CIE Seminar Series – 2020: The Disappearing Asian Elephant – Using Movement Ecology to Inform Conservation

SPEAKER: Dr John McEvoy, Research Associate, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Conservation Ecology Center, National Zoological Park, VA, USA

DATE & TIME: Friday, 14th August 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Asian elephants are in real danger of disappearing from the world, with 10 times fewer left in the wild than their African counterparts. Paradoxically, Asian elephants are deeply embedded into human culture and civilization across their range yet we know little about some of their basic ecology, movements and behavior in the wild.

Myanmar represents possibly the last best hope for the Asian elephant with its expansive areas of intact forest but elephant habitat is being encroached upon by humans and a horrific skin poaching crisis has emerged in recent years.

By analyzing their movement behaviour to support conservation actions and with the continued support and determination of local and international partners we can hopefully guide these endangered giants off the path to extinction.


BIO.

John McEvoy is a research associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Conservation Ecology Center. John’s work revolves around conservation and animal movement behavior, specifically the interplay between environmental, physiological and cognitive factors that shape observed patterns of movement in wide-ranging and nomadic species. John’s work at SCBI addresses pressing conservation concerns for threatened species around the world with two main projects covering Asian elephants and the illegal wildlife trade in Myanmar and Przewalski’s horse and grey wolves in Mongolia.

John hails from the Republic of Ireland and came to the Centre for Integrative Ecology in 2010 to work with Prof. Andy Bennett, Dr. David Roshier and Dr. Raoul Ribot, completing his PhD in 2015. John’s PhD research investigated the spatial ecology of nomadic waterfowl in the arid regions of inland Australia and identified key environmental factors that influence the initiation of long distance nomadic flight. Postdoctoral work in Australia includes combining tools such satellite tracking, rapid-response satellite imagery and UAV-mounted cameras to provide accurate counts of waterfowl on targeted wetlands within landscapes where the distribution of habitat is often unpredictable.

John has worked in the Mammal Unit at University of Bristol (UK), at the Behavioural and Physiological Ecology group at University of New England (Australia) and as a consultant wildlife ecologist with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. He is a passionate advocate for evidence-based approaches to developing conservation policy and has collaborated with many research groups and NGOs around the world on taxa as diverse as parrots, foxes, waterfowl, fish, passerines, and elephants.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Numerical ability and quantity use in honeybees

SPEAKER: Dr Scarlett Howard, Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellow, Symonds Lab, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, Deakin University

DATE & TIME: Friday, 7th August 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Many non-human animals demonstrate some level of numerical ability which includes an understanding of complex numerical concepts such as arithmetic, sequential ordering of numbers, or an understanding the concept of zero. Although very little research has been done on numerical ability in invertebrates, honeybees and several other insects have been shown to possess some numerical capabilities.

I have recently assessed the capacity of honeybees to exhibit complex numeric skills such as number categorisation, extrapolation, and simple arithmetic. Honeybees can place an empty set in the correct position along a line of sequential numbers, learn to categorise numbers as greater or lesser in context, acquire abstract colour-based rules to solve elementary incremental and decremental problems, and demonstrate an ability to match symbols with specific quantities.

Furthermore, I will present recent data on how bees use number skills in natural foraging situations. In some cases, honeybees have mastered numerical concepts at a level that parallels abilities demonstrated by primates, mammals, birds, and other vertebrates.


BIO.

Scarlett Howard explores conceptual learning, neurobiology, and visual perception in honeybees as well as insect diversity, pollinator preferences, and plant-pollinator interactions.

She has worked on honeybee learning, cognition, behaviour, and vision for about 7 years and is currently an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University conducting research on the effect of anthropogenic environmental change on native and introduced pollinators with a focus on bees.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: “Towards a sustainable production of Osmundea pinnatifida” and “CR-P Seaweed solutions for sustainable Aquaculture”

SPEAKER: Dr Cecilia Biancacci, PostDoctoral Researcher (Warrnambool Campus) Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

DATE & TIME: Friday, 31st July 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Seaweed aquaculture is a growing sector worldwide, increasing dramatically in the past 50 years. Wild harvesting of seaweed biomass is not sustainable in the long-term and it is affected by the seasonality of the biomass. Hence, cultivation represents the preferred option for future exploitation of commercially interesting seaweeds.

