Alumni stories

CEED alumni make their mark

One of CEED’s greatest legacies will be its people. CEED commenced in 2011 and has now generated a well-connected alumni network that spans the globe. These incredibly capable researchers are receiving national and international recognition for their achievements. They are securing coveted positions in the academy, and also taking up leadership roles in in governmental and non-governmental organisations. We are profiling a selection of this community in this and coming issues of Decision Point. And, if you have any alumini tales to share, please let us know.


Carly Cook

Dr Carly Cook

Carly Cook

CEED allowed me to meet and collaborate with world-leaders in decision science.
I joined CEED in 2011 after completing my PhD at Queensland Uni. CEED provided an outstanding intellectual environment for me to develop as an independent researcher. Richard Fuller and Hugh Possingham were fantastic mentors for me, contributing to the science I was conducting and in providing invaluable advice about how to develop my career in conservation science.
One of the many ways in which CEED benefited me, was through an early-career-researcher travel grant. The award allowed me to travel to the UK to meet with leaders in the field of evidence-based conservation: Bill Sutherland from Cambridge Uni and Andrew Pullin at Bangor Uni. This experience had a lasting impact on my career. It enabled me to form collaborations with both research groups, and encouraged me to become one of the founding members of the Australian arm of the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence: the Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice.
I am now a lecturer at Monash Uni where I have also started my own research group. Our focus is on integrating evidence into conservation decisions and developing decision support tools.

More info: https://carlycookresearch.wordpress.com/

Note: You can read about some of Carly’s recent research on decision triggers in management in this issue.

Strategies to bridge the divide

Back in 2013, Carly wrote about mechanisms that help scientists and decision makers work together. In Decision Point #73 she wrote: “We perceive at least three key challenges for those hoping to achieve boundary-spanning conservation science. First, scientific and management audiences can have contrasting perceptions about the salience of research. Second, the pursuit of scientific credibility can come at the cost of salience and the legitimacy of science in the eyes of decision makers, and third, different actors can have conflicting views about what constitutes legitimate information. The key to overcoming all three challenges is through meaningful collaboration between scientists and decision makers.” And she then outlines four strategies as a good place to start.


Ed Hammill

Aim high young man! Ed Hammill in full flight at the 2013 Biennial CEED Conference Great Debate in which the contested proposition was that hunting, logging and grazing should be allowed in national parks. Ed led the opposition which, for the record, won the debate. Seated behind Ed in lumber-jack costume and beard is Sarah Bekessey.

Aim high young man! Ed Hammill in full flight at the 2013 Biennial CEED Conference Great Debate in which the contested proposition was that hunting, logging and grazing should be allowed in national parks. Ed led the opposition which, for the record, won the debate. Seated behind Ed in lumber-jack costume and beard is Sarah Bekessey.

When I joined CEED in 2013 I had no formal experience in spatial analysis but I did have a strong desire to work in decision science for conservation. While with CEED, I learned how to implement the spatial planning software Marxan, and developed a new method to analyse the consequences of not accounting for risk in landscape decisions. I’ve continued to use both these techniques in the majority of the projects I have taken on (which have expanded to include rivers and streams).
My experiences at CEED provided me with the skills to produce high-impact publications, including one in Nature Communications (which then became the subject of a TED talk). And due to the highly collaborative nature of CEED, my time there also allowed me to substantially expand my research network. The CEED conferences were not only useful to meet researchers from other universities, but provided a great sense of being part of a large group focused on the same mission.
Following my time at CEED, I have taken up a faculty position at Utah State Uni, where I lead the Spatial Community Ecology lab. The techniques I learned during my time at CEED were crucial in obtaining this position and my subsequent success. Recently, I began working with state agencies and The Nature Conservancy to address how the threat of climate change should be incorporated into management activities in the western US. This year, I will start working with the Department of Defence to investigate how best to conserve endangered aquatic species on military lands in California.
I will also be continuing the work I began during my time at CEED, investigating how the risk of armed conflict should be incorporated into conservation decisions. None of these projects would have been possible without the collaborations and skills I developed while working at CEED.


Melinda Moir

Melinda is pictured vacuuming insects from threatened plant species using a petrol-powered weed blower. Her field site in the SW corner of WA. (Photo by Kec Brennan)

Melinda is pictured vacuuming insects from threatened plant species using a petrol-powered weed blower. Her field site in the SW corner of WA. (Photo by Kec Brennan)

CEED not only opened doors to people who I thought were out of reach (or I was not even aware of) but it also generated a supportive atmosphere. The support that I received was substantial and came in many forms: moral, financial and professional (including mentorship and meeting world-renowned scientists). I have attempted to replicate this environment of support for the people who work for me at the WA Department of Primary Industries and Resource Development, which I joined in 2015 after finishing at CEED’s UWA Node. I lead a team working on the biosecurity of Barrow Island, an A-class Nature Reserve off Western Australia’s north-west coast (associated with Chevron-related mining activities on the island).
My CEED journey began in 2010 at the Melbourne Uni node, with Peter Vesk and Mick McCarthy. I have many fond memories, but one of the best was attending the ESA conference in Canberra in 2010. Not only was it an opportunity to meet all the great people associated with CEED, but it gave me the feeling that I was a part of something that was really going to make a difference to the conservation of Australia’s biota in the long-term.

Threatened plants & their dependent insects

Way back in Decision Point #53, pages 6-7 Melinda wrote about co-extinction and how to stop it. As she explained: “When we move a threatened plant species to a new site to improve its chances of survival, should we be putting in a similar effort into moving the insects that live on that plant? If those insects only live on the threatened plant species then clearly we should. Unfortunately, not much work has been done on this aspect of translocation.”


Joe Bull

 Jo Bull

Jo Bull

To this day, I still collaborate and publish with CEED, so I am not sure I truly ever left! However, since finishing my PhD, and official association with CEED, I have gone on to pursue a career in applied biodiversity conservation research through postdocs and other institutional positions. This has included winning funding for projects, including a ‘no-net-loss’ project in Uganda and a ‘business-and-biodiversity’ project with the University of Oxford. I have also set up a biodiversity consultancy called Wild Business that puts our research into practice. We have worked on numerous conservation projects throughout the world, from Canada to Kazakhstan.
I first became part of CEED in 2011 as an associate while undertaking a PhD at Imperial College London. In my first year I organised a biodiversity offsetting workshop with Sarah Bekessy’s group at RMIT which kicked off a number of collaborations that have proven incredibly productive (both during my studies and beyond). Through exposure to leading thinkers in decisions science and working with such applied conservationists, I greatly benefited from my time with CEED. In fact, my best publications have all involved CEED collaborators.
CEED also strongly influenced the way I approach science, encouraging me to think more creatively and practically about my research and its outcomes. Without this influence, I might have gone back to industry instead of continuing along this path. It’s fair to say, CEED has also been a key motivator in deciding to remain primarily in academia.

Comparing offset methodologies

In 2015 Joe analysed how different offset schemes worked around the world. In Decision Point #85 he told us that: “Since the basic goal of all of these methodologies is the same – that is, no net loss – one might hope that they would give similar answers if they were applied to a common case study. We tested this approach and it turns out they don’t. This highlights how different the philosophy behind biodiversity offsetting in different countries can be.”

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