I am the Project Manager for the Threatened Species Index (TSX) at the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) based at the University of Queensland. I am also an Affiliated Researcher with the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland.
The TSX is the first platform to integrate long-term data on the population trends for Australia’s threatened mammals, birds and plants. Soon, we hope, it will collate equivalent data for frogs, reptiles and freshwater fish. The core of my job is liaising with data custodians from across the country to help them enter their hard-won field data into the index, enabling the TSX to provide accurate and up-to-date information on population trends for Australia’s threatened species.
Outside of my TSX role, I continue to pursue research at the intersection of applied ecology and herpetology. I’ve been fascinated by reptiles and amphibians since I was a boy, and the obsession shows no sign of abating. Much of my research focuses on the spatial and temporal dynamics of reptiles and amphibians at landscape-scales, seeking insights into population processes to guide conservation planning. But I dabble in pure ecology and methodological projects, with some natural history thrown in for good measure.
Contacts and social media:
- Email: email@example.com
- Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/137559394@N07/
- Instagram: @gw.heard
Current research projects:
- Response of threatened frogs to the ‘Black Summer’ fires: Australia suffered unprecedented wildfires between Spring 2019 and Autumn 2020, with an estimated 7 million hectares burnt on the east coast and adjoining ranges. These fires were not only unprecedented in scale, but burnt landscapes that are normally immune from fire, including rainforest and ancient Antarctic Beech forest. Recently I’ve worked with Ben Scheele, Dave Newell, Liam Bolitho and Harry Hines to assess the impacts of these fires on the Mountain Frog (Philoria kundagungan) and Richmond Mountain Frog (Philoria richmondensis) in northern NSW and south-eastern Queensland.
- Range, niche and demographic shifts in frogs afflicted by disease: Chytridiomycosis in amphibians provides a case study of the ability of biotic agents to alter the distribution, niche and demography of species. In collaboration with Ben Scheele, I am currently pursuing research on these processes among Australian frogs, using data on frog distributions and age structure before and after chytrid invaded Australia’s east coast.
- Environmental drivers of disease dynamics in frogs: Beginning with a paper in 2014, I continue to work on the effects of wetland microclimate and water chemistry on the impact of chytridiomycosis among threatened frogs (see here) and the potential of such relationships to inform manage options for the disease (see here). Recent publications have focused on: (i) the effects of elevation and canopy cover on chytrid prevalence and frog persistence in the rainforests of North Queensland (in collaboration with Sara Bell, Lee Skerratt and Lee Berger – paper here) and; (ii) the effects of environmental variables on chytrid infection dynamics in frogs of the NSW semi-arid zone (in collaboration with PhD student Anna Turner and supervisor Skye Wassens – paper here).
- Metapopulation and metacommunity dynamics of frogs: In collaboration with Michael Scroggie, Kirsten Parris, Michael McCarthy, Matt West and Peter Robertson, I continue research on the metapopulation and metacommunity dynamics of frogs across northern Melbourne, using a long-term occupancy dataset amassed since 2001. Our particular focus has been the threatened Growling Grass Frog; however, current works seeks to use hierarchical models to estimate the occupancy dynamics of the entire frog community.