 40-year period. Bathymetric, oceanographic, and weather conditions will be integrated with these animal observations to form a habitat suitability model for each species examined. The parameters and outputs of the resultant model will allow for fitting to climate change projections. Ergo, Peter will generate predictions of how Pterodroma spp., and therefore procellariiformes by proxy, are likely to respond to habitat modification resulting from climate change.
Molly’s project involves identifying islands in the Bass Strait for potential translocation sites for Eastern (Dasyurus viverrinus) and Spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus). The idea for her project was proposed by the organisation Rewilding Australia who identified a need for research into alternate management methods for quoll species, and who suggested island translocations as a potential conservation method. The aim of Molly’s project is to provide an analysis on the potential of using the Bass Strait islands as translocation sites. She is doing this by developing knowledge on the current, pre-European and fossil distributions of eastern and spotted-tail quolls, developing models of their current and previous distribution both on Tasmania and across the mainland and Bassian Plain. Molly will use this information alongside species distribution modelling to predict potential Bass Strait islands that may be suitable, based on what is known about their preferred vegetation, geographic and climatic conditions.
Effective wildlife management is dependent on accurate estimates of population parameters. Non-intrusive sampling techniques can allow us to obtain these while minimising disturbance to animals and are typically inexpensive compared to, for example, the trapping of live animals. When starting a conservation project, it can be difficult to determine which non-intrusive method is appropriate for the animal and environment of interest, given the trade-offs of cost, time, and accuracy requirements. In this context, the aim of Alex’s project is to identify causes and magnitude of differences in information gleaned from different survey methods.
The honours course is an intense 9 months of literature reviews, grant proposals, seminars and, for main course, the research thesis! It is gratifying to track project development and whiteness interesting research unfold in such a short period. We can’t wait to see what Alex, Gabby, Peter and Molly discover, check back later in the year to hear how their projects pan out!
3rd June 2019
DEEP Joins 80 others in Massive Marine Debris Clean-up!
Last weekend, DEEP participated in the Huon Marine Debris Clean-up at the mouth of the Huon River, which debouches into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The clean-up was held by the D’Entrecasteaux and Huon Collaboration, a partnership between industry, government and natural resource managers in south-eastern Tasmania. The event brought people together from various organisations, community groups, industries and businesses, creating a cooperative atmosphere in which positive change could occur. Some of the participating groups included: the Kingborough and Huon Valley Councils, Tas Water, the Derwent Estuary Program, Parks & Wildlife Service, Huon Aquaculture, Tassal, Pakana Services, Conservation Volunteers Australia and Bruny Island Boat Club.
Our group were allocated a magnificent stretch of coastline near Verona Sands, where we spent two hours trawling the beach for litter. At first glance the beach looked litter-free; how wrong we were. The thick coastal vegetation lining the beach was littered with plastic bottles, cigarette butts, polystyrene, rope, broken glass, small pieces of soft and hard plastics, a large rusty knife, an old fishing rod and glass stubbies – so many stubbies! Grass clippings, riddled with soft plastics, had been dumped on the coastal vegetation. We also noticed an absurd amount of dog droppings along the vegetation line. This was disappointing, considering the emphasis on responsible dog ownership in recent years, and perhaps shows the impact one or two dogs can cause, if not managed responsibly. Our DEEP group filled five large bags with debris and took them back to the Charlotte Cove meeting point to add to the other 31 bags collected by participating groups! After a delicious BBQ lunch provided by the organisers, everyone pitched in to sort and record the type and amount of debris found. Some of the larger items included a fridge and an engine!
Marine debris is a major environmental challenge world-wide, causing serious ecological, aesthetic, economic and human health issues. However, compared with most other environemental challenges, marine debris is one of the easiest issues to solve and reverse through behavioural change and debris clean-ups. Most of the debris collected during last weekend’s clean-up was land-based (generated locally) but can easily be washed into the Channel and out to sea. This is significant because members of the public have the power to change the amount of debris in coastal and ocean areas by changing their day-to-day practices; for example, by reducing plastic use (especially single-use plastics), disposing of rubbish appropriately and recycling.
The results of the clean-up will contribute to the Australian Marine Debris Database, a national database which aims to clean-up Australia’s coastline, track where coastal debris is coming from and create solutions to waste entering oceans by collaborating with all stakeholders. As scientists, knowing that our efforts will be used to better inform practice is particularly satisfying for DEEP members. Considering the exceptional views, good company and delicious lunch provided by the organisers, participation was a no-brainer and we plan to join future events. A huge thank you to Amelia Fowles and the D’Entrecasteaux & Huon Collaboration team for organising the clean-up and having us on board. For more information on the event and future clean-ups, head to the NRM South website.
15th May 2019
Going DEEPer Into Research 2019
Last week members of the DEEP group gathered for the third annual ‘Going DEEPer into research conference’. DEEP covers a broad range of research topics, and the conference provides an opportunity for the growing number of group members to share their progress and receive feedback. The conference is also a means of welcoming newcomers and opening communication channels, essential for such a dynamic group.
Held over two days, the group presented on past, contemporary and future topics, from local conservation concerns to global-scale issues. DEEP research members, also a part of the Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), shared their progress on uncovering faunal communities of the past, sharing their research on owl pellets, and revealing the construction of a database of terrestrial vertebrate zooarchaeological records from Australia.
Fast-forward to the Anthropocene, others within our research group are tackling contemporary big picture issues such as: How is human food demand likely to change in the future and what implications does this have for biodiversity? How effective are reserve systems at conserving biodiversity inside and adjacent to protected areas? What role might rewilding play in future conservation efforts? How can we maximise the restorative value of urban green spaces?
Closer to home, group members reported on the status and prospects of highly threatened species, including pollinators, woodland birds, eastern quolls, sea birds, snow skinks and the mountain pygmy-possum. While important for conservation of individual species, these projects also have international significance, particularly for understanding patterns of extinction risk under climate change.
