My research focuses on using good ecological knowledge to inform conservation decision making. I am a conservation scientist interested in decisions that take place in human-modified landscapes where there are usually many threats and conflicting objectives related to both biodiversity and social or economic factors. It is important to me that my research is applicable and accessible to agencies and organisations that make conservation decisions, and I draw on a wide range of skills, techniques and professional experience to address real questions related to monitoring and managing species and ecosystems to try to address the global biodiversity crisis we are currently facing.
I followed a non-traditional path to academia after completing my Honours degree investigating the ecology of eastern pygmy possums with Prof Chris Dickman at the University of Sydney in 2001. I am a strong supporter of diversity and inclusion and believe that everyone has their path to follow. My path took me to eight years outside academia, working in jobs in central and northern Australia and Canada, ranging from zookeeping to tourism and hospitality (including managing the best bakery in the Canadian Rockies) to education and project management for Greening Australia. This time away from academia was important to me and helped me progress in my journey of finding out who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I might get there. I encourage everyone to not be afraid of getting outside of the academic bubble and learn about themselves as well as how the real world works!
I completed my PhD at the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Science supervised by the inspiring team of Hugh Possingham, Kerrie Wilson and Tara Martin. I worked on cost-effective and efficient resource allocation and decision-making processes for monitoring and management of threats to biodiversity. My research looked at how to manage and monitor species in the large-scale restoration initiative Gondwana Link in the south-western biodiversity hotspot of Australia.
I’ve always been keen to work on applied problems in conservation. From my time with Greening Australia I discovered how uncertain we are about conservation decisions, as we rarely have perfect information about how species or ecosystems respond to threats and their management. My first postdoctoral position therefore focused on how we might account for uncertainty and risk in conservation decisions with the National Environmental Program’s Environmental Decisions Hub at the University of Queensland. I explored this in collaboration with Jonathan Rhodes and Hugh Possingham in contexts such as spatial conservation planning and incorporating risk aversion into prioritisation of species recovery projects.
I took up a position as a Research Fellow with Professor David Lindenmayer at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, Australian National University from 2014 to 2016, to return to some ecological work and continue my research into optimal monitoring and management of animal communities. I investigated the usefulness of network analysis and species co-occurrence to understand community vulnerability to threatening processes and predict how we might manage communities into the future.
I work with non-government conservation organisations and government agencies concerned with managing biodiversity in Australia, Africa, New Zealand, U.S.A. and the U.K., to develop frameworks and tools for prioritising investment in the conservation of threatened species and ecosystems. In my recent joint position with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland I conducted land use planning to protect human livelihoods and biodiversity in central Africa and Madagascar, as part of a large collaboration between the major African conservation NGOs including the African Wildlife Foundation, World Resources Institute and Jane Goodall Institute and funded by USAID. A key component of this work was developing and delivering training workshops to practitioners and government employees in conservation planning and decision-making tools.
I commenced my ARC DECRA project titled “Forecasting ecosystem collapse and recovery by tracking networks of species” in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney in 2017. My research explores how to measure and track change in dynamic ecosystems, and I collaborate with the amazing Chris Dickman, Glenda Wardle and the Desert Ecology Research Group. I also have the privilege of working with some amazing practitioners from Bush Heritage Australia in central Australia – my fieldwork is on Cravens Peak and Ethabuka Reserves in the Simpson Desert, an amazing place to work!
My life is much more than collecting and analysing data! I love to travel and explore the world. I can generally be found somewhere outside chasing birds or hanging with my dog Chilli (the best dog in the world).
Please contact me by email:
Ayesha Tulloch | ARC DECRA Fellow
The University of Sydney
School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Rm 225b, Heydon Lawrence Building A08 | The University of Sydney | NSW | 2006