ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Biodiversity Conservation

Led by  Associate Professor Peter Spooner

The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report.  All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.

  • About
  • Issues
  • Members
  • Outcomes
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Engagement
  • Postgrad Research
  • International Linkages


To conduct research aimed at understanding native plant and animal patterns and interactions in human modified landscapes with a focus on agricultural and urban landscapes, and to produce high quality research of national and international standing.


Spinebill honeyeaterWorldwide, human induced landscape change is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Modification and intensification of land-uses presents an on-going threat to remaining biodiversity.

Studies of biodiversity conservation in agricultural and urbanised landscapes invariably focus on remnants of native habitat. However agricultural and urbanised landscapes often contain a mosaic of native and non-farmland land-uses and habitats (e.g. crops, orchards, paddock trees, roadside vegetation, small reserves and farm gardens) which can often provide conditions for particular native species to persist, or even thrive. This SRA recognises the conservation value of entire landscapes, including its agricultural components, where the need to account for the costs and benefits  (in conservation and production terms) of all land-use types is critical to future management.

Cows in PaddockSituated at Australia's first environmentally friendly university campus, the research team works at the coalface of some of the country's most pressing environmental problems and in a landscape highly modified for agriculture, forming a natural focus and context for their expertise. Via collaborations with its international partners, the research team also engage in projects that extend to other terrestrial, aquatic and marine contexts which are also experiencing the impacts of human-induced change.

The SRA comprises of an experienced team of terrestrial ecologists (10) who have been recognized as leaders in the field of environmental science. They collaborate with partners both nationally and internationally to address biodiversity loss and work with practitioners to develop conservation and restoration strategies and action plans. With established networks encompassing community groups such as Landcare, non-governmental organizations, councils and state and federal agencies, the SRA provides informed advice on policy and planning initiatives. This SRA, which has traditionally been an area of strength for the Institute, was formalised in 2014 and incorporates the former Ecosystem Services SRA.

The research team included ILWS full time researchers, post-doctoral, 11 PhD students and honours students. The group expertise included:

  • vegetation and wildlife ecology
  • plant-animal interactions
  • animal behaviour
  • ecosystem services - the costs and benefits of living with nature
  • conservation biology of threatened species
  • landscape ecology - fragmentation effects - connectivity analyses
  • restoration ecology and practice
  • environmental history
  • road ecology and roadside vegetation management
  • biodiversity survey methods

Since 2007, researchers have led several large Commonwealth funded ARC projects, and worked on collaborative projects with numerous state agencies, in New South Wales and Victoria and, over the past three years, have completed a number of major and local community projects.

A three-year ARC Discovery project "Predicting the delivery of ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes" began in 2014 led by Prof Gary Luck.

Projects included:

  • key habitats and resources for native species in rural and urban landscapes
  • evaluating  the benefits and costs of living with nature
  • restoration and management of temperate woodlands
  • connectivity conservation
  • dispersal requirements of native species
  • pollination ecology
  • frugivory
  • roadside vegetation management
  • endangered frog ecology
  • ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes
  • diet of alpine herbivores
  • bio-acoustic observatory

Completed projects include:

  • managing biodiversity to maximise production and conservation aims
  • relationships between biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services
  • the ecological and heritage importance of large old native trees
  • starling management
  • effects of urban encroachment on squirrel gliders
  • frog communities of the mid and lower Lachlan River


Wheat CroppingWorldwide, human induced landscape change is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Although ecosystems and species possess some resilience to change, the speed and intensity of ongoing human modifications to the earth's natural components are placing significant stress on their ability to persist and survive. Global climate change places an even greater urgency upon efforts to better understand and conserve biodiversity and the ecosystem functions that it sustains.

Tree CropsResearch towards conserving biodiversity in agricultural landscapes has almost always focussed on remnants of native vegetation. Indeed, such 'islands' in the farming seascape are often critical to conserving species. However we recognise that farms can also provide important resources for native fauna - from crops to associated non-farmland habitats such as dams, gardens and orchards. In turn, biodiversity can also provide important benefits or services to production e.g. pollination for crops or control of insect pests.