Another priority of the DEEP group is to develop and improve ecological modelling methods. In this realm, we learned about the mechanics of predator escape, the use of machine learning/deep learning models to recognise species in camera trap images and non-invasive wildlife survey techniques. We also heard from one of our visiting researchers, Linus Blomqvist from the Break Through Institute, who has been working on an innovative method for predicting human population growth. Another visiting researcher, Director of Energy at the Break Through Institute, Jessica Lovering presented on the geographic shift in nuclear deployment and patents over the last 50 years and discussed corresponding challenges and opportunities for developing new nuclear technology to meet today’s environmental and economic needs. Needless to say, this topic stimulated the inquisitive minds of the DEEP group.
Each year we like to hear from collaborators outside the DEEP group to ensure our goals align with the values of external stakeholders. This year our guest speaker, Jason Whitehead discussed the aims and undertakings of Highland Conservation Pty Ltd, which manages two properties for education, cultural and environmental conservation. In late 2018, several DEEP and CABAH members visited the Highland Conservation property, Cockatoo Hills, to connect with Aboriginal students from Rosny College during a three-day camp. Following a successful experience, we look forward future collaboration with Jason and the Rosny College team.
24th April 2019
Girls Dig DEEP for Dinosaurs
To celebrate International Womens Day 2019, and their current exhibition ‘Dinosaur rEvolution: Secrets of Survival’ the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart ran an event called ‘Girls Dig Dinosaurs’ on Saturday the 9th of March to showcase the role of women in palaeoentology and the earth sciences. DEEP Group Research Assistant Tessa Smith spoke at the event and MC’d a discussion panel where the speakers answered questions on their work, how to get involved in palaeontology and what their favourite dinosaur was.
Over 100 people attended the event, especially a large number of girls and young women, some of which brought along their own fossils that they had collected from around Tasmania.
The talks included:
- Dr Caitlin Syme (University of Queensland) on the importance of understanding taphonomy and its uses in investigating fossil crocodiles, dinosaurs and fish from mesozoic deposits in Queensland.
- Tessa Smith (DEEP Group, UTas) on the life and discoveries of English fossil collector Mary Anning and her contribution to the field of palaeontology. Interestingly the day of ‘Girls Dig Dinosaurs’ was the 172nd anniversary of Mary Annings death in 1847.
- Jodi Fox (UTas) on her PhD work as a volcanologist and a recent trip to Heard Island in the Southern Ocean on the RV Investigator.
As part of her work with DEEP, Tessa has participated in four excavations of Pleistocene Holocene owl roost fossil caves over the last year, as well as the sorting and identification of that bone-rich material in the laboratory. She is enthusiastic about investigating the past and enjoys sharing this with other people.
Tessa would like to thank TMAG staff John Ratallick and Andrée Hurburgh for organising and promoting the event as well as the Friends of TMAG for organising Dr Syme’s visit from Queensland.
18th March 2019
Welcome to our DEEP new staff and students of 2019!
The DEEP Group would like to welcome seven new staff and students who have joined our research team. Firstly, we are joined by two postdoctoral research fellows Dr Luke Yates from the University of Tasmania, and Dr Rebecca Wheatley from the University of Queensland. Luke has a background in mathematical physics and will be analysing data and developing models related to forest ecosystems and ecological dynamics. Rebecca has a background in animal behaviour and performance, and biomechanics and will work on modelling the interactions between large herbivores and vegetation and their interplay with fire.
We also welcome the DEEP Software Developer, Kasirat Kasfi who joined our team last December. Kasirat is a UTAS IT graduate, and is working on developing machine learning/deep learning tools that can be applied to the data collected by the DEEP research group, especially large wildlife images and audio file data.
We also have 4 new honours students starting their projects this month:
- Alexandra Paton will focus on exploring non-invasive survey techniques for large vertebrates and the differences in information these methods may yield. Supervised by Prof Barry Brook and Dr Jessie Buettel.
- Peter Vaughan will investigate the environmental parameters impacting habitat suitability for Procellariiforme seabirds off the south-eastern Australian coast, with a view to understanding how anthropogenic climate change may be affecting habitat utilisation by these species. Supervised by Prof Barry Brook, A/prof Mary-Anne Lea, Dr Rohan Clarke (Monash).
- Gabriella Allegretto aims to better understand how to maximise the restorative value of urban green spaces. This involves observing how people interact with the environment, understanding their perceptions, and measuring biodiversity. Supervised by Dr Emily Flies, Dr Jessie Buettel and Dr Dave Kendal.
- Molly Barlow will analyse the islands in the Bass Strait in search of suitable locations to potentially translocate and establish populations of Eastern Quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus). Supervised by Dr Matthew McDowell and Rob Brewster (Rewilding Australia).
Elise Ringwaldt, a DEEP Research Assistant, started her PhD with us this month. Her project will focus on investigating the influence of land-use change on disease susceptibility and community composition in Tasmanian fauna. To explore these objectives, Elise will be using the data collected by camera traps across the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Supervised by Prof Barry Brook, Dr Jessie Buettel, and Dr Scott Carver.
Two DEEP researchers departed our group, Postdoctoral research fellow Dr Sanghyun Hong started an exciting new position in Singapore; while Research Assistant and former DEEP Honours student (First class) Hanh Nguyen (Claudia) finished up her work in January. We would like to wish them both luck with their future research!
19th February 2019
New Year, New Research!
Happy New Year from the DEEP research group to you, and may 2019 be a productive and exciting year of research!
