Qaecologist Freya Thomas has just returned from a five month stint overseas visiting fire ecologists and managers, below she gives a brief outline on her trip, but watch her blog page for more detailed posts, upcoming as soon as she recovers from jet lag. Over to Freya:
I received a Veski Fellowship (which fellow Qaecologists Geoff Heard and Luke Kelly have also made great use of) that allowed me to undertake a five-month overseas study mission. This was an absolutely excellent opportunity for me to extend my research and make some valuable international connections. I thank The Victorian Endowment for Science, Knowledge and Innovation for this opportunity.
My research revolves around modeling growth and reproduction in multiple plant species and using functional traits as species-specific predictors of growth trajectories. My thesis aim is to interrogate if this approach can be used to generalize demographic trajectories for multiple species using relatively easy to collect functional trait data and to make predictions based on traits to species for which we lack data. This approach has the potential to be very useful within a management context where often time, money and data are scarce yet decisions still need to be made. This fellowship allowed me to visit fire ecologists, managers as well as statisticians, botanists and ecologists and discuss my research.
I began my trip in The USA and visited Distinguished Professor Philip Rundel at The University of California, Los Angeles, I was also fortunate to meet Sarah Ratay and Steve Laymon, two excellent Californian Botanists. Whilst in LA I met Marti Whitter, a fire manager with the National Parks Service. I took a drive via some central Californian ecosystems to Sequoia National Park to meet with Jon Keeley and other fire managers at The USGS Western Research Centre. I then took a drive through the Mojave Desert to UC Riverside, where I met Helen Regan. I then went to the East Coast of America and undertook a course in Structured Decision Making and met with Michael Runge and Sarah Converse amongst others at Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre, before heading to Ireland to visit Yvonne Buckley at Trinity College. From Ireland I headed to Spain to talk fire ecology with Juli Pausas, before travelling south to South Africa to visit William Bond and Jeremy Midgely at The University of Cape Town and Jasper Slingsby at The South African Environmental Observation Network. Finally, I travelled north again to visit Wilfried Thuiller at Laboratoire d’ecologie alpine in Grenoble and attend ICCB in Montpellier. Needless to say, it was an action packed couple of months and there are many people I have missed in this overview. Please stay tuned for a more complete piece in some upcoming blog posts, starting with this one.