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eating insects to …

… improve the protein uptake and therefore the health of millions of people globally;

…reduce the land clearing and use of pesticides while obtaining economic profit;

…reduce the carbon dioxide an methane emission

In our  new paper:Exploiting a pest insect species Sphenarium purpurascens for human consumption: ecological, social, and economic repercussions published in the first issue of the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed we developed a model of sustainable exploitation for pest insect species and explore the potential benefits to humans in different areas, like health/nutrition, conservation, economy and even climate change!

Please contact me if you would like a copy of the paper!

The picture below is by Rene Cerritos the lead author of this paper.

Bon appétit!

by Rene Cerritos

by Rene Cerritos

Targeting threats alone “won’t save our wildlife” … so what would?

I was fortunate to be a co-author on the paper recently published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment led by Viv and Ayesha Tulloch, “Why do we map threats? Linking threat mapping with actions to make better conservation decisions.” (see media release PDF).

This is a great thinking piece about why we should probably not use threat maps “as is” to inform conservation decisions and how threat maps should be included as part of the decision process. I would recommend reading this paper if you are new to structured decision making and would like an easy read. The authors have done a fantastic job at explaining the risk of not following a transparent decision making process.

As a side note, our priority threat management work in the Pilbara was highlighted as a good example of making transparent decisions (No doubts they are other good examples in the literature!). It’s always a privilege to be acknowledged by our peers, it’s even better when these are esteemed close collaborators. Thanks for your support!

The paper:

Vivitskaia JD Tulloch, Ayesha IT Tulloch, Piero Visconti, Benjamin S Halpern, James EM Watson, Megan C Evans, Nancy A Auerbach, Megan Barnes, Maria Beger, Iadine Chadès, Sylvaine Giakoumi, Eve McDonald-Madden, Nicholas J Murray, Jeremy Ringma, and Hugh P Possingham 2015. Why do we map threats? Linking threat mapping with actions to make better conservation decisions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 91–99.

Complementarity saves more species, simple stuff!

Our manuscript on how complementarity can help saving more species per dollar spent is available online. If you are interested in cost-effectiveness analysis, PPP, priority threat management, expert elicitations, or the Pilbara, have a look:

Chades, I., Nicol, S., van Leeuwen, S., Walters, B., Firn, J., Reeson, A., Martin, T. G. . and Carwardine, J. (2014), Benefits of integrating complementarity into priority threat management. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12413 (abstract) (request PDF)

This paper presents the science behind our beautiful Pilbara report.

Photo: Northern Quoll at Red Hill Homestead. Credit: Leanne Corker, Red Hill Station.


Conservation decision tools based on cost-effectiveness analysis are used to assess threat management strategies for improving species persistence. These approaches rank alternative strategies by their benefit to cost ratio but may fail to identify the optimal sets of strategies to implement under limited budgets because they do not account for redundancies. We devised a multiobjective optimization approach in which the complementarity principle is applied to identify the sets of threat management strategies that protect the most species for any budget. We used our approach to prioritize threat management strategies for 53 species of conservation concern in the Pilbara, Australia. We followed a structured elicitation approach to collect information on the benefits and costs of implementing 17 different conservation strategies during a 3-day workshop with 49 stakeholders and experts in the biodiversity, conservation, and management of the Pilbara. We compared the performance of our complementarity priority threat management approach with a current cost-effectiveness ranking approach. A complementary set of 3 strategies: domestic herbivore management, fire management and research, and sanctuaries provided all species with >50% chance of persistence for $4.7 million/year over 20 years. Achieving the same result cost almost twice as much ($9.71 million/year) when strategies were selected by their cost-effectiveness ranks alone. Our results show that complementarity of management benefits has the potential to double the impact of priority threat management approaches.


CDT x EDG seminar series #13: Dr Virginia Matzek

Friday 7th of November, from 3-4 pm in room GA604, ESP, Dr. Virginia Matzek (Santa Clara University, California) will present her research on “Bringing managers’ perspectives to bear on habitat restoration and ecosystem services in California and Australia”.