Farmed seaweed production accounts approximately for 97% of the global seaweed supply, with just over 30 million tonnes wwt in 2016, reaching a value of US$11.7 billion. It is widely recognized that seaweeds are valuable resources, with various commercial applications in food, feed, fertilizer, cosmetics, textile, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical products, as well as biofilters in Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture systems (IMTA).

Here is presented a Ph.D. thesis that focused on the cultivation, biochemical composition and potential commercial applications of a less-known red seaweed, O. pinnatifida, and it is given an overview of the “Seaweed Solutions for Sustainable Aquaculture” CRC-P project, that aims to facilitate the cultivation of Australian kelps together with Atlantic salmon and blue mussels in eastern Tasmania, providing the understanding needed to guide both industry and decision-makers in the development of sustainable Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) in Tasmania and south-eastern Australia.


BIO.

Post Doc Research Fellow at Warrnambool campus within the project “CRC-P Seaweed Solutions for Sustainable Aquaculture”, currently investigating the potential of seaweed cultivation in Tasmania in an integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) system.

My role in the project is to optimize the cultivation methodologies of the Australian seaweeds investigated and to perform biochemical analyses of the biomass, to identify potential markets for the final products.

My main research interest centers around aquaculture of different organisms and species, with a focus on seaweed and their potential commercial applications. I have a Bachelor in Biological Sciences (University of Tor Vergata, Italy), a Master in Marine Bio-ecology (University of Cagliari, Italy), and a Ph.D. in Marine Biology (SAMS, UK), with more than 7 years of experience in the aquaculture field, including microalgae, invertebrates, and macroalgae.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: The effects of grazing mammals on the Endangered alpine she-oak skink and its habitat

SPEAKER: Ms Renee Hartley (PhD candidate), Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

DATE & TIME: Friday, 24th July 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Ecosystems in the Australian alpine region are facing increasing pressures, including human disturbance, fire and climate change. Invasive herbivores can have severe and sustained impacts on these sensitive ecosystems.

The Endangered alpine she-oak skink (Cyclodomorphus praealtus) occurs in the alpine region of New South Wales and Victoria, with populations in the two jurisdictions considered genetically distinct. The species’ conservation status and habitat requirements are poorly understood in New South Wales, despite much of its range occurring in Kosciuszko National Park. Its primary habitat is subalpine grasslands, which are key grazing habitat for invasive herbivores.

This research addresses important knowledge gaps for managing the unique Australian subalpine grasslands and the alpine she-oak skink by quantifying the impacts of native and invasive herbivores and determining the habitat and detectability of the alpine she-oak skink.


BIO.

Renée commenced her PhD with ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society in 2018 after having worked for more than 10 years in the field of conservation.

With a focus on working with land managers, Renée hopes that her research will inform more effective management of high country ecosystems.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Why we should restore urban ecosystems

SPEAKER: Dr Martin Breed, Lecturer – Biology, College of Science & Engineering, Flinders University, South Australia

DATE & TIME: Friday, 17th July 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

As the world’s population grows and cities expand, more people are shifting away from open, biodiverse spaces into urbanised environments. 50% of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities, with an increase to 70% anticipated by 2030. Rates of species extinction are now far higher than in the past 10 million years, driven in large part by increases in urban populations.

This biodiversity crisis is linked to rapid increases in non-communicable diseases (e.g. chronic inflammatory conditions). Rapid urbanisation is at odds with human evolutionary history, which is deeply rooted in nature. Loss of macrodiversity following urbanisation is linked to reductions in environmental microbial diversity. Exposure to biodiverse environmental microbiota is important for healthy human immune system development and maintenance.

Indeed, reduced exposure is thought to partly explain the western pandemic of non-communicable diseases. Despite these values, urban green spaces continue to decline. Can urban ecosystems be restored to serve a dual purpose of conserving native biodiversity and promoting public health at the same time?


BIO.

I completed my PhD in Restoration Genetics at the Adelaide University in 2013. Since completing my PhD, I have been a postdoc at Uppsala University (Sweden), a DECRA Fellow and Research Fellow at Adelaide University, until my appointed as Lecturer in Biology at Flinders University in 2019.

My team and I are passionate about doing applied research at the interface of restoration ecology, genomics and public health.

Some career highlights include signing an MOU with the UN Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity to work jointly on the links between biodiversity and human health via the microbiome, serving as a patron of the genetics working groups for the Group On Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) and the IUCN Species Survival Commission, and surviving Semester 1 2020 teaching.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Wild birds: neglected reservoirs for coronaviruses

SPEAKER: Dr Michelle Wille, ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellow, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

DATE & TIME: Friday, 10th July 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Wild birds interconnect all parts of the globe through annual cycles of migration with little respect for country or continental borders. Although wild birds are reservoir hosts for a high diversity of gamma- and deltacoronaviruses, we have little understanding of the ecology or evolution of any of these viruses.