Towards the end of last year, we had three fantastic Honours students from the DEEP group graduate at the University of Tasmania Hobart Graduation Ceremonies. They Joined more than 2500 UTAS students all starting new chapters of their lives by graduating with degrees. In celebration, University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said, “We are extremely proud of our graduands and wish them every success.” He also acknowledged the encouragement and support that the broader community provides to students reaching their goals! Our three Honours students, Damien Ashlin, Heather Bryan, and Yvonne Teo created Honours theses’ as part of their degree:
Damien Ashlin – Supervised by Prof. barry Brook & Prof. Chris Johnson – Thesis title: Effects of the introduced superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) on forest litter and fire risk in Tasmania
Damien “expected that a forecast increase in Earth’s surface temperatures due to global climate change will result in more frequent and intense wildfires due to lengthened fire seasons, increasing the effect of wildfire on natural environments. In this study, Damein examined the potential for the introduced superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) to affect fire behaviour by influencing properties of the surface fuel bed in Tasmanian wet Eucalyptus forests. He mapped the species current distribution in Tasmanian from observational data and used climate and environmental data from its native range to create a species distribution model (SDM). At the landscape level, sites occupied by lyrebirds had, on average, 20% less surface fuel biomass than sites not occupied by lyrebirds. Lyrebirds were responsible for altering properties of the fuel-array in over half of the forest floor by turning over soil and creating extensive patchy disturbances. This research has shown that lyrebird foraging in the litter layer reduces surface fuel loads and model-predicted proxies for fire intensity (energy output) and severity (biological impact).”
Heather Bryan – Supervised by Prof. Barry Brook & Assoc. Prof. Erik Wapstra – Thesis title: Patterns of extinction risk in range-restricted and widespread lizards under climate change.
Heather described that “predicting responses of natural systems to climate change is a major challenge but imperative if we are to influence or mitigate its impacts to biodiversity. Accordingly, there has been an increase and diversification of predictive modelling techniques over the past two decades. However, data availability is generally limited for species and communities and most predictions continue to rely on single techniques which are typically correlative rather than causative in nature. In Heather’s Thesis, she predicted congeneric responses to climate change for four species of Tasmanian snow skinks (Niveoscincus), a genus which has divergent life-history strategies between and within species in response to different thermal environments. Making use of a series of comprehensive datasets, she employed a range of predictive approaches from relatively simple correlative methods, to more data-intensive demographic models. The divergent pattern in climate change vulnerability within Niveoscincus is not a story of lizard, ectotherm or even alpine species vulnerability, but the vulnerability of range-restricted specialists, a pattern relevant to all biotic systems.”
Yvonne Teo – Supervised by Prof. Barry Brook, Dr. Jessie Buettel, and Elise Ringwaldt – Thesis title: Use of new technologies for wildlife monitoring in Tasmania
Yvonne described that the “estimation of animal population abundance plays an important role in monitoring wildlife, which is fundamental to conservation. The use of drones in zoology research is increasing and it is important to develop species-specific protocols to minimise disturbance. In this research, drone impacts on wildlife were evaluated by measuring drone-induced behavioural responses in Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) and the Tasmanian pademelon (Thylogale billardierii) in Tasmania, Australia. Development of a species-specific protocol is therefore important to serve as a framework for future wildlife monitoring to survey species that are endemic to Tasmania.”
Furthermore, late last year we welcomed a soft-ware developer onto our team! Kasirat Turfi Kasfi is a UTAS graduate in IT who has worked on software development and has mostly applied herself in the field of machine learning/deep learning. Kasirat will be working within the DEEP group to develop machine learning/deep learning models; which will be applied on a vast number of wildlife image and audio files in order to recognise and classify different animal species.
Alexandra Paton and Rahil Amin, both UTAS Undergraduate students, also joined our group over the summer as part of the Dean’s Summer Research Scholarship. Alex aimed to develop a procedure for collecting scat, track, and bone samples at camera trap sites; while Rahil was investigating the distribution of large cockatoo’s and galahs across southern Tasmania. With both excellent undergraduate students finishing their DSRS in the near future.
This year, more researchers and students will be joining and collaborating with our research group! We are excited to soon announce these new people in an upcoming post with the types of research and advances they are involved in; keep an eye on our People page! We are also looking forward to our third Going DEEPer into Research workshop. An annual event which our whole research group and guest speakers attend to share and inspire each other with the types of research they are working on within UTAS, industry, and the community.
17th January 2019
Glimpses of the past to better inform the future – Cockatoo Hills land Management program with UTAS researchers, Rosny College students and Highland Conservation Pty Ltd
From the 26th till the 28th of November 10 Aboriginal students from Rosny college, with Rosny teacher Mel Wall and Aboriginal Education Worker Cathy Ransom, joined researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Australian Heritage and Biodiversity (CABAH) and the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (DEEP) Group for a three-day camp at Cockatoo Hills, a Highland Conservation Pty Ltd property managed by Jason Whitehead, supported through the Tas Landcare Fund (TLF) and Prof. Barry Brook’s ARC Laureate grant.
The aim of the camp was to connect Aboriginal students with researchers to create a fusion of cultural awareness, science and land management on Cockatoo Hills for generations. Cockatoo Hills was once run as a sheep agistment with fertilized soils and high-production grass, but is now being managed by Highland Conservation Pty Ltd and stakeholders for its conservation values and cultural landscapes, where wildflowers, native grasses and animals are starting to flourish.
The collaboration started on Monday the 26th, when students and researchers arrived at Cockatoo Hills and partook in an Acknowledgement of Country and smoking ceremony led by Cathy. Everyone then participated in a walk around the Cockatoo Hills property, which included an introduction to land-care management activities, thistle control, wombat mange management and culturally informed burning led by Jason.
On Tuesday the 27th our DEEP & CABAH researchers – which consisting of staff Dr Matt McDowell, Elise Ringwaldt and Tessa Smith, and PhD student Tristan Derham – ran short activity sessions with small groups of students at a time.
