September 2017. Back in the the office after an action-packed Winter. A couple of days after the usual three-week trip to inland Australia (highlights from camera-trapping here), I traveled to Colombia for an a four-week trip. As well as presenting a summary of the Great Western Woodlands project and learning about the latest conservation science at the ICCB meeting in Cartagena, I made the most of the opportunity and spent three weeks in and around the Andes. Traveling with a professional birding guide was a new experience for me, and I experienced first-hand the growing use of call-playback for birding; the focus of two new student projects. All up, we encountered 621 bird species (highlights including eight flowerpiercers, eight antpittas, oilbirds, Toucan Barbets, Andean solitaires and the legendary Sword-billed Hummingbird) as well as a mistletoe with the longest flowers I’ve ever seen (Psittacanthus aff. cyclophyllus).
March 2017. Several new projects underway, including the National Acoustic Observatory, involving 350 permanent acoustic monitoring stations deployed across Australia. In the coming year, I’ll be working closely with project partners to finalize the location and installation of solar-powered acoustic sensors, generating terabytes of open access data. This project featured prominently in the recent Conservation Technology workshop organized by CEED. Finally, I’m finalizing preparations for a series of expeditions to search for the Long-beaked Echidna in the West Kimberley. Long thought to be endemic to New Guinea, a specimen collected in 1901 was recently rediscovered at the Natural History Museum, London, raising the intriguing possibility that this ancient mammal may still persist in rainforest pockets in northern Australia. Further information is available here, donations can be made here, and watch this space for continued updates…
October 2016. My first day in the office for a while, having just returned from the Little Desert, where I’ve set up a new collaborative study through the FAUNA Research Alliance in close collaboration with Conservation Volunteers Australia. This project is collecting important baseline data to learn more about how semi-arid woodlands function, and the specific effects that introduced predators are having on ecosystem processes, prior to a series of targeted reintroductions. As well as these long-term objectives, there’s plenty of scope for student projects associated with this work, including working on some of the more abundant species in this amazing ecosystem, like Boulenger’s Skink, Silky Mouse and ground-foraging birds.
July 2016. Just back from the fifteenth annual mid-year desert trip. Persistent rains made for a dynamic itinerary (rained in at Packsaddle) but the pay off was a spectacular floral display, with burr daisies, eremophilas, and even mulgas all in full flower. I’m heading over to Oregon later in the week for the the IUFRO mistletoe conference followed by fieldwork in the surrounding forests [Storify of all that happened]. My latest paper was just published in New Phytologist, reviewing recent work on the effects of mistletoe on woodland and forest communities, and proposing that interacting animals (including pollinators, seed dispersers, natural enemies) may underlie facilitative effects previously considered purely as pairwise plant-plant interactions.
October 2015. Back after a productive three months in Hawai’i, reflecting on some of the people, places and processes I encountered. In addition to pursuing several new directions, I finished up many manuscripts, including my first co-authored contribution with Maggie Watson. In this paper, we develop the Wildlife Restoration concept, suggesting animals need to be explicitly included in restoration efforts, especially in urban and agricultural settings where recolonization is too slow, too patchy or both.
June 2015. This is my last day in the office until mid November. I’m heading to New Zealand on the weekend to join a workshop on “Facilitation cascades across ecosystems and scales” organized by the Centre for Integrative Ecology at The University of Canterbury. Following a day of seminars where I’ll join a group of ten researchers to summarize our research, we’ll heading to the Kaikoura research station to put our heads together and write. A day after I return, I’m back out again, this time heading for Sturt National Park, for the 13 set of winter creek-line bird surveys, as well as catching up with my collaborators on the acoustic monitoring project. After a week in the desert, I then head to Honolulu Hawai’i for the 52nd annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology, followed by a three month stay at the Institute for Pacific Islands Forestry at Hilo, where I’ll be conducting some research on mistletoes as part of the Kipuka Project.
February 2015. A collaborative paper with Susie Anderson (now Lycett) and Valerie Olson was published, evaluating reproductive investment across all modern birds. Further information about this work available here
December 2014. Back after a successful trip to the desert with 20 students. So many highlights… freshwater crabs by the dozen, extended views of a Grey Falcon during a creekline bird survey, then even better looks at another at Cameron Corner (pictured below) and a large Murray Darling carpet python at Yathong on the way home. Camera-trapping within Sturt National Park was one of our priorities–as well as plenty of cats at all locations we visited, we photographed plenty of kangaroos, goats and even a dingo wandering through our campsite.
July 2014. Heading back out to the desert for a week, to complete the twelth round of creek-line bird surveys. This time, I’ll be joined by colleagues from Queensland University of Technology with whom I’m collaborating on an acoustic monitoring project–we’ll be installing permanent acoustic monitoring stations along the four creeklines. If all goes to plan, we’ll be able to collect high quality on occurrence patterns of birds without needing to drive 1,200 km!
April 2014. Just returned from a fortnight in the desert, setting up two new student projects examining host range in mistletoes and the foraging ecology of frugivorous birds. I also deployed another four song meters as part of the “Big Audio Data” collaboration, all the while live-tweeting updates as the @realscientist curator.