Team Members



A/Prof Peter Spooner

Landscape, vegetation, historical and road ecology; environmental history

Prof Gary Luck (Adjunct) Ecosystems services and biodiversity
A/Prof Ian Lunt (Adjunct) Vegetation ecology, historical ecology, fire, grazing, endangered ecosystems
Dr Melanie Massaro Behavioural and evolutionary biological adaptation
Dr Dale NimmoAnimal ecology, analysis of big disturbances on biodiversity
Dr Jodi PricePlant community ecologist
Dr Wayne RobinsonExperimental design and analysis of long-term monitoring
Dr Manu Saunders (Adjunct)Ecosystem services and biodiversity
Dr Skye WassensEcology and conservation of wetland dependant amphibians
Prof David M Watson Parasitic plants, biological impact of habitat fragmentation 
Dr Maggie WatsonBehavioural ecology and conservation


Sugar gliderThis program aimed to provide new information to:

  • Identify key habitats and resources for native species,
  • Manage biodiversity to maximise production and conservation aims,
  • Evaluate the benefits and costs of living with nature,
  • Develop a better understanding of temperate woodland and grassland ecosystems,
  • Conserve and manage threatened species, and
  • Increase connectivity between isolated populations.

Key outcomes or examples of how the work of this SRA has made a difference include:

  • Researchers were able to identify how almond plantations contribute to the conservation of the threatened Regent Parrot and other native bird species; quantify the costs and benefits of bird use in almond orchards; and developed management recommendations for the almond industry to maximise conservation gains while minimising impacts on production.
  • The model developed from the "Designing landscapes to deliver eco-system services to agriculture" ARC Discovery project complete in 2012 will greatly enhance the flow of services from nature to agriculture by linking land-use options with service availability. This will improve economic returns to local communities and agricultural industries, and promote protection of native species by recognising their contribution to agriculture.
  • A four year ARC Future Fellowship (Prof Gary Luck), which examined the relationships between biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services was completed in 2014. The work developed and tested new methods to identify spatial priorities for protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity, and examined how animals contribute to ecosystem-service provision in agricultural landscapes.  It has led to a new ARC Discovery project with the expected major outcomes a greater capacity for agriculturalists to maximise ecosystem benefits and increase economic returns, and improved biodiversity conservation through recognition of its contribution to agriculture.
  • Findings from a project which examined the effects of urban encroachment on the use of hollow bearing trees by squirrel gliders have been used to inform conservation management approaches in the Albury area, and in urbanised landscapes elsewhere.




Peer Reviewed Papers

Price, J.N., Tamme, R., Gazol, A., de Bello, F., Takkis, K., Uria Diez, J., Kasari, L. and Pärtel, M. (2017) Within-community environmental variability drives trait variability in species-rich grasslands. Journal of Vegetation Science DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12487

Shackelford, N., Starzomski, B.M., Banning, N.C., Battaglia, L., Becker, A., Bellingham, P.J., Bestelmeter, B., Catford, J.A, Dwyer, J.M., Dynesius, M., Gilmour, J., Hallett, L.M., Hobbs, R.J., Price, J.N., Sasaki, T., Tanner, V.J., Standish, R. (2017) Connectivity predicts compositional change after discrete disturbances in a global meta-analysis. Ecography, DOI: 10.1111/ecog.02383s

Stelling, F., Allan, C., & Thwaites, R. (2017). Nature strikes back or nature heals? Can perceptions of regrowth in a post-agricultural landscape in South-eastern Australia be used in management interventions for biodiversity outcomes? Landscape and Urban Planning, 158, 202-210.

Watson, D.M., Doerr, V.A.J., Banks, S.C., Driscoll, D.A., van der Ree, R., Doerr, E.D., Sunnucks, P. (2017) Monitoring ecological consequences of efforts to restore landscape-scale connectivity. Biological Conservation 206: 201–09

Watson, D.M., Milner, K.V., Leigh, A. (2017) Novel application of species richness estimators to predict the host range of parasites. International Journal for Parasitology 47: 31–39


Peer Reviewed Papers

Lawrence, C., Paris, D., Briskie, J.V., Massaro, M. 2016.When the neighbourhood goes bad: can endangered black robins adjust nest site selection in response to the risk of an invasive predator. Animal Conservation

Hale, S., Nimmo, D.G., White, J. et al. (2016) Fire and climatic extremes shape mammal distributions in a fire-prone landscape. Diversity and Distributions.