- Dr Matthew McDowell and Tessa Smith ran a session on palaeoecology and its application for rewilding using some of their small-mammal skeletal remains found in owl roost deposits from around Tasmania (Florentine Valley, Mt. Weld, Mole Creek) collected in 2018. The students also had the opportunity to get involved by sorting some of the owl roost material into general categories (Rodent and marsupial dentaries, long bones, teeth and vertebrae).
- Tristan Derham used a Community of Inquiry framework approach, facilitating discussions about environmental ethics. This involved beginning with a story or an anecdote with no clear and simple answer and passing it to the group for discussion. The stories included Plato’s retelling of the Ring of Gyges, a classical posing of the view that morality is merely social prudence; and Routley’s (1973) ‘last man’ thought experiment, which posits a last human who, before his death, ensures the destruction of all living things on earth. These stories are designed to draw out one’s moral intuitions. Students were encouraged to voice their ideas, to listen respectfully and to carefully build upon each another’s assumptions while exploring answers to moral questions, understanding their own intuitions, and developing skills in reasoning about morals, including environmental ethics.
- Elise Ringwaldt demonstrated to the students how technology, such as the use of camera traps and drones, can be used for wildlife monitoring and conservation. Camera trapping is a method of monitoring wildlife that uses a camera to automatically record the animals that pass through a target area. Six camera traps, that were set up the night before with help from the students, were used to monitoring what animals were at Cockatoo Hills. The students found Bennett’s Wallabies, Brushtail Possums, Pademelons and even Tasmanian Devils on the cameras overnight. The students were also briefed on how drones are used for a variety of conservation outcomes: such as surveying wildlife, monitoring and mapping terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and supporting the enforcement of protected areas; before having a go themselves at flying the drones!
In the afternoon everyone hiked to visit a rocky outcrop on the property that contains Tasmanian Devil dens and a Bettong nest! Both these species share the space for shelter and denning, however never at the same time. Unfortunately, the visit was cut short by strong rains and an excessive number of leeches. In the evening the students worked on art pieces that would be installed at the Cider Gum plantings the next day.
On Wednesday the group visited some Miena Cider Gum insurance plantings at Cockatoo Hills. Jason Whitehead discussed the importance of Cider Gums for the local Aboriginal people, their preference for ‘frost hollows’ within the landscape, and the conservation plan to protect the species. The group then drove to the parent stand of Cider Gums near Little Pine Lagoon to see the mature trees, and taste some of their free-flowing sap.
The first Cockatoo Hills conservation outreach program was a very successful collaboration, with such programs especially central to CABAH researchers. Collaboration between researchers, environmental groups, and indigenous peoples are fundamental to managing the Australian landscape. Another Cockatoo Hills outreach program has been proposed for 2019, with all Rosny Staff and Students having great things to say about their experience at Cockatoo Hills.
12th December 2018
DEEP Group at the CABAH Annual Symposium 2018 in Adelaide
Between the 5th and 9th of September the UTas node of CABAH attended the Annual Symposium hosted by the University of Adelaide. Keynotes included a talk by Professor Kris Helgen (University of Adelaide) focusing on the vertebrate fauna of Papua New Guinea. PhD candidates Tristan Derham, Matthew Fielding and Postdoctoral researcher Dr Matthew McDowell presented three-minute ‘pico talks’ and participated in a poster session.
Each of the five key Centre questions: (1). What was the environment like before the arrival of people? (2). How did the first people adapt to their new environment? (3). What were the consequences of initial human expansion? (4). How did Australia’s biota survive in an Ice Age landscape? (5). What was the context to Australia’s demographic explosion?; were work-shopped in individual sessions.
In some free time, opportunities to visit the South Australian Museum were available, and several small groups of symposium attendees were taken on a tour of the archives of Normal Tindale houses in the museum. The hair samples from the Tindale collection are being used in the Aboriginal Heritage Project run by the Australian Centre of Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide.
Multiple research training opportunities were available with the Irinjili Training Program on climate analysis (run by Professor Chris Turney, UNSW), genetics (run by Professor Alan Cooper, University of Adelaide) and modelling with R (run by Professor Corey Bradshaw, Flinders and Barry Brook), as well as workshops on grant writing and research ethics.
16th November 2018
Showcasing our DEEP Global Research!
It’s been a busy couple of months for the DEEP research group! Some of our PhD and Master candidates have been sharing their research among UTAS and the broader research community at the 12th Annual Graduate Research Conference. Following, the DEEP/CABAH research group attended a day workshop on highlighting research in a globally significant context, with three fantastic guest speakers!
The Graduate Research Conference (GRC) hosted by the Graduate Research Office was held on the 6th and 7th of August, showcasing current Higher Degree by Research work. The GRC held events such as the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) and displayed over 200 posters of Higher Degree by Research candidates’ work to a non-specialist audience of UTAS staff, students and guests.
Shane Morris, a DEEP PhD student, was selected into the top 10 finalists of UTAS’ 3MT presentations! He was selected by the 3MT judges, who watched 84 minutes of intense research from 27 other speakers, to participate in the final UTAS heat. In a quick 3 minutes, he presented his thesis ‘Translocations: A story about a kid, a tiger and a possum’, in which Shane found it a fantastic experience to present his work to a wider audience in a novel way, “I tried to not only tell people about translocations (the movement of animals from one place to another), but to interweave where my passion for this comes from and why I think it will be important in the future.” He said.
Two other DEEP Higher Degree by Research candidates, Cristian Montalvo Mancheno (PhD) and Carley Fuller (MSc), showcased their research work at the GRC poster presentations. Cris presented his PhD project, titled ‘Systematic Conservation of Australia’s Terrestrial Biodiversity’. He explained that his poster “emphasized the methodological approaches to examine the resilience of Australia’s bioregional conservation approach to environmental change; as well as the potential value of compartmental models—such as those used to model infectious diseases—for systematic conservation planning and management.”
