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Current Members

Alex Watkins, PhD Candidate

Alex is a PhD student working with Professor Jonathan Rhodes and Dr Laura Sonter in the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland. He received an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, and a Master of Environment degree from Griffith University, where his thesis focused on the impacts climate change is having on koalas in Brisbane.

His current work will focus on developing new knowledge on the consequences of interregional flows of the benefits of people receive from natural ecosystems for the global distribution of ecosystem service benefits. The project will also attempt to deliver novel approaches for predicting the global distribution of ecosystem service benefits under alternative land use scenarios and policy settings in a highly connected world.

Anazelia Tedesco, PhD Candidate

Anazelia is interested in the science-policy interface, as well as in environmental governance designed to make links between science and society. Her work, supervised by Prof Jonathan Rhodes, Prof Hugh Possingham, Dr. Angela Dean, and Prof Pedro Brancalion, focuses on promoting secondary forest persistence in the Atlantic Forest, improving large-scale forest restoration through natural regeneration. As part of Anazelia’s PhD, she is working in collaboration with several organisations such as The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute-Brazil, WWF-Brazil, Espirito Santo Government, and the University of Sao Paulo.

Brooke Williams, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

My research interests are in finding solutions to challenging problems that balance conservation objectives with human needs. My PhD at the University of Queensland focussed on assessing the state of intact or under-developed landscapes and how to plan for their conservation considering competing objectives. I’ve been lucky to work on several conservation and planning projects globally and across Australia, Central and South America, and Africa with various conservation groups including the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, and the International Institute for Sustainability Australia. I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher with the Sustainable Landscapes Group focusing on private land conservation, modelling and improving decision making considering ecosystem service flows.

Courtney Morgans, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

My research is predominantly focused on understanding the impact of conservation programs and land use policies on wildlife and people. I use a range of interdisciplinary techniques including social network analysis, cost-benefit analysis, and impact evaluation, to assess the performance of programs, and identify opportunities for improvement. During my PhD and subsequent research positions, I have applied these methods to understand the effectiveness of conservation programs for orangutans, as well as to evaluate the impact of protected areas on human socio-economic well-being. As a postdoctoral researcher with the Sustainable Landscapes Group, I am focused on understanding the drivers behind koala habitat degradation and finding opportunities to increase the effectiveness of conservation efforts for the species.  

Frankie Cho, PhD Candidate

Frankie’s PhD project investigates how to make natural capital decisions under uncertainty. Drawing upon the fields of environmental economics and ecology, this project characterises the uncertainties arising from coupled ecological and economic models and identifies efficient spatial landscape configurations to provide ecosystem services. His work, supervised by Prof Brett Day (University of Exeter) and Prof Jonathan Rhodes, is part of the Joint PhD program between the University of Exeter (UK) and the University of Queensland supported by the QUEX Institute.

Jonathan Rhodes, Professor & ARC Future Fellow

​Jonathan is based in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland (UQ). He received his PhD in Ecology in 2005 and has been at UQ since 2007, after two years at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart before that. His primary research interests lie in understanding the spatial processes that drive biodiversity and ecosystem services, and developing fundamental principles for decision-making in conservation.

Nanda Kaji Budhathoki, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I have a research background in environmental economics, climate change adaptation, and behavioural economics. I completed PhD in Agriculture and Environmental Economics from Charles Darwin University in 2020. I designed and set up an index-based agricultural insurance premium rate against multiple risks as a risk mitigation strategy in my PhD research. Additionally, I explored farmers’ knowledge of and risk perceptions towards three extreme events whose frequency, duration, and intensity will increase with climate change, how they are affected by, on a personal and farming level, and how they chose to adapt and identify socio-economic and psychological factors that affect farmers’ choices and intensity of intended adaptation. The research reduced the risk of these events to the farming community by identifying and implementing innovative and sustainable farming adaptation and mitigation measures. Recently, I have joined Sustainable Landscape Group as a postdoctoral research fellow, where I will focus on identifying, developing and implementing how social science and economic components drive landholders’ engagement in private land conservation and how climate-related extreme events, including wildfires and drought, will affect landholders’ adoption on private land conservation by integrating economic, environmental and social data modelling. This research supports innovative and efficient climate-resilient private land conservation initiatives.

Natalya Maitz, PhD Candidate

Natalya is interested in structured decision-making to maximize outcomes for biodiversity. Her PhD research involves collaborations with government agencies and NGOs to better understand the threatening processes that face the brush-tailed rock wallaby to inform strategic conservation planning. Natalya is also working with WWF-Australia to manage the 'Eyes on Recovery' camera traps deployed throughout southeast Queensland. This project aims to measure the impacts of the 2019-2020 wildfires on native wildlife.

Nisa Abeysinghe, PhD Candidate

My research focuses on tackling pests using game theory to support cooperative management. It aims on improving management of invasive species by helping pest mitigating agencies work together. A novel framework is designed using game theory, ecology and spatial distribution to identify how and when pest mitigation agencies collaborate to get optimum agricultural and environmental outcomes.

Shantala Brisbane, PhD Candidate

Shantala is a Research Assistant for the Sustainable Landscapes Group. She has a BSc (Hons) in marine biology and ecology. After working in environmental consulting for a number of years she has more recently worked in research coordination / management and research assistant roles (including marine and coastal restoration, coastal wetland dieback, and research infrastructure requirements in ecosystem science). She is particularly interested in marine and coastal conservation.

Shu Chen, PhD Candidate

I am a passionate conservationist and started my professional career in 2010. I have a substantial career focus on threatened species conservation, human-wildlife coexistence, and environmental advocacy. My Ph.D. project focuses on developing effective communication strategies for species conservation, i.e., koalas, with collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders. This interdisciplinary research, particularly, would deploy social sciences to understand the motivations and barriers of private landowners to engage in sustainability management and what approaches effectively lead to conservation favoured decision-making.

Violeta Berdejo-Espinola, PhD Candidate

I am an interdisciplinary scientist currently exploring the ecology in cities and pursuing questions around the ways humans benefit from nature under the current pressures of rapid urbanisation and other global changes. Supervised by Prof Richard Fuller, Prof Jonathan Rhodes, and Dr Felipe Suárez Castro, my PhD research specifically explores the spatial distribution of urban green spaces across the globe and also human-nature interaction in cities.

I have extensive research interests and am working as a Research Technician on the translatE project led by Dr Tatsuya Amano, where we are seeking to understand how language barriers impede the application of science in conservation decision making and to assess the importance of scientific knowledge that is available in non-English languages.

Yi Fei Chung, PhD Candidate

Fei’s project focuses on developing quantitative spatial models to assess the effect of climate change on endangered species population persistence. The project will also attempt to evaluate the policy of koala conservation under climate change. Originating from Malaysia and subsequently living in Singapore before moving to Australia, Fei have witnessed the massive destruction of tropical rainforest in the Southeast Asia region. That sowed the seeds for his passion in biodiversity conservation. Fei completed his Master of Conservation Biology program at The University of Queensland in July 2020. Prior to that, he was a project manager for wildlife overhead bridge and subsequently a nature reserve manager in Singapore. His general research interest is to understand how anthropogenic impacts on the landscape can be reduced or even reversed in the face of climate change.

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