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Welcome to the homepage of the Desert Ecology Research Group (DERG) based out of the University of Sydney.

New frontiers in the desert – Forecasting and bird ecology!

We’ve been busy lately, conducting multiple trips a year with an even greater range of monitoring targets – now birds are back on the radar! Dr Ayesha Tulloch has joined our team and has been conducting trips to the Simpson Desert since September 2017 to collect data for her ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Fellowship, Forecasting Ecosystem Collapse and Recovery by Tracking Networks of Species: Ethabuka and Cravens Peak Reserve, Queensland. 

Ayesha Tulloch during her work with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Magadascar.

Ayesha Tulloch during her work with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Magadascar.

Ayesha’s research focuses on trying to develop better metrics to track change in communities in highly variable environments (like our boom-bust systems in the desert). Ayesha’s focus on communities rather than individual species comes from the emerging perspective that a focus on managing individual species ignores the fact that ecosystems function because species have complex associations with one another and the environment. Ayesha’s project proposes a new way to assess and predict ecosystem declines and recovery by measuring change in networks of interacting species. Using co-occurrence analysis and network theory,  she is trying to discover symptoms of change in the desert ecosystems that will help us determine how our animals and plants are faring. Her Red-capped-Robin.-Photo-Bobby-Tamayobird surveys take her across gidgee, spinifex and eucalypt woodlands in the Simpson Desert. She is monitoring bird communities and their habitat use, and investigating interactions between birds and resources at Bush Heritage Australia’s Ethabuka and Cravens Peak properties and the Carlo cattle station. Ayesha is also working closely with DERG alumni Max Tischler to broaden our understanding of bird communities through his work with Australian Desert Expeditions.

DERG also was very well represented at the 2018 annual Ecological Society of Australia conference in Brisbane, with 3 plenaries and two award winners! Glenda Wardle presented a speed plenary on ecological forecasting data needs, Ayesha Tulloch presented a plenary on forecasting to improve management and received the ESA “Next Generation Ecologist” Award, and Chris Dickman presented a plenary on his years of research in the desert and received the well-deserved ESA Gold Medal for his substantial contribution to the study of ecology in Australia over the course of their career. Aaron Greenville also presented his research at the conference and was awarded the 2018 ESA Award for Service to the Society. All in all a very successful conference! Several of the DERG members will be attending this year’s ESA conference in Launceston, hope to see you there!