Additionally, Carley presented the first chapter of her thesis, titled ‘Spillovers in Conservation Landscapes’. She presented proposed methods for quantifying spillover using remote-sensed spatial data, a review of the relevant scientific literature, and the finding that by extracting the necessary information from existing deforestation data sets it is possible to detect both the beneficial and the detrimental kind of spillover from protected areas located around the world. Carley explained that “spillover effects from land-use policies, specifically changes in deforestation pressure related to protected area establishment, could be beneficial or detrimental to the wider conservation landscape”
Part of the poster presentations was for each candidate to be interviewed by judges on their research work. The judges and other Higher Degree by Research candidates (HDR) came from a background of different expertise, with Carley exclaiming “one poster presentation judge was already familiar with spillover in the context of marine conservation and fisheries science; other HDR candidates from diverse disciplines, unfamiliar with my topic, engaged insightfully in conversations about conservation, the Anthropocene, and policy impact analysis.” Cris found the “opportunity to share with UTAS scientific community useful for my academic development. Also, it was quite exciting to see the diversity of studies being undertaken by passionate and hard-working PhD candidates at UTAS.” Excellent work by all of these DEEP research candidates!!
On the 24th of September, the DEEP/CABAH research team attended a day workshop on creating globally significant work! The workshop delved into the aspects which makes writing papers fit into a global context. This was particularly important for DEEP/CABAH UTAS node as we have the uniqueness of research primarily focused in Tasmania. Therefore, we need to be able to convey how our research in Tasmania can be relevant in the border global context, particularly when writing manuscripts. Our research team individually, and as part of small groups, discussed how our individual topics fit into the broader research work in the field.
We were also lucky enough to have insights from three guest speakers to address the question of ‘local to global’, by using their own knowledge, skills, and expertise from their field of work. The first of our speakers was a Visiting UTAS Researcher from the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Professor Andrew Balmford. Andrew discussed writing novel papers which find the right pitch for a particular journal; and shared tips on how to convey locally focused research into a global perspective. Our second speaker is also a Visiting UTAS Researcher from The Breakthrough Institute, Oakland California, Linus Blomqvist. Linus discussed how the Think Tank he is a part of write to market ideas to policy-makers and the public. He gave us an excellent insight into how to write persuasively and with impact. The last of our three speakers was Patrick Goymer, the Chief Editor for Nature and a member of the CABAH Centre Advisory Committee. Patrick shared with us his checklists and tips for writing manuscripts to be ultimately published, specifically in Nature. We are grateful for the time given by the three guest speakers and their excellent insights into how the local research we do here at DEEP fits into the global context.
Be a part of our DEEP research! – Click here to find out what volunteer opportunities we have
28th September 2018
New position available: Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Work type: Full time
Categories: Academic – Research Focus
This post-doctoral position is offered jointly between the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (DEEP) research group and the University of Tasmania Node of the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).
The DEEP research group studies ecological and evolutionary dynamics, global change, and conservation biology. The ARC Centre for Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) node at the University of Tasmania seeks to uncover how Australia’s animals and plants responded to climate and landscape changes and human impacts over thousands of years, as well as combine diverse results from other theme, using statistical and computational methods to quantify uncertainty and model complex interactions.
In the role you will:
- Undertake research on the processes responsible for the changes to Australia’s unique biodiversity and heritage, to explore and determine threats to faunal and floral biodiversity caused by regional and global change. The research methods will use historical archives, field data (including primary sample collection and pattern mapping), machine learning on ‘big data’ and simulation-model-based stochastic forecasts.
- Analyse national- or regional level datasets to assess the geographic timing of human presence and the impacts of people on Australian species, the timing or extent of major changes in climate and fire regimes, and assessment of how landscapes and biota responded to these drivers. Explore the consequences of paleo-environmental scenarios, supported by syntheses and models, to forecast how lessons of past environmental shifts can be used to inform adaptation to future environmental change.
- Prepare and publish scientific papers, including effective liaison and communication with research collaborators and stakeholders.
- Contribute to the preparation of progress reports to supervisors and research partners, ensuring reporting obligations to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage grant and Australian Research Council are met, and recommendations on future directions for the focal research are provided.
- Present results of the research at relevant national and international meetings.
- Participate in the supervision of Honours and postgraduate-level research projects.
- Participate in team-based research support, such as preparation of databases, code, scripts and file management, as relevant to specific project needs.
- Undertake other relevant duties as assigned by the supervisor(s).
Based in Hobart you will be employed on a full-time fixed-term basis, for a period of 2 years.
To be considered, you will have:
- A PhD in conservation biology, palaeontology, ecology, evolution, environmental change, modelling, or a related discipline.
- Capacity to undertake statistical analysis, such as generalised linear models, machine learning and multi-model inference, with likelihood or Bayesian inference.
- Knowledge and experience of statistical, scripting and modelling software.
- Experience in implementation of logistically challenging tasks, including robust study design, literature synthesis, data collection and database management.
- Demonstrated, well-developed written and oral communication skills, including multiple first-author publications in refereed journals.
- Ability to work as a part of a team to collaboratively write and co-publish scientific papers and work on joint research projects.
Appointment to this role will be at Academic Level A and will have a total remuneration package of up to $105,535 comprising of a base salary within the range of $66,785 to $90,116 plus 17% superannuation.
For further information about this position please contact Dr Jessie Buettel, Research Fellow in Conservation Biology, Jessie.Buettel@utas.edu.au / 0457 666 016.
**Please note, your application must as a minimum include your resume, a cover letter and your responses to the position/selection criteria in one document.
3 August 2018
BREAKING NEWS: Our lab is looking forward to signing a new researcher!
The position we are seeking to fill: Software Developer
In the role you will:
- Develop machine-learning and related approaches (e.g. deep-neural-networks) to process/classify ‘big’ ecological data, such as libraries of wildlife image/audio files.
