I am a theoretical and applied ecologist who specializes in linking ecological theory to the sustainable management of degraded grasslands and forests. The driving motivation throughout my career has been to find smarter, cheaper and more sustainable ways of restoring degraded plant communities. Many of the ecosystem functions that humans need to survive are provided by richly diverse ecosystems, such as oxygen production, water filtration, nutrient cycling, pollination, and carbon sequestration. Globally, unsustainable land use has led to the degradation of many valuable ecosystems and the loss of irreplaceable biodiversity. I am passionately committed to developing a better understanding of how the loss of native biodiversity impacts on ecosystems and subsequently finding better ways to bring it back.

The global population is predicted to plateau at 9 billion by 2050, and with this population explosion our natural resources will experience unprecedented pressures. The irreplaceable loss of native biodiversity is accelerating at an alarming rate globally with biotas across continents increasing in similarity via widespread transport and dominance of exotic species. Management of extinction and invasion processes have become global priorities, as mass conversion of native ecosystems is resulting in the loss of essential services like productivity, hydrological flows and nutrient cycling. Despite worldwide concern and countless hypotheses, there is little conclusive evidence explaining how or why some plant species become invasive when introduced into a new habitat. Ecologically this global success is surprising given exotic species lack long-term evolutionary history with their new environments. As a result, the ability of some plant species to colonize, persist, and expand ranges in new habitats over relatively short time frames is described as a paradox.

We need to know how the changes we are making to our native biodiversity is impacting on the long-term sustainability of key ecosystem services and we need better management strategies to restore these services once they are lost.

I am actively researching: priority threat management of invasive plants and animals in the Lake Eyre Basin, identifying the mechanisms which facilitate opportunities for invasive plants , bottom-up (soil nutrients) and top-down (herbivory) controls on plant species diversity in grassland communities, quantifying the complex role between biodiversity and ecosystem functions in grasslands (Darling Downs QLD, Bega, NSW), rainforests (Leyte island, Philippines) and eucalypt forests (Logan City, QLD) to improve restoration efforts, understanding the complex traits that determine whether a plant species is abundant or rare, and the population level significance of plant phenotypic plasticity in response to disturbance.

Experience

  • –present
    OCE Postdoctoral Fellow, CSIRO