Hall, M., Nimmo, D.G., Bennett, A.F. (2016) At the crossroads: does the configuration of roadside vegetation affect woodland bird communities in rural landscapes? PloS One

Doherty, T., Glen, A.S., Nimmo, D.G., Ritchie, E.G. & Dickman, C.R. (2016) Invasive predators and global biodiversity loss.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Vol 113, No 40. pp 11261-11265 (This paper featured as a  Research Highlight , Rats and cats drive extinctions, in Nature 537, Issue 7622  (published online Sept 28, 2016) ; in Science magazine and New Scientist )

Farmilo, B., Morgan, J., Nimmo, D.G. (2016). Plant growth in a fragmented forest is a consequence of top-down and bottom-up processes, but not their interaction. Journal of Plant Ecology. Published online June 27.

Legge, S., Murphy, B.P., McGregor, H. et al including Nimmo, D. (2016) Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia? Biological Conservation, 

Ritchie, R.G., Dorresteijn, I., Schultner, J., Nimmo, D.G., Hanspach, J., Kehoe, L., Kuemmerle, T., Fischer, J. (2016) Crying wolf: limitations of predator-prey studies need not preclude their salient messages. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 283: 20161244 Published online July 13DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1244.

Pryde, E.C., Nimmo, D.G., Holland, G., Watson, S.J. (2016) Species' traits affect the occurrence of birds in a native timber plantation landscape. Animal Conservation DOI: 10.1111/acv.12268

Callister, K., Girffioen, P., Avitabile, S.F., Haslem, A., Fraser, L., Taylor, R., Kenny, S., Farnsworth, L., Kelly, L.T., Nimmo, D.G., Watson, S. (2016) Historical maps from modern images: Using remote sensing to model and map century-long vegetation change in a fire-prone region. PloS One.

Paris, D., Nicholls, A.O., Hall, A., Harvey, A., & Massaro, M. (2016) Female-biased dispersal in a spatially-restricted endemic island bird. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Poudel, B.S., Spooner, P.G. & Matthews, A. (2016) Behavioural changes in marmots in relation to livestock grazing disturbance: an experimental test. European Journal of Wildlife Research

Peisley, R.K., Saunders, M.E. & Luck, G.W. (2016) Cost-benefit trade-offs of bird activity in apple orchards. Peer J. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.2179

Morgan, J.W., Dwyer, J., Price, J.N., Prober, S.M., Power, S.A., Firn, J., Moore, J., Wardle, G., Seabloom, E.W., Borer, E.T. & Camac, J.S. (2016) Growing season precipitation affects rate of annual biomass production more than nutrient addition in Australian grasslands. Journal of Vegetation Science. DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12450

Tamme, R.,Gazol, A., Price, J.N., Hiiesalu, I. & Pärtel, M. (2016) Species-specific responses to soil heterogeneity in experimental grassland communities. Journal of Vegetation Science 27, 1012-1022.

Saunders, M. E., Peisley, R.K., Rader, R. & Luck, G.W. (2016) Pollinators, pests and predators: recognising ecological trade-offs in agroecosystems. Ambio 45, 4-14.

Saunders, M.E. & Luck, G.W. (2016) Combining costs and benefits of animal activities to assess net yield outcomes in apple orchards. PLOS One. 11(7): e0158618

Saunders, M.E. & Luck, G.W. (2016) Limitations of the ecosystem services versus disservices dichotomy. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12740

Smith, T.J. & Saunders, M.E. (2016) Honey bees: the queens of mass media, despite minority rule among insect pollinators. Insect Conservation and Diversity. doi: 10.1111/icad.12178

Spooner, P. & Shoard, J. (2016) Using historic maps and citizen science to investigate the abundance and condition of survey reference `blaze´ trees. Australian Journal of Botany

Watson, D. M. (2016), Fleshing out facilitation – reframing interaction networks beyond top-down versus bottom-up. New Phytol, 211: 803–808. doi:10.1111/nph.14052

Haddaway, N.R. & Watson, M.J. (2016) On the benefits of systematic reviews for wildlife parasitology. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife. 5 (2), 184-191

Woinarski,  J. C. Z., MacRae, I.,  Flores, T., Detto, T.,  Reid, J., Pink, C.,  Flakus, S.,  Misso, m.,  Hamilton, N., Palmer, R., Morris, K., Znidersic, L. & Hill, B.  lConservation status and reintroduction of the Cocos Buff-banded Rail, Gallirallus philippensis andrewsi Emu – Austral Ornithology 116(1), 32–40

General Publications

Saunders, M.E. (2016) Out There: Beyond the birds and the bees, Wildlife Australia. (Winter) 4-6

Book Chapters

Luck, G.W. (2016) 'Service Providing Units' in Potschin, M., Haines-Young, R., Fish, R. and Turner, R.K. (eds) Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. Routledge, London and New York.