- Code modular functions for use in an open-source conservation-modelling toolkit.
- Prepare and maintain accurate and high-quality system, administration and user documents for all projects.
- Contribute to the preparation of progress reports to supervisors and research partners.
- Design and develop reports or undertake analyses on program performance to support planning and ongoing software improvement.
You will be employed on a full time, fixed term (2 Years) basis.
To be considered, you will have:
- A degree or associate diploma in information technology (or related discipline) with subsequent relevant experience in software development or support; or an equivalent combination of related experience and/or training/education.
- Well-developed skills and experience in coding for computer simulation modelling and optimisation, using R, Python, Java or other relevant scripting languages.
- Experience with development of automated (software-based) classification systems, using machine- and/or deep-learning methods.
- Capacity to manage logistically challenging tasks, including program design, implementation, delivery of software and robust data and script management.
- Demonstrated, well-developed written and oral communication skills.
Appointment to this role will be at HEO 6 and will have a total remuneration package of up to $97,401 comprising base salary within the range of $76,147 to $83,874 plus 17% superannuation.
For further information about this position please contact Jessie Buettel, Research Fellow in Conservation Biology, Jessie.Buettel@utas.edu.au / 03 6226 2999.
***Please note, your application must as a minimum include your resume, a cover letter and your responses to the position/selection criteria in one document.
Applications close Monday, 30 July 2018, 11:55pm. To apply, please go to http://www.utas.edu.au/jobs.
17 July 2018
Matt Fielding has won the Ralston Trust Prize for the Best Zoology Honours Thesis for 2017.
The Ralston Trust offers three annual prizes for first-year, third-year and Honours students studying Zoology at the University of Tasmania. Our research assistant Matt Fielding has been awarded the prize for the best Honours thesis submitted in the previous twelve months, judged by the staff of the School of Zoology and valued at $400. Congratulations and well done, Matt!
23 April 2018
Going DEEPer into research
Each year, the members of our group (DEEP & the UTas CABAH node) gather to hold a mini-conference we call ‘going DEEPer into research’. The main purpose is to introduce newcomers to the group and for each researcher to give an update on what they have been working on over the past year, and present plans for future projects. An important goal of this approach is to keep our group engaged and collaborative.
This year, many of our members were concerned with global-scale issues such as: how we tackle biodiversity loss at a landscape scale, how we define biodiversity and determine areas of priority for conservation, the process of rewilding and assisted transmigrations, projections of future food demand, food waste and human population into 2050, and the relationship between urbanisation and human diseases – just to name a few! We also explored local issues that could potentially have broader implications. Our research group have been hard at work developing species distribution models (SDMs) for multiple Tasmanian species, have started testing improved monitoring methods for estimating animal presence and abundance, and are set to explore the impact of water and resource availability on the breeding success of the Tasmanian native hen (Tribonyx mortierii).
Last year (2017) also marked our integration with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). The University of Tasmania node aim to cover projects such as: i) exploring Holocene-recent faunal change in Tasmania from owl deposits, ii) reconstructing dynamics of ancient populations in radiocarbon databases, iii) exploring whether lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) diggings influence fire through their impact on litter accumulation and spread. These projects, among others were presented by the current members of the node.
Our guest speakers for the two days were Dr. Phillipa McCormack and Dr. Michael Driessen, who both completed their Ph.D degree at the University of Tasmania. Dr. Phil is a lawyer who is currently teaching at the university, with an interest in the legal frameworks surrounding biodiversity conservation and natural resource management. Dr. Driessen works at the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and is heavily involved in conservation projects in the Wilderness World Heritage Area of Tasmania (TWWHA). Our group’s work is closely aligned to their interests, and we expect this collaboration, and others further afield, to strengthen into the future.
18 April 2018
New students of 2018!
Recently our lab were joined by three new students: Anya Law who was granted a Dean’s Summer Scholarship, and Yvonne and Damien who have just started their Honours degree.
Unlike Yvonne and Damien who are just getting their gears in motion, Anya has finished her research studying the distribution and ecological constraints of the Forester Kangaroos, the Tasmanian subspecies of the eastern grey kangaroos in mainland Australia. After this project, she will be continuing with her Bachelor of Science degree and will be graduating this year.
Yvonne’s project is connected to a previous project of our lab. While the previous project investigated the roadkill of the Tasmanian pademelon, Bennett’s wallaby and bare-nosed wombat in the state, Yvonne will be looking at the influences that live animal abundance along and near routes might have on roadkill concentration and distribution. Yvonne will also only be focusing on the macropod populations.
Damien’s project will involve investigating the impact of the introduced superb lyrebird on leaf-litter accumulation and fire risk in Tasmania’s wet sclerophyll forest. He will be identifying potential future habitat for the lyrebird as they disperse throughout Tasmania, and quantifying the influence they are currently exerting on leaf litter levels within their present range.
Yvonne and Damien will be getting their own personal pages where the details of their projects will be updated. Please keep an eye out for that.
22 February 2018
Last update of 2017!
Greetings from the DEEP lab, and congratulations on finishing another year.
Our research group continues to grow. In 2017 we said goodbye to some of our members, and welcomed new and old faces. As of December 2017 we have 19 members, with hope to be joined by more people in the upcoming years.
Earlier this year, three members of our group put on their graduation hats: Stefania Ondei for her Ph.D, Hanh Nguyen for her Honours degree and Matt Fielding for his Bachelor degree. We had another graduation ceremony on the 19th of December which the group’s research director, Jessie Buettel, who has also finished her Ph.D, was joined by our Honours students Matt Fielding (his 2nd graduation in 2017) and Stuart Rose. Afterward, Matt will be working with us as research assistant and as part of the UTAS node of The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).