(beers and snacks available afterwards-as part of the social club!)

Title: Bringing managers’ perspectives to bear on habitat restoration and ecosystem services in California and Australia

Summary: This talk highlights some of the recent work my lab has done in California, as well as our planned work in Australia. The first part of the talk will treat a survey of managers’ research needs for invasive plant management in the state. As a follow-up to this work, we went to the literature to see what had actually been published relevant to California invasive plant management, and documented some mismatches in the topic, scope, and approach of scientific research, when compared with managers’ needs. The second part of the talk discusses whether managers can expect to recoup the cost of restoration of riparian forest in California via the state’s new compliance market for carbon credits. Both of these themes–the potential mismatch of perspectives, and the need to measure ecosystem services resulting from restoration–turn up in the work I’m planning to do here in Australia. I’ll close with a brief account of our proposed work surveying Australian managers and members of the general public for their perspectives on the desirability of ecosystem services as a project goal for restoration.

Bio: Virginia Matzek is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Santa Clara University in California, USA. The primary focus of her lab is on linking ecosystem services to ecological restoration. A plant ecologist and biogeochemist by training, she now finds herself interested as much by why people restore ecosystems as by how they do it. She will be at CEED working with Kerrie Wilson and Marit Kragt until mid-December 2014.

CDT x EDG seminar series #12: Dr. Ronny Groenteman

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2 for 1: New Zealand’s weed biocontrol in a nutshell plus a close-up examination of a case study on what we could do to overcome biocontrol scepticism

 Ronny Groenteman1, Simon Fowler1, Jon Sullivan2, Yvonne Buckley3, Rob Salguero-Gómez4

1Landcare Research, 2Lincoln University, 3Trinity College Dublin, 4University of Queensland.

Biological control of weeds research in New Zealand is primarily done by a small group at the Crown Research Institute Landcare Research. In this talk I will give an overview of how our science works hand in hand with operative programmes, and will touch on why our regulatory system works well. I will then dwell on the successful programme against St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum – a case study selected to demonstrate the connection between biocontrol and weed populations decline. Demonstrating cause and effect in biological control is no easy undertaking yet it is crucial for us to provide strong scientific evidence of biocontrol effectiveness. The St. John’s wort project includes an intensive field experiment, multi-model inference approach to data analysis, and finally, periodic Integrated Projection Modelling approach to describe the population demography of the weed in the presence and absence of biocontrol. How effective will this undertaking be in convincing sceptics that biocontrol can work is yet to be seen. What is clear is that the resources required for such studies are vast and we must think carefully about the circumstances where this approach will advance decision making not only in a given programme, but in biocontrol science & practice a whole.

CDT x EDG seminar series #11: Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pichancourt

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CDT x EDG seminar series #10: Dr. Marta Pascual Altares

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Free toolbox to solve stochastic dynamic programming problems in R, MATLAB, OCTAVE and SciLab

If you are interested in finding the best decisions over time to save or eradicate the cutest species, then you are probably interested in using Stochastic Dynamic Programming (SDP) or its mathematical model Markov Decision Process (MDP). If you have a burning problem ready to be solved but not sure how to, then good news we have released the MDPToolbox (ver. 4) in R, Matlab, Octave and Scilab. Please spread the word, the toolbox is free! Thanks to Ecography, you can now support our efforts by citing our paper:

Chadès, I., Chapron, G., Cros, M.-J., Garcia, F. and Sabbadin, R. (2014), MDPtoolbox: a multi-platform toolbox to solve stochastic dynamic programming problems. Ecography. doi: 10.1111/ecog.00888

To download the toolbox:

If you are still unsure about SDP, try: Marescot, L., G. Chapron, I. Chadès, P. Fackler, C. Duchamp, E. Marboutin, and O. Gimenez. 2013. Complex decisions made simple: a primer on stochastic dynamic programming. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 4:872-884.

CDT x EDG seminar series #8: Prof. Tom Dietterich


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Pilbara shows how to save the most species per dollar: report now available!

