Inka Veltheim talking at the Australasian Ornithological Conference

Today, Wednesday 25th at 2:45 pm you can catch QAECO’s Inka Veltheim talking at the Australasian Ornithological Conference in Adelaide. Inka will be talking about her PhD research on Brolgas with a presentation entitled ‘GPS tracking reveals two movement strategies of Brolgas, Antigone rubicunda, within a restricted range’.

As the title suggests, Inka’s work has been revealing some fascinating facts about the lives of these wonderful birds, so don’t miss it if attending AOC this year!


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Qaecologists march west for ESA 2015





Next week a hearty contingent of Qaecologists will decamp to Adelaide, and the 2015 Annual Conference of the Ecological Society of Australia. We’ll be presenting on a wide range of topics, including fire ecology, biodiversity modelling, species reintroductions, plant functional traits and even the use of sniffer dogs to root out invasive weeds! A full list of talks and posters from QAECO can be found below.

In addition, we’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to Thursday morning’s plenary entitled ‘Diversity and Equality in Ecology’ to be presented by two highly distinguished and respected Australian ecologists: Professor Emma Johnston and Professor Mark Burgman. We are delighted that the Ecological Society of Australia will hold a plenary session on this important topic, and, over recent months, have been helping Emma and Mark unravel the current status of diversity and equity in Australian ecology and science more broadly. So make sure to get along; Mark and Emma will reveal how we are tracking, tackle reasons for past inertia and propose solutions to boost diversity and equity in Australia’s ecological community.


Emma Johnston and Mark Burgman, Diversity and Equality in Ecology, Thursday 3 December, 9:05 – 9:45 AM.


Monday, 30 November

Finley Roberts, Addressing uncertainty and tradeoffs in savanna fire management: a structured decision making approach, 11:15 – 11:30 AM. Track 1.

Kate Giljohann, On the use of biodiversity indices for managing fire regimes, 12:00 – 12:15 PM, Track 1.

Rosanna van Hespen, Monitoring changes in fox abundance with camera traps, 12:30 – 12:45 PM. Track 5.

Geoff Heard, Refugia and connectivity sustain amphibian metapopulations afflicted by disease, 4:15 – 4:30 PM, Track 6.

Michael McCarthy, Optimizing ecological monitoring when incurring travel costs, 5:00 – 5:15 PM, Track 5.

Kate CranneyWhen neighbours become good controls: using control site monitoring to evaluate post-grazing shrub recovery, 5:15 – 5:30 PM,  Track 2.

Tuesday, 1 December

Kirsten ParrisThe NESP Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub: coordinated research at the national scale, 11:00 – 11:15 AM, Track 2.

Reid Tingley, Halting cane toad spread in arid Australia: closing the knowing-doing gap, 1:45 – 2:00 PM, Track 1.

Chris Baker, Avoiding perverse outcomes from species introductions: ecosystem-wide modelling at Booderee National Park, 2:15 – 2:30 PM, Track 1.

Pia Lentini, The pivotal role of Australian cities for threatened species conservation, 2:30 – 2:45 PM, Track 2.

Casey Visintin, Wildlife-vehicle collisions: predicting where to mitigate with a conceptual modelling framework, 4:00 – 4:15 PM, Track 1.

Esti Palma, Functional trait changes in floras of 11 cities across the globe in response to urbanization, 4:15 – 4:30 PM, Track 3.

Wednesday, 2 December

Joslin Moore, Managing multiple threats – prioritising invasive plant management in the Australian Alps National Park, 11:15 – 11:30 AM, Track 4.

Michaela Plein, Interaction networks are more robust to community collapse when accounting for sampling bias, 2:15 – 2:30 PM, Track 4.

Thursday, 3 December

Jane Elith, Combining presence-only and presence-absence data for species distribution modeling, 10.15 – 10.30 AM, Track 4.

Hannah Fraser, Woodland birds: what are they and why should we care?, 10:15 – 10:30 AM, Track 5.

Jane Catford, Disentangling the multiple dimensions of invasiveness, 10:30 – 10:45 AM, Track 2.

Peter Vesk, Trait-environment relationships change with spatial scale, sampling strategy and growth form: Eucalypts in the Mallee, 10.45 – 11.00 AM, Track 4

Gerry Ryan, Estimating metapopulation abundance from simple count data, 11:30 – 11:45 AM, Track 4.

Cindy Hauser, Testing a sniffer dog to detect invasive Hawkweeds, 11:45 AM – 12:00 PM, Track 2.

 Posters (Tuesday 1 December, Barbara Rice Memorial Poster Session)

Alina Pung, Trade-offs in fire management between people and avian biodiversity.

Freya ThomasReproductive maturity in plants and fire management, what can our data tell us? 

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Plenary by Dr Jane Catford

1398By chance, are you in Wellington this week for the joint meeting between the Australian Society for Limnology and New Zealand Freshwater Sciences? If so, be sure to catch Thursday morning’s plenary by our own Dr Jane Catford. Last year Jane won the Australian Society for Limnology’s Early Career Excellence Award and will be giving the Christy Fellows Lecture as part of this award. Jane has been making waves in freshwater circles with her research on plant invasion ecology and will be speaking on that very subject. So, the important bits:

Where: New Zealand Water Conference, Silverstream Retreat, Wellington, New Zealand.

When: 8:30, Thursday 26th, Plenary Keynote 4.

Title: Making the most of riparian plant invasions: tests and applications of community ecology theory.

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Last Friday morning was a nerve-wracking one for researchers all over the country, with the latest round of ARC Discovery Grants (including DECRAs) due to be announced. Finger nails were being punished at QAECO as well, but by lunch time the dust had settled and jubilation was in the air: not one, but three applications got the nod!