Dr. Emily Flies was awarded the Dean’s award for exceptional performance in community engagement and outreach from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, University of Tasmania and “2017 Thesis of the Year” from the Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia. She was also named the “Tasmanian STEM Communicator of the Year” by the Government of Tasmania in the second annual Tasmanian STEM Excellence Awards. Our Ph.D candidate Shane Morris also won the Ph.D poster award organised by the University of Tasmania
Beside the many achievements, the members of our group have had our voices heard at multiple scientific conferences such as EcoTas, Breakthrough Institute Dialogue and the CABAH annual symposium, to name a few. The publication page on the website has also been updated with 2017 and early 2018 publications by our members, which can be viewed here.
This year, we finally got to introduce our long-awaited logo, which reflects both ours and CABAH’s fields of interests in research. Can you guess what they are?
Our research group gained a few new members. Tessa Smith and Matt McDowell joined our research group, as well as CABAH, with Tessa the new research assistant and Matt working as postdoc. Cristian Montalvo Mancheno is our newest Ph.D candidate, and his research focus will be updated on the website in the near future. We also welcome back Carley Fuller who had previously worked with us as research assistant. She’s starting her Master of Science that will lead on to her Ph.D project. Sin Yee Law (Anya) is joining us in 2018 to conduct her Dean’s Summer Research scholarship awarded by the University of Tasmania.
In 2018, the website will be updated more frequently. We are pursuing the goal of having at least one blog post written by one of the members of our group published every month on the website on the 28th. These blog posts will cover a broad range of scientific topics, not just the research sides of things but also the political, social and public interactions that are usually less discussed. Due to the upcoming holiday season, this month’s blog post by Carley Fuller has been published early, and can be accessed through our new DEEP Thought page.
We look forward to a new, productive 2018.
Happy holidays from the researchers at DEEP.
20 December 2017
Congratulations to Dr. Emily J. Flies the Tasmanian STEM Communicator of the Year!
Congratulations to Dr. Emily J. Flies of the DEEP Lab for being named the “Tasmanian STEM Communicator of the Year” by the Government of Tasmania in the second annual Tasmanian STEM Excellence Awards. The STEM awards are supported by the Tasmanian Government, University of Tasmania, Engineering Australia and Inspiring Australia; and aims to acknowledge people leading the way in science, technology, engineering and maths, and to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. Emily has also received the University of Tasmania Dean’s Award for Exceptional Performance in Community Engagement and Outreach in SET a few months ago. Very well-deserved Emily!
21st November 2017
Effective Conservation Science ‘Data not Dogma’ Book now published!
*Cue controversial discussions*
The DEEP group ARC Laureate Barry Brook and Research Director Jessie Buettel, along with collaborator Erle Ellis recently co-authored a chapter in the book, Effective Conservation Science ‘data not dogma,’ published on the 12th of October 2017.
The book, edited by Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier, and Brian Silliman focuses on controversial questions and discussions, some of which overturn long held theories and assumptions. The book is written by leaders in the field whose expertise spans freshwater, terrestrial, and marine conservation and includes a global range of relevant case studies.
The chapter written by Brook, Ellis, and Buettel asks, what is the evidence for planetary tipping points? As living standards, technological capacities, and human welfare have continued to improve, impacts on natural systems and environmental degradation have become widespread and are associated with the expanding influence of humans. This begs the question of whether long-term societal relationships with the planet’s ecology may be approaching a global tipping point as the human population hurtles toward ten billion people. Their chapter explores the supporting evidence for the nine planetary boundaries, with insights into whether there are global limits or tipping points of earth-system processes.
Now published, it is hoped the book will stimulate productive conversation and increase attention to how preconceived notions can affect research findings. The chapters are written in an accessible and proactive manner with citations to data pertinent to the controversial discussions, so that readers can examine these independently and draw their own conclusions.
What is the evidence for planetary tipping points?
Barry W. Brook, Erle C. Ellis, and Jessie C. Buettel
27th October 2017
Hats off to three of our D.E.E.P students!
The DEEP lab would like to congratulate three of our students for graduating last weekend during the University of Tasmania ceremonies!
Stefania Ondei completed her PhD titled “Battling the elements: Environmental determinants of North Kimberley rainforest”; and is continuing postdoctoral research within the D.E.E.P group.
Hanh Nguyen completed her Honours (Zoology) titled “Predictors of Tasmanian wildlife-vehicle collisions”; earning herself a First Class award!
Matthew Fielding completed his Bachelor of Science (Zoology); and is currently in the final stages of his Honours research.
We are looking forward to their future research in our DEEP lab!
24th August 2017
Postdoc, RA and PhD Opportunities Available! – CABAH
Two Postdoctoral Research Fellows, one Research Assistant, and two Ph.D. opportunities are currently being offered within the University of Tasmania Node of the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). ARC Australian Laureate Prof. Barry Brook and Prof. Chris Johnson are chief investigators. Those undertaking a position will work collaboratively with CABAH and the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (DEEP) research group to improve understanding of Australia’s unique biodiversity and heritage.
The goals of CABAH are to develop a world-class, interdisciplinary research programme to understand Australia’s unique biodiversity and heritage spanning the last 130,000 years. The research will identify and track long-term environmental change and responsible processes, with knowledge and lessons learned used to predict responses to future environmental changes, and ensure Australia’s biota can adapt successfully.Postdoctoral Research Fellows will be employed on a full time, 2 year fixed-term basis. The role description summary on the University of Tasmania website can be downloaded here (PDF); and the full position description and selection criteria can be downloaded here (PDF).
The Research Assistant will be employed on a full time, 2 year fixed-term basis. The role description summary on the University of Tasmania website can be downloaded here (PDF); and the full position description and selection criteria can be downloaded here (PDF).
Ph.D. research projects, which includes a stipend and logistical support, will be undertaken for 3 years, with a possible 6-month extension. CABAH research possibilities for postgraduate students, and further details, can be downloaded here (PDF).
