Professor of Terrestrial Ecology

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School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Centre for Integrative Ecology

President, Ecological Society of Australia

Associate editor, Journal of Applied Ecology

Associate Editor, Austral Ecology



The threat posed by horses to Australia’s high country species and ecosystems grows, while the Victorian and NSW Governments decide on how to manage the problem.  The massive environmental impacts of feral horses in the alps were graphically illustrated in the submission to the Independent Technical Reference Group by Friends of Currango Inc.  They have first-hand experience of managing land in the north of Kosciuszko National Park since the 1970s, and provide an account of the changes they have observed.

FoC submission to ITRG re Horsest – Apr 2015 finalfinal2

The before-after photographs drive home the statistics in the review of the 2008 Kosciuszko horse management plan which reported that 76% of stream banks were degraded in areas with horses but only 11% were degraded in areas without horses.  This unambiguous damage is why the Ecological Society of Australia has called on the Premiere of NSW to rapidly reduce the number of horses throughout Kosciuszko, using aerial culling, which is the only feasible method given the size of the horse population, and is the method with the fewest welfare concerns.





The Australian Government’s threatened species prospectus was released in March, as a plan to attract investment from industry and philanthropists.  It’s a fantastic communications exercise, maybe even an essential one, but why isn’t the government funding these programs directly? And why aren’t any invertebrates in the prospectus.  We address these issues in this exciting first article from the Ecological Society of Australia comms team.




Australian Ecologists’ Letter to the NSW Premier in support of feral horse control

Public comments on the Kosciuszko National Park draft Wild Horse Management Plan, 2016 closed on the 19 August.

As reported in The Guardian, 41 ecologists, including eminent alpine ecologists and those with expertise in making cost-effective land management decisions sent a letter to the NSW Premier Mike Baird.   In the letter we expressed support for the Kosciuszko National Park Draft Wild Horse Management Plan 2016.  We strongly support a rapid reduction in horse numbers.  We also point out that aerial culling is the most humane and effective method for reducing horse numbers.  We argue that horse numbers need to be rapidly reduced to very low numbers in a shorter time frame than is currently proposed to protect fragile alpine ecosystems and species.


Filled: PhD Scholarship Frog Ecology and disease dynamics.

Filled: Research Fellow Terrestrial Ecology


Review the latest news from the Ecological Society of Australia meeting on twitter #ESA15 and #ESA16

I started in my new position at Deakin University, Melbourne Burwood Campus, in the last week of August 2015.

Our paper, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA,  flags a major opportunity to avoid future damage to the natural environment. The paper highlights the ongoing risks that new pasture varieties will become invasive, degrade natural ecosystems and escalate the cost of land management.  The paper urges governments, industry and farmers to take action now so that past land management mistakes are not repeated, or made worse.You can access the paper and supporting information.  The PNAS version can be found here.

The new video tells the story in 3.5 minutes using a quirky combination of stop-motion animation and editing tricks.

Or read The Conversation article

To see the evidence behind the story, visit the ESA Hot Topic

Horse management in Australia’s high country is discussed in my recent article in The Conversation, co-authored by Dr Sam Banks.  It also documents our observation of cannibal horses……….

 NEWS:  This story was the winner in the ANU’s Strategic Communications and Public Affairs annual media awards night 2014 in the category “Quirkiest/Most Unusual Story”.  

The last forest skink died recently, representing the first reptile extinction in Australia.  John Woinarski, Hal Cogger and I argue in The Conversation that the legacy of this extinction should not be a shoulder shrug.

See the video behind my paper: The Matrix in Ecology

And see the paper that it is based on:

DRISCOLL, D. A., BANKS, S. C., BARTON, P. S., LINDEMAYER, D. B. & SMITH, A. L. (2013). Conceptual domain of the matrix in fragmented landscapes. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 605-613. Download Preprint

or see the official version at TREE


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