The pressure of human activities on the planet’s ecosystems is a global concern.
We need a greater understanding of the evolutionary and ecological causes of patterns of extinction and abundance so we can mitigate the effects of climate change, restore ecosystems and manage wildlife populations. This involves work in four areas:
Understanding the impact of climate change is a pressing concern for the management of many species. We are interested in predicting climate change and using the physiology of the affected organisms to understand whether and where species may live in the future.
Threats to the persistence of species through time are tightly linked to the genetic health of populations. We are interested in field based assessments of genetic diversity in species and populations under threat, as well as understanding the genetic basis to extinction risk in a laboratory setting.
There are many ways in which human activities can impact on the ecology of animals, these might be as commonplace as beach driving, as innocuous as eco-tour operations or as threatening as the spread of non-native species and the clearing of native vegetation. By understanding the ecology of animals that are experiencing increasing disturbance we can begin to build an evidence-based framework for policy makers and managers. Many landscapes that have already been degraded by human activity are capable of being restored. The ecology of restoration is a growing field particularly in agricultural landscapes where increasing value is being placed on pockets of native vegetation that provide a reservoir for threatened species. Restoring and maintaining such habitats is a challenge for ecologists.
In wildlife management, our overall aim is to find strategies that can be adopted to protect endangered and vulnerable animals, to restore their populations through captive breeding and release, and to manage fertility to prevent over-abundance of native and feral animals. This involves identification of threatened species, management of small, fragmented populations, unveiling of the basics of reproductive physiology and behaviour, analysis of the impacts of disturbance, controlling pest species and sustainable use of native species. Projects are often done in collaboration with Government agencies such as the Western Australian Department of Environment & Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Fisheries (marine and freshwater species) and the Perth Zoo. Projects on endangered African mammals are also supported by the Institute for Breeding Rare and Endangered African Mammals (IBREAM).