Beliakov, G., Geschke, A., James, S., Nimmo, D.G. (2016). Linear Optimization for Ecological Indices Based on Aggregation Functions. In Carvalso, J.P., Lesot, M., Kaymak, U., Viera, S. et al (Editors) Information Processing and Management of Uncertainty in Knowledge-Based Systems. Proceedings, Part II I of the 16th International Conference, IPMU 2016, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, June 20 - 24, 2016, Volume 611, of the Communications in Computer and Information Science series published by Springer.

Saunders, M., Cunningham, S. & Rader, R. (2016)   Chapter 3. Agricultural Beescapes in Australian Native Bees, AgGuide series published by NSW Department of Primary Industries.


Peer Reviewed Papers 

McDonald, P., Luck, G.W., Dickman, C., Ward, S. & Crowther, M. (2015) Using multiple-source occurrence data to identify patterns and drivers of decline in arid-dwelling Australian marsupials. Ecography. DOI: 10.1111/ecog.01212

Hunter, A.J. & Luck, G.W. (2015) Defining and measuring the social-ecological quality of urban greenspace: a semi-systematic review. Urban Ecosystems.

Holland, J.E., Luck, G.W., Finlayson, C.M. Threats to food production and water quality in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia.  Ecosystem Services  (2015) pp. 55-70 DOI information: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2015.02.008

Luck, G.W., Hunt, K. & Carter, A. (2015) The species and functional diversity of birds in almond orchards, apple orchards, vineyards and eucalypt woodlots. Emu: Austral Ornithology DOI 10.1071/MU14022

Allan, B., Ierodiaconou, D., Nimmo, D.G., Herbert, M., Ritchie, E. (2015). Free as a drone: ecologists can add UAVs to their toolbox. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment volume 13, issue 7

Chia, E. K., Bassett, M., Nimmo, D. G.,   Leonard, S. W. J ., Ritchie, E. G.,   Clarke, M. F. and Bennett, A. F. (2015) Fire severity and fire-induced landscape heterogeneity affect arboreal mammals in fire-prone forests. Ecosphere 6(10):190.

Avitabile, S.C., Nimmo, D.G., Bennett, A.F., Clarke, M.F. (2015) Termites Are Resistant to the Effects of Fire at Multiple Spatial Scales. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0140114. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140114

Haslem, A., Nimmo, D.G., Radford, J., Bennett, A.F. (2015) Landscape properties mediate the homogenization of bird assemblages during climatic extremes. Ecology.

Doherty, T., Dickman, C., Nimmo, D.G., Ritchie, E.G. (2015) Multiple threats or multiplying the threats? Interactions between invasive predators and other ecological disturbances. Biological Conservation. Vol 190, pp 60-80

Nimmo, D.G., Mac Nally, R., Cunningham, S., Haslem, A., Bennett, A.F. (2015) Vive la resistance: reviving resistance for 21st century conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Vol 30, Iss.9. pp 516-523

Dorresteijn, I., Schultner, J., Nimmo, D.G., Ritchie, E.G., Hanspach, J., Kehoe, L., Kuemmerle, T., Fischer, J. (2015). Incorporating anthropogenic effects into trophic ecology: predator-prey interactions in a human-dominated landscape. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. Vol 282, Iss. 1814

Nimmo, D.G., Haslem, A., Radford, J., Hall, M., Bennett, A.F. (2015) Riparian tree cover enhances the resistance and stability of woodland bird communities during an extreme climatic event.  Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12535

Poudel, B.S., Spooner, P.G. & Matthews, A. (2015) Temporal shift in activity patterns of Himalayan marmots in relation to pastoralism. Behavioral Ecology 26 (5): 1345-1351. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arv083

Saunders, M.E., Peisley, R. & Luck, G. K.  (2015) Pollinators, pests, and predators: Recognizing ecological trade-offs in agroecosystems. AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment, DOI:10.1007/s13280-015-0696-y

Saunders, M.E. (2015) Stone structures as potential aggregation sites for coccinellids in managed landscapes. The Victorian Naturalist 132:86.88

Saunders, M.E. (2015) Lost in a floral desert, Wildlife Australia, Autumn, 10-13

Saunders, M.E. (2015) Resource connectivity for beneficial insects in landscapes dominated by monoculture tree crop plantations. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability

Spooner, P.G. (2015) Minor rural road networks: values, challenges, and opportunities for biodiversity conservation. Nature Conservation 11, 129-142.

