About me

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I’m currently a Research Fellow in the Fenner School for Environment and Society at the Australian National University.

I describe myself as an applied ecologist with an addiction to herpetology. I’ve been fascinated by reptiles and amphibians since I was a boy, and the obsession shows no signs of abating. More broadly, I’m interested in where species live and why, and what that can tell us about how to conserve them. Much of my research focuses on the spatial and temporal dynamics of species 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.

Contact: Geoffrey.Heard@anu.edu.au or gwheard.research@gmail.com

Current projects:

  1. Response of threatened frogs to the ‘Black Summer’ fires: Between Spring 2019 and Autumn 2020 Australia suffered unprecedented wildfires, with an estimated 18.6M 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. During my postdoc, I’ll be working with Ben Scheele, Dave Newell, Liam Bolitho and Harry Hines to assess the impacts of these fires on threatened frogs in northern NSW and south-eastern Queensland, particularly the Mountain Frog (Philoria kundagungan) and Richmond Mountain Frog (Philoria richmondensis).
  2. 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, realised niche and demography of species. In collaboration with Ben Scheele at ANU, 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.
  3. 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). My most recently published research in this area focused on quantifying the effects of elevation and canopy cover on chytrid prevalence and frog persistence in the rainforests of North Queensland, in collaboration with Sara Bell of the Australian Institute for Marine Sciences, and Lee Skerratt and Lee Berger of the University of Melbourne. Ongoing research includes the effect 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 at Charles Sturt University.
  4. Metapopulation and metacommunity dynamics of frogs: In collaboration with Dr Michael Scroggie (Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research) and Prof Kirsten Parris and Prof Michael McCarthy (University of Melbourne), I continue research on the metapopulation and metacommunity dynamics of frogs in Victoria, 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 joint species distribution models to describe the occupancy dynamics of the entire frog community.

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