Estimating detectability to address alien plant incursions

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I’ve contributed a small section to the recently published Detecting and Responding to Alien Plant Incursions. This volume addresses the full continuum of management from pre-border efforts through early detection to selecting management options and overarching governance. It’s a synthesis of the literature that will be of value to researchers. More importantly, it’s framed as guidance to the land managers and policy makers who are responsible for addressing these threats.

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The break-out box that Joslin Moore and I were invited to write regards detectability, and how we can go about estimating it experimentally. This process calls on statistics and experimental design, tempered with biosecurity concerns and our desire to accurately simulate real survey conditions. Throughout, we’ve used examples from our hawkweed detection experiments to demonstrate how we’ve made these trade-offs ourselves. We were also able to include a couple of lovely photographs taken by Roger Cousens during our field work.

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Hauser C.E. & Moore J.L. (2016) Estimating detectability using search experiments, in Detecting and Responding to Alien Plant Incursions, eds Wilson, J., Panetta, F.D. & Lindgren, C. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, pp 71-75.

Sally, Connor & volunteer teams are a triple threat for hawkweeds

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A year ago I posted about the formidable Hawkweed Eradication Program, which is primarily focused on the Alpine National Park of south-eastern Australia. All summer parks staff, private contractors and volunteers scour likely locations to weed out Hieracium species. Detector dogs Sally and Connor are now very much part of the action, too!

Last week we gathered in Falls Creek to evaluate Sally and Connor’s search skills in the Victorian environment. We sent them – plus a team of the High Plains’ proud volunteer searchers – to some specially selected plots where live hawkweeds were known to be hiding. The three search teams found almost all of those known plants, and additionally spotted several undocumented infestations!

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It was good news for us, and the program even made the news. (For example, you can check out an article in The Age, an ABC Goulburn Murray audio interview and video.) While Sally’s always ready with a smile for the camera, her human colleagues are quick to tell journalists about all the agencies who make this program possible: this time Australian Alps National Parks, Parks VictoriaVictorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & ResourcesNSW Office of Environment & Heritage, and dog trainer Steve Austin. My Australian Research Council and University of Melbourne support is now boosted by freshly-enrolled Monash University PhD student Emma Bennett – this time next year she’ll be leading our survey evaluation and research.

 

2016 travel retrospective

I spent one-third of 2016 outside of Melbourne! Much of my travel was motivated by my work. Though I had lofty goals of blogging on the go, I didn’t progress beyond a single draft post. But once December rolled round I shared a slideshow of travel highlights with the QAECO lab – here’s a few annotated pics.

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In June I visited Seattle for ISEC. QAEcologists Pia & Nick also attended, and we even got to catch up with QAECO alumnus Kim Millers! I took training in Bayesian model selection and R-NIMBLE, then attended just about every HMM session I could.
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In the evening, we found time for baseball. Iadine Chadès was on hand to guide Pia, Kim & I through the rules.
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I flew east in time to observe the 4th of July in Washington DC. I spent a couple of days at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center catching up with adaptive management mavens Sarah Converse & Mike Runge. I made a new friend at Resources for the Future in Becky Epanchin-Niell – we have abundant common research interests and I hope we’ll get to collaborate soon.
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From DC, I took a bus and a small leap of faith in visiting another stanger. Sandy Liebhold is based at the US Forest Service in Morgantown WV and a partner investigator on the ARC Discovery Project I’m part of. He’s a forest entomologist, enthusiastic natural historian and generous host. It was great to get to know him and the gypsy moth program better. I was also unexpectedly smitten with the local culinary curiosity, salt rising bread.
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Sandy invited me to stick around a further week to attend the IUFRO Workshop on Forest Invasions. It was a diverse mix of invasion and management science, policy and social science from across Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia & Oceania. I learned a lot!
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In September I was a guest at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. I was hosted by the wonderful Joung Hun Lee (who I first met at the University of Tokyo), and also benefited from an hour with the agile mind of Yoh Iwasa. I gave three presentations around the Japanese Society of Mathematical Biology conference and relished the abundant equations.
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From Japan I flew to Perth for the Australasian Weeds Conference, which I wrote a bit about previously. I always appreciate the pragmatism of the work shared at this conference. I also spared a day to visit weed modeller Michael Renton over at UWA.

Travel is one of the great privileges of my job! In 2016 it exposed me to such a diversity of ecosystems, management challenges and research approaches. In 2017 I’m expecting to stay a little closer to home, transferring these insights to my own work.

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The last friend I made while travelling – a quokka on Rottnest Island.

Weed Conference Proceedings online

This year I’ve been involved in many conference proceedings! Following on from a suite of malleefowl studies, here are a few that address hawkweed management in the Alpine National Park.

I missed the 6th Biennial Weeds Conference hosted by the Weed Society of Victoria, but my colleagues Angela Constantine (DEDJTR) and Keith Primrose (Parks Vic) thoroughly covered the range of strategies and operations they have in place for eradicating Hieracium species from Victoria. These include their current method for prioritising locations and allocating search effort across the vast national park (Constantine et al. 2016), which is adapted from research that I led 6 years ago. They’ve also introduced a monitoring and extirpation framework that’s based on Honours research that Keith Primrose pursued with me in 2014 (Primrose et al. 2016).

A few months later I was able to represent Team Hawkweed alongside Angela Constantine, Hillary Cherry and detector dog Sally at the 20th Australasian Weeds Conference. In a single Hawkweed-focused session, Angela gave an encore of her previous presentation (Constantine et al. 2016), and Hillary followed up with an overview of the entire national program (Cherry et al. 2016).