Congratulations to Jane Elith and José Lahoz-Monfort who received a Discovery for their project ‘Using species distribution models to make robust conservation decisions under uncertainty’. Over the next 3 years Jane and José will work with Atte Moilanen from the University of Helsinki to explore sources of uncertainty in SDMs, conceive approaches to reduce uncertainty, and to evaluate the effects of uncertainty to assist robust conservation decision-making.

Congratulations to Cindy Hauser who will be working with Mark Burgman and Joslin Moore over the next 3 years as the named post doc on a Discovery project entitled ‘Maximising the benefit of emerging technologies for ecological survey’. Cindy will build a framework that optimally allocates resources among different survey methods over time. The framework will advance the theory of ecological survey design by addressing uncertainty in detection, and will improve understanding of emerging methods such as eDNA sampling, drones and sniffer dogs.

And last but by no means least, congratulations to Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita for snaring a DECRA! Guru’s project, entitled ‘Connections between imperfect detection and ecological inference’, is designed to resolve whether or when it is important to account for imperfect detection when modelling communities of species. The project will produce a global synthesis of species detectability across taxa, geographical regions and survey methods, and evaluate the performance and limitations of existing and emerging community modelling methods in ecology.

With their extensive experience in species distribution modelling, survey design and conservation decision-making, Jane, José, Cindy and Guru are sure to produce important advances in these fields over the next few years. So stay tuned, there are exciting times ahead at QAECO!

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Jane Elith wins Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

Jane Elith win's the Fenner Prize

Jane Elith wins Fenner Prize (click for video)

Congratulations to Jane Elith, who tonight will be awarded the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, an early career award within the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. Jane is recognised as one of the world’s leading ecologists for her work on species distribution modelling.

Understanding factors that influence the distribution of species is fundamental to ecology, and species distribution models provide important tools for that purpose. In addition to informing basic ecology, these models are used increasingly to support environmental management actions that rely on predicting the distribution of species (e.g., management of threatened and invasive species). Jane’s research has produced guides to methods [1:4], developed and extended methods appropriate for typical data types [5:10], and tested methods and explored their uncertainties [11:19].

Jane Elith’s research career is remarkable in part because she has achieved her success in a relatively short time – only about 10 years full-time equivalent since completing her PhD. She had no research experience prior to her PhD, following two previous careers – one in agricultural science and one as a full-time mother.

The proportion of the world’s most highly-cited scientists within each of Thomson-Reuters’ 21 research categories who have their primary affiliation in Australia. The field of Environment/Ecology tops the list for Australia – approximately 1 in 12 of the world’s most highly-cited ecologists/environmental scientists are Australian.

Since completing her PhD, Jane has become Australia’s most cited ecologist/environmental scientist in the last 10 years (as reported by Thomson-Reuters). This is particularly impressive given that in terms of citations, the field of Environment/Ecology is Australia’s strongest discipline – of the world’s most highly-cited scientists in Environment/Ecology, more than 8% are Australian. This proportion is the most of all Thomson-Reuters’ 21 research categories.

And perhaps it is worth noting that while heading the list of Australia’s most cited scientists in Environment/Ecology, Jane is the most junior scientist and the only woman of the 11 people in that list.

Australia is a world leader in Environment/Ecology, and Jane Elith contributes substantially to our reputation in this area. Congratulations to Jane – the prize is well deserved and we are very proud of her achievements.

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Fat Fish

fat fish

Are you looking for me?

Why do people come looking at this Is it for the cutting edge ecology, the methodological expertise, or the witty-yet-modest blog posts? Is it even something as mundane as email addresses? Well, probably mostly.

But for the last three years do you know what the second-top search term leading to was? As you probably didn’t guess, it’s “Fat Fish”.

What the fish?

As you will no doubt recall, some years ago we blogged on a reading group session on marine diversity patterns, with the above picture included and the caption “In Finland they call this the ‘Fat Fish'”, and not a word of explanation.

So, if you’re one of the hordes visiting hungered and salivating for information on the fat fish, and leaving with an unsatisfied belly ache, your urges are about to be answered:

Meet Cyclopterus lumpus, the fat fish.

In English, it’s apparently known as the lumpfish or lumpsucker, while in Finland they also call it the lard fish (in Finnish, obviously, which is rasvakala).

The fat fish (as we shall continue to call it), was described by Linneus!

Our correspondent tells us  fat fish are “pathetically poor swimmers, making them quite the pugs of the fish world.” And evidently they’re just as cute.

The fat fish is not IUCN listed! But as they’re widespread in the Arctic Ocean and northen Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, they’re hopefully not doing too badly. In the Baltic, apparently the grow rather tiny because of the low salinity, making them “like the midget pugs of the fish world”, and beloved among the diving community our correspondent says. Elsewhere, as in the above photo taken in Tokyo Aquarium, they can be as big as watermelons.

And why “fat” fish? Because all the lumps are filled with fatty tissues. Perhaps like a seal or dolphin? Or perhaps just because. We can’t let out all the secrets.

But there now, we hope you’re leaving satisfied. Happy Fat Fish Friday.

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Drawn to Science

Drawn to Science: When wildlife rescue and research collide, by Kate Cranney

Drawn to Science: When wildlife rescue and research collide, by Kate Cranney

We have several talented artists among us at Qaeco, not least of whom is Kate Cranney. Kate’s been using her flair for images and words in a series of pieces for Melbourne Uni student magazine Farrargo. Each piece tells us the story of a BioSciences PhD student and their research, paired with Kate’s stunning original artwork.

From sock possums to desert fish, and profiles of the fascinating work of Qaecologists Hannah Fraser, Michelle Freeman, and Casey Visintin, it’s well worth a read. Do yourself a favour and check out the full series over on Kate’s website.

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