Projects

Maximising the resilience of pastures to grazing and extreme drought events (with DroughtNet and Sydney Institute of Agriculture)

This project aims to address the significant knowledge gap of how species composition may change due to extreme drought, and in-turn, quantify the loss of ecosystem function resulting from species turnover. Further, this project will identify species that contribute the most to function.

Funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation.

More information here.


The role of feral predators in disrupting small vertebrate communities in arid South Australia (with NESP Threatened Species Hub)

This project is investigating why native species persist in some refuge areas of South Australia but not others, and the role of habitat condition and especially feral predators in restricting their populations. The kowari and fawn hopping mouse are threatened and other species such as the plains mouse and crest-tailed mulgara are restricted in range.

Populations of the Kowari in South Australia are in decline and may need to be listed as Endangered. Photo Billy La Marca.

All species of northern South Australia are also at risk of fox and cat predation, less so where predator activity is suppressed by dingoes, particularly on vast stony plains where cover is inadequate for prolonged cat and fox occupation.

When the impacts of predators are understood, rebuilding ecological function may be possible through translocation of threatened species.

Download the project summary.

Download the research factsheet..

Help save the kowari. Join Team Kowari here.


DigiFarm. A digitally enabled durable agroecosystem (with Sydney Institute of Agriculture)

L’lara, Narrabri. Photo by Kieran Shephard

Investment over the past century by the University of Sydney is culminating in an integrated approach to its farming education and research activities. DigiFarm is an important stage in this activity, bringing together the community, farmers and environmental stakeholders. We aim to develop a digitally enabled network which will simultaneously monitor crop and animal production (including native flora and fauna), and soil and ecosystem health. The network will enable the triple bottom line framework of social, environmental and financial accounting to optimally manage a production ecosystem. Building on current investments in Narrabri, we shall build a physical and virtual DigiFarm hub and satellite farm network for north-west NSW providing digital dashboards of ‘health, production and social’ metrics. We will create an education platform at Narrabri for farmers, agribusiness, schools, environmental stakeholders to experience the latest ag-innovation thinking.


Identifying species of high conservation value for restoring ecosystem function after disturbance (with the Forest Dynamics Lab, The University of Technology Sydney)

This project aims to determine how ecosystem function changes after a disturbance (e.g. wildfire, extreme weather) event and partition each source of change from disturbance—species loss, gain and change in resident species dynamics—to ecosystem function. We aim to discover the mechanisms of how disturbance changes ecosystem function in order to identify species of high conservation value or act as a threatening process.


Can machine learning be used to accurately identify wildlife in remote camera trap images? (with WildCount, National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Government)

Kindly provided by WildCount, National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW

Motion-active or remote camera traps are now commonly used in wildlife studies around the globe. They are a powerful and cost-effective method to survey wildlife due to their ease in deployment and ability to continually monitor populations across time. However, a common limitation of camera traps is that they capture millions of images that need to be processed visually by an observer. Machine learning techniques provide a powerful and exciting opportunity to automate image processing; thereby reducing analysis and reporting time. The time gained by implementing an automated image processing pipeline and increase speed of reporting results can be used for on-ground species conservation management.

This project will work closely with WildCount, a large-scale wildlife monitoring program run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Government and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. It will test the feasibility of using machine learning algorithms for identifying species in camera trap images.


International long term ecological research network (iLTER): Simpson Desert, Australia (with the Desert Ecology Research Group at The University of Sydney, Australia)

Spinifex (Triodia basedowii) in the Simpson Desert, Qld. Photo by Aaron Greenville.

This project aims to quantify inter-relationships between the frequency and intensity of increased climate extremes, wildfire and introduced species and their effects on species dynamics.


The web of death: evaluating the ecosystem effects of carcasses (Project student: Emma Spencer at The University of Sydney, Australia and Global Ecology Lab at The University of Sydney)

Project OzScav’s main directive is to investigate the role of carrion in ecological communities in Australia. Follow project up-dates on Twitter by Emma ()


Technology for ecology and environmental sciences (with Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney)

Advances in technology, such as drones, remote camera traps and more recently open-source hardware and software have revolutionised data collection for cryptic species and surveys in remote locations. I have started a research theme investigating how scientists can use open-source hardware (Raspberry Pi and Arduino platforms) within their research programs, such as by building remote environmental sensor loggers. This project uses the latest innovations in technology from computer science, engineering and electronics to build custom devices with a reproducible workflow.

For more information see:

Greenville, A.C. and Emery, N.J. (2016). Gathering lots of data on a small budget. Science, 353: 1360-1361.


Does dynamic ecological change cause rapid evolution? (with Desert Ecology Research Group at The University of Sydney and Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra)

Abrupt environmental change has the potential to drive rapid evolution, which may facilitate species persistence in the face of novel challenges. But little is known about the evolutionary response of most natural populations to rapidly changing conditions. This project will use long-term genomic data to quantify rates of evolutionary change in species living in arid environments, whose populations fluctuate markedly in response to rainfall variation. By measuring the pace of genomic change in these species, and the evolutionary processes driving that change (selection, drift and gene flow), this project will reveal species’ evolutionary responses to major environmental fluctuations.


Macroecological patterns in the Anthropocene: explaining the diversity of life and its threats (with Forest Dynamics Lab at the University of Technology Sydney)

This project investigates what factors drive global biodiversity and identifies which threats are responsible for biodiversity decline.