My presentation focused on the design and findings of our detection experiments. We’ve been playing a series of hide-and-seek games in Victoria and NSW in order to understand and compare the strengths and weaknesses of human and canine searchers of hawkweed. My accompanying manuscript (Hauser et al. 2016) focuses on the strategies we use when we design these experiments – it’s intended to offer a bit more detail and insight than we’d typically include in a Methods section. It also includes bonus material on John Weiss’ (DEDJTR, Plant Biosecurity CRC) detection experiments comparing human and UAV-based detection of vineyard disease.

In a grand finale, Sally took the stage to demonstrate her nose for hawkweed. She’s higher entertainment (and cuteness!) value than our science and management activities – thankfully that’s all packed away neatly in this series of proceedings for future reference.

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Cherry H., Constantine A., Primrose K., Hauser C. & Tasker K. (2016) It takes a village: detection dogs, partnerships and volunteers aid hawkweed eradication in mainland Australia. In Randall R., Lloyd S & Borger C. (eds) Proceedings of the 20th Australasian Weeds Conference. Weeds Society of Western Australia, September 2016, pp 164-170.

Constantine A., Hauser C.E., Primrose K. & Smith N. (2016) Hawkweed (Hieracium spp.) surveillance: development of a targeted and robust plan for the Victorian Alps. Plant Protection Quarterly 31: 28-32.

Hauser C.E., Weiss J., Guillera-Arroita G., McCarthy M.A., Giljohann K.M. & Moore J.L. (2016) Designing detection experiments: three more case studies. In Randall R., Lloyd S & Borger C. (eds) Proceedings of the 20th Australasian Weeds Conference. Weeds Society of Western Australia, September 2016, pp 171-178.

Primrose, K., Constantine, A., Smith, N. & Pascoe, C. (2016) Eradicating hawkweeds (Hieracium spp.) for the Victorian Alps: improving the efficiency and effectiveness of control whilst mitigating off-target impacts. Plant Protection Quarterly 31: 33-37.

13th Annual Jane Elith Culinary Competition

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Today is Jane Elith‘s birthday, and the CEBRAQAECO labs held their traditional celebration of this event on Monday. This is a culinary competition, where lab-mates do their best to mix crafty themes and clever names with the prettiest presentation and, of course, the most exquisite flavour. Admire the many, many entries in the above slideshow.

The Grand Prize Winner was JECC newbie Holly Kirk, who baked humble but deeply delicious olive bread sticks. Other entrants threw glitter at cake like it was mardi gras, assembled sweet miniature burgers with brownie patties, baked casseroles composed of their PhD study species, and extolled the versatility of the canned tomato.

If you’re hungry for more, you can also check out last year’s proceedings here.

PhD scholarships at Monash University

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Dr Joslin Moore is advertising two terrific PhD scholarships at Monash University! I’m co-supervising one of these projects (and Dr Michael McCarthy is co-supervising the other).

Both projects address how we can best search for rare targets in ecological surveys. They’ll involve experimental design, data collection in the remote and ruggedly beautiful Alpine National Park, statistical modelling and conservation decision-making.

Jos’ and my project also rolls in concepts of novel search methods and how we can best integrate them into existing programs. It’s an opportunity to learn from the state government agencies managing a hawkweed eradication program as they investigate the combination of human search teams, trained dogs and unmanned aerial vehicles that will best detect every last hawkweed.

Jos and I have collaborated with hawkweed managers for many years. You can read more on this blog about research we’ve published, fieldwork we’ve done, coverage in other media, and three awards we’ve won.

For more details on the PhD projects and how to apply, visit Joslin Moore’s website. Applications close 17 August 2016.

Malleefowl Forum Proceedings now online

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In September 2014, the Malleefowl Adaptive Management team visited Dubbo to participate in the National Malleefowl Forum. Recently the Forum Proceedings have been published online, so you can access information on every presentation and poster contributed.

Our team was given a full session to present all the research driving the Adaptive Management project. In the first paper, I provided an overview of how we are applying adaptive management principles to Malleefowl conservation through a nested set of scientific studies.

Mike Bode followed up with an introduction to the qualitative ecosystem modelling that we’re using to collate data and expert opinion. It helps to prioritise threats to Malleefowl persistence and conservation actions that show promise for addressing those threats.

José Lahoz-Monfort developed an experimental design and power analysis that we can use to monitor one particular threat-action pair drawn from Bode’s options: baiting to reduce fox predation. His approach relies primarily on the monitoring data already being collected nation-wide and stored on a national database.

Finally, our recently graduated Master student Rosanna van Hespen, then just starting out on her degree, discussed the potential for motion-triggered cameras to supplement the existing monitoring data and Lahoz-Monfort’s analysis by observing changes in fox activity.

Our work has progressed substantially in the almost-2 years since we made these presentations and we’re keen to release updates into the peer-reviewed research literature very soon! Get in touch if any facets of this project spark your interest.

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Hauser C.E., Bode M., Rumpff L., Lahoz-Monfort J.J., Benshemesh J., Burnard T., van Hespen R. & Wintle B. (2016) Applying adaptive management principles to Malleefowl conservation. Proceedings of the 5th National Malleefowl Forum pp 210-215.

Bode M., Rumpff L., Benshemesh J., Burnard T., Lahoz-Monfort J., van Hespen R., Hauser C. & Wintle B. (2016) Predicting Malleefowl dynamics using decision theory and qualitative ecosystem modelling. Proceedings of the 5th National Malleefowl Forum pp 223-236.

Lahoz-Monfort J.J. & Hauser C.E. (2016) Analysing the effects of ongoing and historical fox control on Malleefowl population viability. Proceedings of the 5th National Malleefowl Forum pp 216-220.

van Hespen R., Hauser C.E., Lahoz-Monfort J.J. & Rumpff L. (2016) Camera trap analysis of mallee wildlife. Proceedings of the 5th National Malleefowl Forum pp 221-222.