Francis, M.J.SpoonerP. G., & MatthewsA. (2015) The influence of urban encroachment on squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis): effects of road density, light and noise pollutionWildlife Research 42(4), 324–333.

Watson, D.M. (2015) Disproportionate Declines in Ground-Foraging Insectivorous Birds after Mistletoe Removal. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0142992. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142992

Watson, D.M. & Watson, M.J. (2015) Wildlife restoration: Mainstreaming translocations to keep common species common. Biological Conservation.

Watson, D.M., Anderson, S.E., & Olson, V. (2015) Reassessing Breeding Investment in Birds: Class-Wide Analysis of Clutch Volume Reveals a Single Outlying Family. PLoS ONE 10(1): e0117678. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117678

General Publications 

Luck, G.W. & Saunders, M.E. (2015) Nature – how do I value thee? Let me count the ways. Wildlife Australia, Autumn, 38-39

Book Chapters

Lunt, I. (2015) Field guide to the future, pp 114-120 in Nogrady, B. (Ed) The Best Australian Science Writing 2015, Newsouth Books, UNSW, Sydney

Saunders, M. (2015) Lost in a floral desert, pp 246-250 in Nogrady, B. (Ed) The Best Australian Science Writing 2015, Newsouth Books, UNSW, Sydney

Conference Papers

Luck, G. (2015) ESA Urban Ecology Research Chapter: A brief history and future direction, at Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference, Nov 29 to Dec 3, Adelaide, South Australia

Lunt, I. (2015) From science to inspiration: 10 tips to promote ecological literacy and successful conservation in our communities, Keynote speaker at the 6th Biodiversity Across the Borders Conference 2015, Federation University, Ballarat, June 12

Price, J. (2015) Functional trait responses to small-scale environmental variability in temperate grasslands on five continents, at Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference, Nov 29 to Dec 3, Adelaide, South Australia

Rawson, A. (2015) Climate change, biodiversity & agriculture in central NSW presented at 2015  Biodiversity Dreaming Conference, CSU, Bathurst, Nov 10-11

Saunders, M. (2015) Net outcomes of ecological interactions between arthropods and crops, at Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference, Nov 29 to Dec 3, Adelaide, South Australia

Saunders, M. (2105) Costs vs benefits of birds and insects in agricultural landscapes. Case study: Victorian apple orchards.6th Biodiversity Across the Borders Conference 2015, Federation University, Ballarat, June 12.

Spooner, P. (2015) The role of TSRs in conserving biological connectivity and Indigenous history, presented at 2015  Biodiversity Dreaming Conference, CSU, Bathurst, Nov 10-11

Spooner, P. (2015) Biodiversity interactions in mallee almond crops. 6th Biodiversity Across the Borders Conference 2015, Federation University, Ballarat, June 12

Watson, D. (2015) Wildlife restoration: applying lessons learned from revegetation to safeguard native animal populations, at Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference, Nov 29 to Dec 3, Adelaide, South Australia

Watson, D.M. (2015) Methodological norms in terrestrial bird surveys--current approaches are incomplete, inconsistent and unreliable. Presented at the 52nd Association for Tropical Biology & Conservation conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 12-16

Watson, D.M. (2015) Wildlife restoration: applying lessons learned from revegetation to safeguard native animal populations. 6th Biodiversity Across the Borders Conference 2015, Federation University, Ballarat, June 12.


Watson, S.J., Luck, G.W., Spooner, P.G. & Watson, D.M. (2014). Deconstructing human-induced land-cover change: incorporating the interacting effects of frequency, sequence, timespan and magnitude of changes on biota. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 12, 241-249. Evaluated for Faculty of 1000 top papers in biology.

Luck, G., Spooner, P., Watson,  D.M., Watson, S., Saunders, M. (2014). Interactions between almond plantations and native ecosystems: lessons learned from north-western Victoria. Ecological Management and Restoration. Vol 15, Issue 1, pp 4-15.

Grimaldi, W., Hall, R., White, D., Wang, J., Massaro, M., Tompkins, D. (2014) First report of a feather loss condition of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on Ross Island, Antarctica, and a preliminary investigation into its cause. Emu.

