I am a biologist working in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. My work focusses on how animals respond to environmental change. I do a lot of field-based research, but usually resort to genetic methods to study the things that animals don't tell us in other ways.
I'm currently funded by the ARC as a Future Fellow to conduct research on how ecological disturbance (mostly fire) affects the genetic diversity of natural populations - how do individuals and populations respond to fires, and what are the implications for population persistence and genetic diversity under changing fire regimes?
Recent papers and other things
Incorporating fire-driven environmental variability in landscape genetics
Landscape genetics has led to many discoveries about patterns of connectivity of populations. Geoff Cary, Ian Davies and I recently published a paper in Molecular Ecology in which we used simulation models to understand how variation in long-term fire regimes across the landscape can influence neutral and adaptive genetic diversity. Where predictable fire regimes (e.g. refuges or fire-prone 'hotspots') occurred due to environmental factors like topography, there was strong spatial variability in genetic diversity. This research shows how refuges can be important for maintaining genetic diversity in landscape characterised by heterogeneous fire regimes, and demonstrates how processes other than population connectivity can influence landscape genetics patterns.
How do animal populations recover from fire?
Understanding whether animals recover from fires by recolonising from unburnt areas, or by repopulating from local survivors, can tell us about the long-term effects of changing fire regimes for population persistence and genetic diversity. Our recent paper in Ecography shows how small mammal populations recover from severe wildfire from local survivors, and that large intense fire events can have remarkably little effect on genetic variation and abundance of some species after only a couple of years after the fire.
Why we should allow ecosystems to recover naturally from natural disturbances?
In a recent article for Nature Ecology and Evolution with David Lindenmayer and Simon Thorn, we argue that clearing up after natural disturbances may not always be beneficial for the environment. A radical change is needed in the way ecosystems are managed; one that acknowledges the important role of disturbance dynamics.