Using genome sequences and ecological data, I aim to disentangle the evolution of coronaviruses in wild birds. Specifically, exploring host range at the levels of viral genus and species, and revealing the multi-host nature of many viral species, albeit with biases to certain types of avian host.

Finally, I will discuss cross-species virus transmission across both the wild bird – poultry interface as well as from birds to mammals. Clarifying the ecology and diversity in the wild bird reservoir has important ramifications for our ability to respond to the likely future emergence of coronaviruses in socioeconomically important animal species or human populations.


BIO.

Michelle Wille is an ARC DECRA Fellow at the University of Sydney. She is interested in the ecology and evolution of avian viruses.

She has spent 10 years working on influenza viruses in wild birds and now couples that with trying to understand virus community dynamics in the same wild bird hosts.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Costs, benefits and the evolution of seasonal plumage colours

SPEAKER: Dr Alexandra McQueen, Associate Research Fellow, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

DATE & TIME: Friday, 26th June 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Many animals use elaborate ornaments, such as conspicuous colours, to intimidate rivals and attract mates. Understanding ornament costs is essential for understanding animal communication and the evolution of traits under sexual selection. However, measuring costs is challenging because ornaments often co-vary with other factors, such as the propensity to take risks and available resources.

During my PhD, I investigated the costs of a conspicuous sexual ornament in superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus). In this species, males undergo an annual colour change from a brown, non-breeding plumage to a bright, ultraviolet-blue and black plumage.

I show that males perceive themselves as facing a higher risk of predation when in blue plumage, while the production of the male’s conspicuous ornament entails only minor physiological costs. I find that male fairy-wrens do not spend more time preening while blue, and instead maintain vivid colours by replacing feathers throughout the breeding season.

These results suggest that predation risk is a key cost of displaying conspicuous colours. The need for blue males to maintain increased predator-avoidance behaviour, combined with age constraints and small, physiological costs, could explain why female fairy-wrens prefer extra-pair males that are blue for the longest time each year.


BIO.

Dr Alexandra McQueen is an Associate Research Fellow at Deakin University. Alex completed her PhD on the costs of colour signals and the evolution of colour change in birds at Monash University in 2019.

As a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist, Alex is interested in the evolution of the colours and shapes of birds.

Currently, Alex is investigating how birds use their beaks for thermoregulation, and the evolution of beak size in response to climate change, as part of a research team with A/Prof. Matthew Symonds and Prof. Marcel Klaassen.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Hibernation in primates: Why lemurs in hot Madagascar hibernate?

SPEAKER: Professor Kathrin Dausmann, Head of Research Unit – Functional Ecology, Institute of Zoology, University of Hamburg, Germany

DATE & TIME: Friday, 19th June 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Of all fundamental principles in biology, energy expenditure is perhaps the single-most important as it is a prerequisite for life itself. In many species life history parameters, such as nutrition ecology, reproductive patterns or even social systems are shaped by energetical constraints. To cope with environmental energetic bottlenecks many small mammal species use torpor or hibernation.

Over the last decades it has become evident that not only the “classical” hibernators of temperate and arctic regions use this option, but also animal groups much less expected. One example are the lemurs of Madagascar, all living under tropical, but nevertheless seasonal and energetically demanding conditions.

Comparison of the Cheirogaleidae species showed that there is an amazing physiological flexibility in regard to their thermoregulatory adaptations, depending on the climatic parameters of their habitat and choices of hibernacula, between closely related species, between individuals of the same population, or even within the same individual, reflecting ecological and evolutionary forces.

The insight into tropical species has also taught us that the underlying ecological causes which elicit the employment of heterothermy are not restricted to seasonal adjustments. This flexibility may possibly prove beneficial in heterothermic species to master the challenges of current and future climate changes.


BIO.

Kathrin decided at a young age on a family trip to Greece that she wanted to become an ant researcher, which she thought was much more fascinating than looking at any more ancient rubble. However, something went wrong somewhere along the line and she became intrigued with energetics and how animals are able to make a living on the edge and adapt to all kinds of environmental changes.