Varsani, A., Porzig, E.L., Jennings, S., Kraberger, S., Frakas, K., Julian,L., Massaro, M., Ballard, G., Ainley, D.G. (2014) Identification of an avian polyomavirus associated with Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae). Journal of General Virology.

Watson, S.J., Watson, D.M., Luck, G.W., Spooner, P.G. (2014) Effects of landscape composition and connectivity on the distribution of an endangered parrot in agricultural landscapes. Landscape Ecology 29, 1249–1259.


Luck, G.W., Carter, A. & Smallbone, L. (2013). Changes in bird functional diversity across multiple land uses: interpretations of functional redundancy depend on functional group identity. PLoS One. 8(5): e63671.

Massaro, M., Sainudiin, R., Merton, D., Briskie, J.V., Poole,A.M, et al. (2013) Human-Assisted Spread of a Maladaptive Behavior in a Critically Endangered Bird. PLOS ONE 8(12): e79066. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.007906

Saunders, M.E. & Luck, G.W. (2013) Pan-trap catches of pollinator insects vary with habitat context.  Australian Journal of Entomology. Vol 52, Issue 2, pp106-113

Saunders, M.E., Luck, G.W., & Mayfield, M.M. (2013) Almond orchards with living ground cover host more wild insect pollinators. Journal of Insect Conservation 17:1011-1025

Watson, D.M., Rawsthorne, J. (2013) Mistletoe specialist frugivores: latterday 'Johnny Appleseeds' or self-serving market gardeners? Oecologia 172:925–932

Barea, L., Watson, D.M. (2013) Trapped between popular fruit and preferred nest location—cafeterias are poor places to raise a family. Functional Ecology 27:766–74

Stevens, H.C., Watson, D.M. (2013) Reduced rainfall explains avian declines in an unfragmented landscape: incremental steps toward an empty forest? Emu: Austral Ornithology 113:112–121.Book Chapters



Community Event

On Friday, November 4, 2016, the Woolshed Thurgoona Landcare Group held a spotlighting night at the Hume Dam Wall Reserve picnic area with Drs Wayne Robinson and Alison Matthews.

The National Rewilding Forum

On the 7th of September, ILWS members Prof. David and Dr Maggie Watson attended the National Rewilding Forum, organized by the National Parks Association of NSW.  Forty-five people attended the forum, delegates coming from a wide range of universities, agencies and non-governmental organizations. The full proceedingspdf from the forum are available to ILWS members and will be fascinating reading for everyone interested in safeguarding the long-term future of Australian wildlife.

Conserving birds

Dr Dale Nimmo, on behalf of the Greater Eastern Ranges Slopes 2 Summit Initiative gave a presentation on the importance of riparian vegetation for the conservation of woodland birds at the Murray Local Land Services office in Albury on August 15.


The Wirraminna Environmental Education Centre, at Burrumbuttock, held an Open Day on Sept 11. Taking part in the day were researchers Professor David Watson, Dr Maggie Watson and Dr Melanie Massarro, all of whom are on the centre's management committee. Maggie helped run some of the activities "for children of all ages" and Melanie gave a talk on her work in Antarctica.

Celebrating iconic Eucalypts

Dr Peter Spooner was one of the contributors to Corowa District Landcare's book Beauty, Rich and Rare, Celebrating our Region's Iconic Eucalypts launched in June, 2016.The book includes a section on survey blaze trees - the subject of a project Dr Spooner and his Honours student Jake Shoard did two years ago using a citizen-science approach involving members of Corowa Landcare and local landholders. Some other large Eucalypt trees identified in a previous project led by Dr Spooner (through the Slopes to Summit's Big Tree Competition) were also included in the book.

School visits

Dr Manu Saunders visited Grade 5s at Trinity College, Albury on June 3 as part of the School Environment Day activities to talk about wild pollinators. The visit was one of the conditions of her 2015 Outstanding Outreach Award from the Office of Environment & Heritage/Ecological Society of Australia. Dr Saunders, and the other award winners based in Sydney, Melbourne & Canberra, ran an ecological experiment with a local school class to collect pollinator insects on the school grounds.


Dr Manu Saunders is the new curator of Australia's Best Nature & Ecology Blogs@ Best.Ecology.Blogs previously managed by ILWS Adjunct researcher Associate Professor Ian Lunt.

