I have been a Research Assistant within the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patters group since I finished my honours in November 2016. I am passionate about addressing contemporary conservation issues such as wildlife conservation, global change, social and environmental conflicts, biodiversity loss, and disease ecology. I have diverse interests, with my work as a research assistant requiring me to work on multiple projects, and administration and co-ordination of the DEEP group.
Research within D.E.E.P
2016 – 2018 Research Assistant:
As a research assistant of the DEEP group, I have had the opportunity to be involved in multiple projects. This has ranged from administration, such as small management and coordination duties; my own projects; to supervising my own honours student. Some of the projects I have been involved in include – earlier in 2017 I analysed, using Generalised Linear Modelling (GLMs), a range of environmental and community factors to determine what influenced Acacia and Eucalyptus species and their role in nutrient cycling within forests. A long term project I have been leading as a research assistant is what factors influence historic food waste globally. The Aim of this project is to determine what factors (such as GDP.ppp, Population, Machinery, Food Supply and more) using GLMs influence historic food waste; and also at what aggregation, such as economic or trading categories, do we see a difference in what influences food waste. Understanding past food waste can then provide a framework to improve and implement strategies to overcome food wasted in the future.
Earlier – 2016 Undergraduate and Honours year:
I finished my Undergraduate degree in Zoology in 2015 at the University of Tasmania. In the summer of 2015/2016 I received a Dean’s Summer Research Scholarship (DSRS) for disease ecology and was involved in Tasmanian devil trapping for DFTD across the East Coast of Tasmania, as well as monitoring the spread of mange in wombats across Narawntapu national Park.
Honours Supervisors: Dr Scott Carver (UTAS) and Dr Shannon Troy (DPIPWE)
I completed my Honours in disease ecology and wildlife conservation within the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania in 2016, with help from a Government Scholarship in Wildlife Conservation. My honours’ research focused on understanding how chytridiomycosis is influencing amphibian communities in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). There were two parts to my honours thesis: one comprising of how chytridiomycosis influences amphibian communities, and another trailing water sampling as a detection method across the survey ponds.
Chytridiomycosis is a catastrophic amphibian disease, causing over 200 extinctions globally, and it is unfortunately found in Tasmania. The disease has the potential to influence the structure and dynamics of the amphibian communities in multiple and compounding ways. The amphibian communities I studied comprised of four species (Litoria ewingii, Litoria burrowsae, Crinia signifera, and Crinia tasmaniensis) and all pond sites were within the TWWHA. Two of these species, L. burrowsae and C. tasmaniensis were shown to be fatally susceptible to the disease, and may be at threat of decline in populations were the disease is present. Using GLMs I found that disease was not influencing the amphibian populations at this current stage, but may in the future under climate change (with differences in environmental variables influencing the disease outcome). Furthermore, my thesis suggests species susceptibility as determined by laboratory trials, may be limited in their extrapolation to disease outcomes in field settings. The findings of this research are currently in preparation for publication.
During my honours, I also tested a new detection method of testing for the fungus (Batratchochytrium dendrobatidis – Bd), which causes Chytridiomycosis disease, at pond sites out in the field. Previously, methods for detecting Bd have been by the capture and swabbing of amphibians at each pond site. The swab samples are then taken to a lab, were a PCR is conducted with a resulting positive or negative result. The detection of one frog as positive would mean that pond site would also be positive. A new form of detecting whether a pond site is positive (which is not as resource intensive as catching and swabbing amphibians), is filtering water from pond sites to determine, also through a PCR, whether a site is positive or negative. In the literature, others have used this method in the field and found positive results. However, no water filter samples returned a positive result in my study, (even if the site was a known positive). The results of this study are under review.
Research Outside of the DEEP group:
Following on from my honours thesis, I currently have the opportunity to extend my water sampling trials to laboratory trials with Michael Driessen from DPIPWE, and Scott Carver. The results will determine whether we can use water filtering in the TWWHA if certain environmental attributes are within a certain range (eg. pH or temperature) or if inhibitors within natural water is influencing our PCR results, and what we can do about it.
Buettel, J.C., Ringwaldt, E.M., Hovenden, M.J. & Brook, B.W. (2019). Importance of the local environment on nutrient cycling and litter decomposition in a tall Eucalypt forest. Forests 10(4), 340. DOI: 10.3390/f10040340