Kathrin is now a professor for Functional Ecology, focusing on ecology and energy budgets in a changing world mostly in small mammals, but also frogs, lizards and birds (not ants, so far). An almost accidental trip to Madagascar sparked her fascination for this country and she has spent a lot of time in tents and hammocks in the forests of Madagascar, chasing down friendly lemurs.

Kathrin still looks at every ant she sees and continues to be fascinated by them.

For more info click HERE.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Rethinking the management of invertebrates and their services in cities

SPEAKER: Dr Lizzy Lowe, Postdoctoral Researcher, Behavioural Ecology Lab, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW

DATE & TIME: Friday, 12th June 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

The declines in insect populations being observed around the world are alarming, given the vital ecosystem services the invertebrates provide. The loss of insect diversity in many areas is largely driven by the use of insecticides, especially in cities where chemical pest control is mostly unregulated and can even exceed amounts used in agriculture.

This excessive use of insecticides threatens public health, biodiversity and ecosystem function. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a toolkit of pest control strategies which has been developed for agricultural systems to reduce reliance on chemical control. It is possible to use IPM in urban areas but stakeholders (e.g. urban residents, businesses and pest control professionals) have been slow to change their practices.

The aim of my work is to understand the impact of urban insecticide use on biodiversity and insect mediated ecosystem services, and to shift urban pest control towards more sustainable practice. This involves identifying extensive knowledge gaps in the extent of pesticide use in cities and improving stakeholder engagement by understanding people’s values and offering alternative pest control solutions.


BIO.

Dr Lizzy Lowe is a Postdoctoral researcher in the Behavioural Ecology group at Macquarie University. Lizzy completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in 2016 and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Auckland in 2017.

As an urban ecologist Lizzy is passionate about working with local communities to improve engagement with nature in cities. She has a particular passion for raising the public profile of underappreciated animals such as spiders, and you’ll often find her out leading ‘spider walks’ for community groups or chatting on radio about why we should love ‘creepy crawlies’.

For more info click HERE or @LizyLowe.


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CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Feeling the heat – avian responses to changing climates

SPEAKER: Dr Todd McWhorter, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Physiology, School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide, SA

DATE & TIME: Friday, 5th June 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


ABSTRACT.

Wild birds are vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events such as heatwaves. Mass die-offs of birds due to heatwaves have been reported, both historic and recent, in Australia and worldwide. The frequency and intensity of heatwaves, and average maximum air temperatures, are expected to continue increasing over coming decades, thus increasing the likelihood of wild bird die-offs.

These events have the potential to impact bird populations, species distributions and biodiversity, i.e. where birds are able to live and the contributions they make to ecosystems. Especially concerning are the potential impacts on threatened or endangered species, where a few extreme weather events can significantly reduce remaining populations.

Recent work on body temperature regulation across a number of bird orders inhabiting deserts in North America, Australia and Africa has revealed differences in heat tolerance and the mechanisms used to defend body temperature under hot conditions.

In this talk, I will explore data collected by our group on heat tolerance and evaporative water loss, using a taxonomic perspective. I will also discuss two studies done by my recent Ph.D. student Shangzhe Xie (now at Wildlife Reserves Singapore) on behavioural responses of birds to heat, and physiological stress responses to heat exposure.

We don’t know enough about the physiological and behavioural responses of birds to heat exposure to make good predictions about species’ vulnerability to climate change – such data will be important for improved conservation outcomes.


BIO.

I am a comparative/ecological/evolutionary physiologist interested in how animals function and how function evolves. Over the past 25 years my research has focused primarily on the mechanisms of digestion and nutrient absorption, modelling digestive capacity, nutritional ecology, kidney function, and salt and water balance.

More recently, my research program has expanded into conservation physiology and medicine- applying the concepts and methodologies of these fields to pressing problems in conservation of wildlife and biodiversity in general.

Current projects in this area include assessing the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on the physiological and stress responses of animals, studying the impacts of habitat fragmentation and other anthropogenic disturbances on the physiological responses of animals, and developing novel methods to control feral animals.

I am originally from southern California and did my undergraduate study at the University of California, Irvine. After earning a M.Sc. from the University of Wyoming and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona it was my pleasure to spend a few years as a postdoc in Bill Karasov’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A successful ARC-DP application on the nutritional ecology and physiology of nectar-feeding birds brought me to Trish Fleming’s lab in the veterinary school at Murdoch University in March 2006.

An opportunity to help found the new veterinary School at the University of Adelaide brought my family and me to Adelaide in early 2009.

For more info click HERE.


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