Innovations in Landscape Conservation Forum

Dr Dale Nimmo delivered the John Paul Memorial Lecture at the  Innovations in Landscape Conservation Forum held on Tuesday, May 17 at CSU/GOTAFE Wangaratta. Organised by the North East CMA in conjunction with Trust for Nature, DELWP and ILWS, the day which attracted over 90 people, included talks on deer management issues, fish ecology in inland rivers by Dr Lee Baumgarnter and the management of carp threats.

Happy Valley Workshop

Dr Wayne Robinson was on Fraser Island, Queensland, (11-14 April) to run a workshop for Fraser Coast volunteers and residents from Happy Valley community on the island for the Happy Valley Bush Regeneration Project.

Wild Pollinator Autumn Count

Over 200 observations were submitted for the autumn count as the interest in native pollinators continues to grow. With the help of Murray LLS and Kylie Durrant of Holbrook Landcare some handy pocket guides "Pollinator Insects of the South West Slopes of NSW and North East Victoria" have been printed and are available via Dr Manu Saunders.  The next count will be run from 13-20 November 2016.


Wildlife Trapping Night

Drs Lee Baumgartner and Wayne Robinson ran a community wildlife trapping night with the Thurgoona Woolshed Landcare group around Corry Wood, Thurgoona, on Friday, November 13.  The night attracted about 30 community members, including lots of children.

Wild Pollinator Count
The national Wild Pollinator Count (involving Dr Manu Saunders) was held November 15-22 and included live events on around the Albury region (in partnership with the Slopes 2 Summit initiative).

Indigenous connection
Dr Wayne Robinson spent a number of days in August with the Barkindji Maraura Elders Environment Team who are undertaking environmental research in the lower Darling region, NSW as part of a collaborative three year project funded by the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and La Trobe University. Wayne assisted with the project's design.

Frog Wander
Dr Skye Wassens and PhD student Amelia Walcott took a group of more than 30 people interested in frogs on a "Frog Wander" on Saturday, August 15, on a property at Wooragee in North East Victoria. The event was organised by the Wooragee Landcare Group and participants learnt about local frog species, habitat and identifying in the field.

Biodiversity in Rural Landscapes

A record number of over 550 people attended the conference on Friday, June 12.  The program featured five ILWS speakers.

A/Prof Ian Lunt delivered the keynote address. "From science to inspiration: 10 tips to promote ecological literacy and successful conservation in our communities."

Prof Dave M Watson "Wildlife restoration: applying lessons learned from revegetation to safeguard native animal populations".

Dr Peter Spooner "Biodiversity interactions in mallee almond crops."

Dr Manu Saunders "Costs vs benefits of birds and insects in agricultural landscapes. Case study: Victorian apple orchards."

Adjunct Dr Simon Watson "Conserving biodiversity in human landscapes - patterns in time and space."

Abstracts and Program PDF

FAUNA Research Alliance

faunaCSU has been part of multiple bids to establish a new Cooperative Research Centre to develop and trial innovative decision and on-ground tools to safeguard Australasian biodiversity. Professor David Watson has been a key player in this process. Although unsuccessful, the organisations involved in this bid remain committed to this vision, formalised as the FAUNA Research Alliance. ILWS has made a commitment to become an institutional partner of this alliance.

Biggest Tree Competition

The Institute, along with the NSW Government's Environmental Trust and the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, sponsored the Slopes to Summit (S2S) Big Tree Competition which ran from February this year to the start of April.  The competition generated plenty of community interest with entries even coming beyond the S2S project area, which covers  an area north of the Murray River from Mount
Kosciuszko to Corowa, and south of Henty, Holbrook and Tumbarumba. The response to the competition was very strong nation-wide as indicated by the hits on its Flickr page, which had over 14,000 views in four days after the winners were announced. The winner of the Big Paddock tree (submitted by Anne Hicks, Holbrook) was a River red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) with a girth 950cm circumference at 1.3m above ground."S2S is about increasing connectivity across the landscape for biodiversity which is strongly linked to the aims of the Institute's Biodiversity  Conservation SRA," says Dr Peter Spooner who is on the S2S Working Group.  Dr Peter Spooner  spoke on ABC Riverina breakfast with Anne Delaney at 7.30am on 6/5/2015 and at 9.35am on 7/5/2015 with Tim Holt of ABC Radio Bega about the success of the  Big Tree competition.

