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.

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.
In the evening, we found time for baseball. Iadine Chadès was on hand to guide Pia, Kim & I through the rules.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.

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.


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.

Malleefowl Forum Proceedings now online


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.



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.


My research in #ESA15comic

I am mightily chuffed that #ESA15‘s resident artist Luke O’Loughlin included my hawkweed detection research in his comic series this week. Check out his entire gallery here.

I’ve also written a more thorough run-down of the conference on qaeco.com.

Environmental modelling symposium, University of Tokyo

UniTokyo campus
The Agriculture building at the University of Tokyo.

On the Easter weekend, I had the unexpected privilege of travelling to Japan to participate in a symposium at the University of Tokyo. Titled “Biological Conservation Planning under Uncertainties”, the symposium hosted Prof Mark Burgman as the guest of honour and the invitation extended to Anca Hanea and I.

Marks Burgman’s presentation (left), and fielding a question from Hiroyuki Matsuda (right).

Mark’s plenary presentation recounted a Sindh ibex conservation program that he was involved in a decade ago, and the role of uncertainty when estimating population viability. His approach highlighted the importance of casting the uncertainty in terms of the management objective, but ultimately revealed the human psychological biases that can interfere with quality modelling, prediction and decision-making. Anca went on to describe recent advances in the mathematics surrounding expert elicitation, such as aggregating and weighting various experts’ answers to the same question.

Hiroyuki Yokomizo (left) and I (right, photo courtesy of Mika Yasuda) present our research.

One of the day’s personal highlights was reconnecting with quantitative ecologist Hiroyuki Yokomizo. His optimal monitoring publications were very important to my PhD studies and though we have only met in person a couple of times, we have kept in contact over the years. At the symposium he spoke about optimal allocation of hunting effort to control sika deer browsing damage in the Chiba prefecture and I was struck by the similarities with my ongoing research regarding grazing pressure at Wyperfeld National Park. Hiroyuki’s population models and robust design approaches will again be helpful as I frame and solve my problem. Researcher Joung Hun Lee’s grazing models describing herder movement in a Mongolian rangeland were similarly inspiring, and I keenly scribbled down equations and exemplar graphs as she spoke.

There were many interesting questions from the audience.

Other presentations were more distant from my own research but no less interesting, addressing the very political Kuril harbor seal management, prioritising conservation of vascular plants and butterflies across Japan, and evaluating the effect of international trade on extinction risks. Many presentations highlighted the trade-offs between biodiversity and business objectives, and our need to elicit and articulate them well. I enjoyed the variety of quantitative approaches for addressing uncertainty. All participants kindly conducted their interactions in English, and the time spent in discussion was occasionally challenging and often enlightening.

I’m very grateful to Tadashi Miyashita, Hiroyuki Matsuda, Shota Nishijima and Mika Yasuda for their hospitality. It was wonderful to encounter people and projects outside of my usual research network, and to have an excuse to holiday in Japan during its gorgeous cherry blossom season.

Shinjuku Gyoen.
Shinjuku Gyoen.

National Malleefowl Forum, Dubbo

MalleefowlWorkshopEarlier this month the 5th National Malleefowl Forum was held in Dubbo, NSW. Mike Bode, Libby Rumpff, Rosanna van Hespen and I were there to represent the QAEco malleefowl research team. In fact, we made the most of this gathering of experts and enthusiasts by holding a small workshop to develop our malleefowl ecosystem models further. Mike has been translating the network structures formed during the project’s first workshop into literally millions of possible models with varying interaction strengths. In this second iteration we sought to refine this set of models with our experts using their knowledge of the mallee ecosystem.

Mike proposed activities that centred around completing worksheets and evaluating graphs, and I must admit I felt skeptical that we’d effectively capture the interest and knowledge of our participants in this way. I was proven completely wrong – look at ’em all working studiously in that top photo! We made time for talking too, of course, but this original exercise ensured that everybody – not just the loudest or most confident participants – made a major contribution. I think the other great feature of Mike’s approach was that it first invited participants to reject any proposed models that looked implausible, rather than requesting that they compose relationships from scratch. No-one was stuck staring at a blank page, and the rejection exercise built up some familiarity with the kind of model outputs we are interested in. Our experts were in precisely the right frame of mind to create their own graphs and identify any gaps in our work during the afternoon group sessions.

MalleefowlForumThe Forum proper attracted over one hundred attendees from right across the country. Malleefowl are monitored nationally by volunteers, government agencies, mining companies, land holders, researchers and private consultants so the Forum is an important venue for communication across contexts. It’s a place to learn about malleefowl population trends across the country as well as conservation activities (such as captive breeding and feral animal control), technological developments (including LiDAR to detect mallefowl mounds and motion-sensing camera monitoring), Indigeneous knowledge and collaboration, and research findings (Taneal Cope’s genetic research and Jemima Connell’s fire modelling were highlights).

IMG_4251_colourcropNational co-ordinator Tim Burnard and malleefowl ecologist Joe Benshemesh cheekily summed up the Forum with a horrendogram that might have been inspired by our research team’s complicated ecosystem models. It did serve to highlight the diversity of skills, tools and institutions involved in malleefowl conservation across Australia – the Forum committee did well to capture them all into the same room at the same time.

IMG_4290_cropFlying from Dubbo to Melbourne involves a stopover in Sydney, and I snuck in a couple of hours at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on my way home. Here I was delighted to discover Mallee in halflight by Pablo Byass among the finalists for the 2014 Wynne Prize. The artist wrote that he eventually developed a fondness for the mallee through his mother. I have to credit an entire community of committed and knowledgeable mallee and malleefowl enthusiasts for sharing this landscape with me.

