David Watson

Dr David Watson


Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences


Dave’s a community ecologist, working across a wide range of topics within Australia and in various parts of the Neotropics. His current research interests fall into four broad areas: connectivity conservation, ecological interactions between parasitic plants and animals, biodiversity survey methods and habitat restoration. Combining community-scale descriptive work with species-specific studies, most of his work is restricted to vertebrates, with particular expertise on birds. He has complemented community-scale studies with resource-based approaches, treating mistletoe and other parasitic plants as model systems. Some of his research has been conducted in national parks, travelling stock reserves and other public lands, but most of his field sites are on private land and he work closely with natural resource agencies, regional bodies and individual landholders to convert his findings into practical on-ground outcomes to safeguard populations.

Dave is a handling editor for Austral Ecology and Oecologia and serves on the board of the Great Eastern Ranges. He chairs the research committee for the School of Agriculture, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences and is a founding member of the Slopes to Summit partnership, Wirraminna Environmental Education Centre and the Australasian Ornithological Conference steering committee. He was elected to the board of Birdlife Australia for two terms, and chaired the Research and Conservation Committee. He also served two terms on the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee and is an outspoken advocate for feral horse control across Australia.  Research highlights include establishing the Australian Acoustic Observatory, demonstrating the role of mistletoe as a keystone resource, and linking woodland bird declines to soil health and insect availability.

  • Managing biodiversity in agricultural landscapes
  • Measuring and predicting the biological effects of habitat fragmentation
  • Ecology of mistletoes and other parasitic plants
  • Ecoacoustics
  • Biodiversity inventory techniques
Full publications list on CRO

Recent publications

  • Allen-Ankins, S., McKnight, D. T., Nordberg, E. J., Hoefer, S., Roe, P., Watson, D. M., McDonald, P. G., Fuller, R. A., & Schwarzkopf, L. (2023). Effectiveness of acoustic indices as indicators of vertebrate biodiversity. Ecological Indicators, 147, [109937]. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2023.109937
  • Callan, M. N., & Watson, D. M. (Accepted/In press). Influence of nest box design on internal microclimate: Comparisons of plastic prototypes. Austral Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.13272
  • Znidersic, E., & Watson, D. (2022). Acoustic restoration: Using soundscapes to benchmark and fast-track recovery of ecological communities. Ecology Letters, 25(7), 1597-1603. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.14015
  • Watson, D. M., Mclellan, R. C., & Fonturbel, F. E. (2022). Functional Roles of Parasitic Plants in a Warming World. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 53, 25-45. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-102320-115331
  • Stevens, H. C., & Watson, D. M. (2022). Interacting impacts of drought and fire on bird populations-insights from a long-term study in the Warrumbungles. Australian Zoologist, 42(2), 608-630. https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2022.036