Single-crop farming is leaving wildlife with no room to turn Dr Manu Saunders' recent research shows a  possible link between monoculture landscapes and fewer wild pollinators in her article in The Conversation appearing on 14 May 2015.

Nature how do I value thee? Let me count the ways, and Lost on a floral desert are two articles by ILWS ecologist's Dr Manu Suanders and Prof Gary Luck published in Wildlife Australia Magazine in March 2015.

Dr Dale Nimmo writes a blog on Biodiversity Research

A/ Prof Ian Lunt communicates ecology and conservation biology to the broader community through
regular stories and essays on his Ecology for Australia blog site. This site is now one of the
most popular ecological blogs in Australia.

Dr Manu Saunders hosts a blog site titled "Ecology is not a dirty word", which gains much attention in the ecological community online.

Postgrad Research


Research Topic

Carmen AmosFrogs in the middle and lower Lachlan catchment and how biophysical factors impact their occupancy patterns 
Principal Supervisor Dr Skye Wassens
(Thesis submitted 2017)
Ashlea HunterInvestigating the link between social and ecological benefits of urban green space
Principal Supervisor Associate Professor Jonathon Howard 
Clare LawrenceWho is to blame? Identification of predators at the nests of Tasmanian songbirds
Principal Supervisor Dr Melanie Massaro 
Helenna Mihailou

The effects of feral animals on bird diversity around waterholes in the Northern Territory.
Supervisors Dr Melanie Massaro and Dr Dale Nimmo

Harry MooreNorthern Quolls in the Pilbara region of WA
Principal Supervisor Dr Dale Nimmo
ILWS Scholarship 
Zsofia (Sophie) Palfi The role of novel human disturbances on ant-plant interactions in roadside environments.
Principal Supervisor Dr Peter Spooner  
Dena ParisForaging behaviour, habitat use and density related reproductive performance and dispersal in the endangered Chatham Island black robin
Principal Supervisor Dr Melanie Massaro
Rebecca Peisley Predicting the delivery of ecosystems services in agricultural landscapes.
Principal Supervisor Professor Gary Luck
(Thesis submitted 2017)
Cecile Van der BurghConnectivity conservation management in practice  
Principal Supervisor Dr Peter Spooner 
Liz Znidersic The detectability of cryptic birds (Lewin's rail, Cocos Buff-banded rail and other rail species) to assist with conservation /management options.
Principal Supervisor Professor Dave Watson
PhD Completions
Dr Alexandra Knight The case for Sloanes Froglet: Generating ecological knowledge with the intent to benefit biodiversity.
Principal Supervisor Associate Professor Robyn Watts 
Dr Buddi PoudelThe effects of pastoralism on the behaviour of the Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana) in high altitude rangelands in Nepal.
Principal Supervisor Dr Alison Matthews 
Dr Eak RanaREDD+ and ecosystem services trade-offs and synergies in community forests of central Himalaya, Nepal
Principal Supervisor Dr Rik Thwaites 

International Linkages

SRA members  continued to develop international linkages with other Universities,research centres or collaborative groups, which include:

Prof Gary Luck. Collaborations with researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and other centres to develop new projects and co-author journal articles on the topics of ecosystem services and functional traits.
Dr Peter Spooner. Ongoing participation in the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE), a collaborative researcher and manager forum to develop solutions to mitigate the impacts of roads on the environment.
Prof Dave Watson. Collaboration on the ecology of forest mistletoes with Prof Robert Matthiason at Northern Arizona University and Prof David Shaw, Head of the Forest Health Laboratory at Oregon State University - coordinator of the "Parasitic plants of forest trees" working group at IUFRO.
Dr Maggie Watson is working in collaborative with Prof Bill Sutherland (University of Cambridge) and Prof Amos Bouskila (Ben Gurion University, Israel) on a 'Conservation Evidence' project.
Dr Melanie Massaro works in collaboration with researchers in New Zealand (University of Canterbury, Landcare Research), the United States (H.T. Harvey and Associates, Point Blue Conservation Science, US Geological Survey), and France (Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CEFECNRS) studying eco-physiology, health and ecology of Adélie penguins in Antarctica. She also works collaboratively with researchers at the University of Canterbury, University of Melbourne and the Department of Conservation on the conservation and management of threatened and endangered New Zealand songbirds; and with researchers in New Zealand (University of
Canterbury) and Brazil (Federal University of Santa Catarina) on food security.