We are pleased to announce the release of our report on ‘Prioritising threat management for Pilbara species of conservation significance’ (PDF, 10Mo)(The Conversation). This was a very rewarding collaborative project with scientists from CSIRO, QUT, UQ, and WA Dept Parks and Wildlife, with input from 49 experts across land management, policy, industrial, agricultural, indigenous and academic sectors, and was funded by Atlas Iron through the Dept of Environment Pilbara Taskforce.

The work comes at an important time in the Pilbara’s history and we hopeful that it will have a positive impact.

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Prioritising species for monitoring conservation actions: Combining cost-effectiveness with complementarity

We have a decision point article that just came out this month! A great opportunity to communicate on how we can use complementarity between species to improve our monitoring efficiency, and of course remain cost-effective. In Tulloch et al (2013), we used network theory and a lot of ecology to find the best way of modelling and solving this problem. In the end, we were very pleased to show that it is possible to increase your monitoring power by selecting the most complementary species and also reducing the cost. A win-win situation that is rarely available in conservation.  Read more

Complex decisions made simple: a primer on stochastic dynamic programming

Do you need to find the best decisions to maximize your chances of protecting a threatened species today but also in the future? Yes? Then you might be interested by our primer on stochastic dynamic programming (SDP). Stochastic Dynamic Programming (SDP) is an essential tool in conservation biology and natural resources management.

Marescot L., Chapron G., Chadès I., Fackler P., Duchamp C., Marboutin E. & Gimenez O. (2013). Complex decisions made simple: a primer on stochastic dynamic programming. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4, 872-884.

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CDTx EDG seminar series #6


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Optimizing wetland habitats for waterfowl in a changing climate

Not all ducks are the same. Some like shallow water for dabbling, others like the deep stuff for diving, and some like something in-between. So how do you manage a wetland wildlife refuge to maintain the best mix of all three options? And what happens if the climate changes the amount of water that you have to work with? Those are the questions that we answered in our latest paper that has just come out in Climatic Change: Optimal water depth management on river-fed National Wildlife Refuges in a changing climate. Read more

Biodiverse planting for carbon and biodiversity on Indigenous land

Our paper on Biodiverse planting for carbon and biodiversity on Indigenous land has just been published in PLoS one  (get the PDF).

Renwick, A. R., Robinson, C. J., Martin, T. G., May, T., Polglase, P., Possingham, H. P., & Carwardine, J. (2014). Biodiverse Planting for Carbon and Biodiversity on Indigenous Land. PloS one, 9(3), e91281

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Geographical surrogates of genetic variation for selecting island populations for conservation

In this paper we explored three simple and cost-effective geographical measures to maximise genetic and phenotypic variation in fragmented populations when setting conservation priorities.We were interested in finding simple surrogates because limited financial resources usually constrain the allocation of funds to only a subset of threatened species’ populations. We tested our surrogates on two species of birds with differing genetic population structure (Zosterops flavifrons and Z. lateralis) in the Vanuatu archipelago.

for more information please contact me:

CDTx EDG seminar series #5

Conservation Decisions Team and EDG,UQ seminar series (Friday 14th March at 3 pm) EcoSciences Prescinct:

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Weeds in the Lake Eyre Basin? Listen to Jennifer Firn on Radio National

Jennifer Firn was on Radio National speaking (Bush Telegraph) about our priority threat management work targeting weeds in the Lake Eyre Basin. You can check our previous blog post on the subject and the report (PDF). Well done Jennifer!

Riparian restoration mitigates impacts of climate change

Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle (CSIRO postdoc in the team) worked in collaboration with the University of Queensland, Griffith University and the Queensland Government, to better understand the combined effects of climate change and land-use change on freshwater biodiversity.  Read more

What’s up with wildflowers in the Wheatbelt? Novel plant communities in agricultural landscapes

 What’s up with wildflowers in the Wheatbelt? Novel plant communities in agricultural landscapes – By our very own John Dwyer @MayfieldLabUQ Read more

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