AMCS, Fort Collins CO

USGS Fort CollinsMy second stop was Fort Collins CO for the 2014 Adaptive Management Conference Series. This is a small, relatively informal gathering of USGS, FWS and academic scientists who work on adaptive management projects across the country. Speakers are offered 30-60 minute blocks to speak, allowing a rare opportunity to discuss issues in depth.

On Wednesday, Drew Tyre opened the conference with a neat set of rapidly-prototyped case studies, each calling for different styles of conflict resolution, expert elicitation and quantitative modeling. In the afternoon we heard a series of presentations about selecting surrogate species for broad-scale monitoring. This is a decision problem with a huge scope – involving vast areas, numerous stakeholders, and a dizzying array of alternatives – that will surely benefit from a structured approach.

Disease managementOn Thursday, presentations were centred around the classic application, adaptive harvest management. I learned a lot about how this program has expanded to various hunted species across the United States. Early career researchers Brian Gerber, Perry Williams and Adam Green presented the latest in statistical modelling, nuanced objective functions and optimisation approaches – I’ll be keeping an eye out for their publications. In the final session of the day, PhD student Noelle Hart stimulated a discussion comparing decision theoretic and resilience philosophies of adaptive management, another topic I want to read and think more about.

On Friday, Will Probert got us into some optimisation algorithms (yay!) for livestock disease management, Lianne Ball forecast challenges for wind farm conservation mitigation, and Jill Gannon presented one of the most advanced adaptive management programs I’ve ever been exposed to. They’ve not just closed the loop, but run around it four times! And they’ve developed some impressive systems for placing data management and analysis back into the hands of the project coordinators. Gannon’s report on native prairie adaptive management has shot straight to the top of my to-read list.

This is just the stuff to recharge my enthusiasm for adaptive management research (if it were ever waning!). I’m grateful to Bill Kendall and Cathy Cullinane Thomas for making it all happen in the face of delays and other obstacles.


EcoTas13I and many of my QAEco colleagues will be attending and presenting our research at EcoTas13 next week.

I’ll introduce how I’ve been modelling kangaroo-vegetation dynamics in semi-arid Australia during the Tuesday morning speed talk session.

Check out the main QAEco page for a full schedule of our lab’s presentations.

Australasian Weeds Conference, Melbourne

Last week I attended and presented some of my research at the Australasian Weeds Conference in Melbourne. I feared that the program might be dominated by acronym-laden government speak, herbicide hard-sells and over-parameterised models but this was unfounded. Instead we were treated to some terrific varied plenaries, a lively forum and some genuine exchanges amongst people working in weed policy, operations and research.

I think that some of the plenary speakers showed real vision for the future of weed management in Australia. Richard Hobbs and John Dwyer entreated us to shift away from assuming that all native species are good and all non-natives are bad, to a more holistic consideration of a species’ context, role, value and impact as well as the impact of any interventions we might make. (Dwyer boldly likened some current attitudes and activities to war-time xenophobia and propaganda.)

“Transformers are the bad guys” – Richard Hobbs.

Paul Martin focused more on issues of governance and funding. He believes that public funding for weeds research isn’t likely to reach Weeds CRC heights again any time soon, and suggests we harness private wealth and community interest. He’s further concerned about poorly coordinated governance, high transaction costs and weak motivational arrangements, and calls for more research into the social dimensions of weed management.

Presentations by Chris Johnson and Jarvis Weston were just plain cool. They spoke, respectively, about Australia’s megafauna (tree-stripping snub-nosed kangaroos! geese bigger than emus!) and restoration of penguin nesting sites on Phillip Island (including the twenty-year buy-back and stripping of an entire housing estate).

Another highlight of the conference was the forum on Ecology of Invasive Species: bridging the gap between research and practice. Many of the future directions suggested echoed the plenary presentations – understanding the values and motivations of private citizens, modelling social groups as weed vectors, focusing on asset protection by understanding the variable (positive and negative) impacts of weeds across space. As for ‘bridging the gap’, it seems that there’s no substitute for establishing direct partnerships between researchers and practitioners. I listened to others’ stories and frustrations and it dawned on me just how rare and effective the Hawkweed Linkage has been these past few years. In fact, I was sitting next to my DPI counterpart Karen Herbert exchanging whispered comments throughout the afternoon. The collaborative one-on-one relationship that Karen and I have forged has really bridged a research-practice gap for hawkweed management, and it has been underpinned by a formal Linkage partnership specifying research and funding obligations. This has allowed us both to dedicate time and effort to a partnership as part of our job descriptions.

Our eradication target, orange hawkweed, photographed by Jo Caldwell

Hawkweeds had a pretty high profile at the conference. They featured in:

  • a poster about NSW orange hawkweed management from Jo Caldwell and her NSW Environment & Heritage colleagues,
  • a poster on Victorian hawkweed management from Karen Herbert (DPI) and Iris Curran (Parks Victoria),
  • a poster on using adapted eradographs to track eradication progress from Susie Hester (UNE) and Karen Herbert,
  • Linkage CI Roger Cousens‘ talk on next-generation models simulating King Devil hawkweed seeds dispersing by wind,
  • my talk about the hawkweed detection experiment I ran in January 2012.

It was great to speak to an audience of practitioners as well as academics. They really got the hang of what I was doing, asked some clever questions and put me on to some related projects and references that I would probably not have otherwise found. There might even be another gap-bridging collaboration in the works!

For the conference proceedings I wrote an article entitled Designing a detection experiment: tricks and trade-offs, co-authored by Jos Moore, Kate Giljohann, Georgia Garrard and Mick McCarthy. Email me if you’d like a copy.