My research interests are in fire ecology, habitat fragmentation, dispersal and connectivity. I continue to explore ways that ecological theory related to those fields can be used to predict effects and to communicate findings. Key NERP-related research includes projects examining dispersal and connectivity in fragmented landscapes, and fire decision theory.
With colleagues at ANU I am exploring the role of the matrix (modified, cleared or urbanized land) on species that depend on small patches of native vegetation (Project 2.2). We have developed a conceptual model of the matrix that will provide new-comers to the field with a rapid and comprehensive understanding of how the matrix works. The conceptual model and associated review suggests ways to improve connectivity and survivorship of species in fragmented landscapes by manipulating the matrix.
With the help of post-graduate students, we are investigating dispersal through fragmented landscapes, using a range of techniques, including patterns of occupancy, genetics and direct tracking (Project 3.4). Our work in this area will help to understand the kinds of landscape elements needed for functional connectivity, a key concept in a range of Government initiatives (e.g. Australian Government National Wildlife Corridors Plan).
With Michael Bode, the fire lab from Wollongong University (Bradstock, Price, Penman), and David Keith (UNSW), we are building on a previous project to assess the social, economic and environmental trade-offs associated with a range of fire-management strategies (Project 4.1). We are building simulation models to assess the effects of alternative fire management strategies on a range of plant and animal species, and combining these with estimates of house losses and carbon emissions. By taking into account cost, we expect to be able to identify management strategies that are never useful, and to identify other potentially acceptable strategies that span a spectrum of trade-offs. Decision-makers will be able to choose among these options to ensure that the trade-offs are politically and socially acceptable.