Applications for these exciting new research opportunities close: Monday, 7 August 2017!
For further information about these positions please contact Barry Brook, Laureate Professor, firstname.lastname@example.org / (03) 6226 2655.
**Please note, your application must as a minimum include your resume, a cover letter and your responses to the position/selection criteria.
14 July 2017
The Future of Humanity – Lecture by Prof. Barry Brook.
Humans have persisted in our modern evolved form for about two hundred millennia, and are now a dominant force of nature on planet Earth, but what is the long-term future of humanity?
The Royal Society of Tasmania invites you to a lecture by the ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Environmental Sustainability, Barry Brook. Our D.E.E.P group Prof. Brook will be delving into The Future of Humanity by considering some forecasts of existential environmental threats facing humanity during the 21st century, and speculate if ‘are humans near the end, or closer to the beginning, of our span as a species’
The lecture will be held on Tuesday the 6th of June, at 8 pm, at the Royal Society Room, TMAG, Hobart. All interested people are welcome. For more information visit: http://www.rst.org.au or download the flyer here.
1 June 2017
B.Sc. Honours students launch their D.E.E.P. research
Honours student in the D.E.E.P. group, Hanh Nguyen (Claudia) and Heather Bryan, have kicked off their research projects in fine form, delivering two brilliant introductory seminars in front of a large audience at the School of Biological Sciences.
Claudia research focuses on “Animal-vehicle collision and its effect on the population viability of Tasmania marsupials“. This involves lots of driving, counting and measuring dead bodies, as well as some serious modelling. A mix of blood and code? She’s loving it anyway, and the work is likely to contribute to identifying ways to mitigate roadkill and maintaining future viability of pademelons, wallabies and wombats.
Heather is working on “Tasmanian snow-skink distributions and persistence under climate change“, under the co-supervision of D.E.E.P.’s Barry Brook, and B.E.E.R.’s Erik Wapstra, plus Claire Hawkins from DPIPWE. She’ll use three different methods (Species Distribution Models, Stochastic-Demographic Models, and Physiological-Behavioural Mechanistic Models), to see whether or how lizard populations will shift, thrive, survive or meet their demise, as climate change progressively shifts conditions in Tasmanian environments. Her work will also help us understand the role of different forecasting methods.
Both students are highly engaged in their projects, and delivered really terrific seminars which elicited lots of questions. Well done both — much exciting research lies ahead!
16 September 2016
Ph.D. scholarships, stipends and top-ups!
PhD projects now offered in the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (D.E.E.P.) research group, based at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania. Project topics include the response of plant and animal populations to global change, dynamics of ecological communities, ecosystem modelling, conservation biology, threatened species management, and the impacts of land-use change on biodiversity.
The three major themes are: (i) using ‘patterns’ to understand the processes shaping ecosystem structure and dynamics; (ii) technology and biology: never the twain shall meet? and (iii) faunal habitat use and the impacts of disturbance (biodiversity and conservation). We are also open to the possibility of exploring other projects relating to conservation biology, ecology and evolutionary biology, and welcome students to express their own research ideas.
Candidates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply. In addition to TGRS or APA scholarships, there will be substantial operational and logistical support, funded by a 5-year research grant to Prof. BW Brook (ARC Australian Laureate Fellow). An additional top-up award of $4,000 pa will also be considered for outstanding applicants.
Click on the hyperlinks above for more detailed information on the topics, and how to apply. See here for an overview of Projects and Opportunities for students in D.E.E.P.
3 July 2016
A Forest of Stars…
D.E.E.P. Ph.D. student, Jessie Buettel, has secured a competitive a Multidisciplinary Environment Research Group (MERG) grant for $2,000, to investigate: “A Forest of Stars: Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics as a Cosmological Analogue“.
Jess, along with Prof. Barry Brook (DEEP leader), and UTAS astrophysicists Dr. Andrew Cole and Prof. John Dickey, aims to foster a cross-disciplinary relationship between biological sciences and space science/physics. The work will look at whether analytical methods used in the study of galaxies and the cosmos can be successfully applied to ecological systems, such as forests. Both fields of research must deal with the question of how to ‘do science’ on a subject that is characteristically ‘ancient, moving in slow motion, inscrutably complex and infinitely variable in its manifestations’.
This exciting work begins immediately, and will report results by end of 2016!
5 June 2016
ARC Laureate Success
Our one and only Professor Barry Brook, is now an ARC Australian Laureate Professor (ALP)!
The highly prestigious five-year Australian Laureate Fellowships are awarded each year to the nation’s most outstanding research leaders. The award provides recipients with the opportunity (and funding) to develop their own institute to do ground-breaking research and build a lasting legacy. ALP Brook has been awarded over $2.8 million in funding from the Australian Research Council to do just that!
Professor Brook will investigate pathways for society to “decouple” environmental impacts from economic growth and human prosperity, to resolve regional and global trade-offs between human development and the competing need to conserve habitats, ecosystems and species.
6 May 2016
Hot off the press!
“Egress! How technophilia can reinforce biophilia to improve ecological restoration”
Buettel, J.C. & Brook, B.W. 2016
Restoration Ecology, doi: 10.1111/rec.12387
For effective and sustained ecological restoration, community support is essential. Yet, in modern society, artificial constructs and electronic technology now dominate most peoples’ interests (technophilia). This has led to a perceived growing disconnection between humans and nature. We ask how such technology might be harnessed as an agent of connection to the environment, rather than being seen as a driver of detachment. We use the example of a hugely popular mobile augmented reality smartphone game “Ingress” to show how gaming technology can excite people about nature, unlock their inherent biophilia, and highlight the value of ecological restoration in their everyday lives.
Key words: artificial, augmented reality, conservation, games, Ingress, nature, restoration, smartphone
3 June 2016