Prof. Robert Heinsohn

I have had great success at running field projects in evolutionary and conservation biology, often in remote and difficult conditions. Over the last 18 years I have run a research program on Cape York Peninsula to study the remarkable Eclectus Parrot and Palm Cockatoo. The skills we developed on our Cape York program, including surveys by ground and air, aerial radio-tracking, tree-climbing, and catching parrots, together with specialist analytical techniques such as population viability analysis, left us ideally poised to work on difficult Tasmanian and other bird species that have long been left in the ‘too hard basket’. The recent research of my group has revealed major threats to Tasmanian birds, and substantially added to the body of information available for critically endangered nomadic species such as the regent honeyeater. Through our intensive field research and communication with the government and general public our aim is to continue to draw attention to the species most at risk from extinction, and to conduct research targeted at pulling these species back from the ‘brink’ before it is too late.

Fernanda Alves de Amorim

I am a conservation biologist with an interest in population ecology and management of threatened species and their habitat. I am interest in how populations interact with the environment after landscape changes and how management interventions can help the persistence of populations. I got my Bachelor in Biological Sciences in 2007 and since then I have collaborated on field work with several endangered species. In 2014, I completed my Masters in Zoology at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. For my Masters’ research I estimated population density and investigated habitat selection by the endangered red-billed curassow (Crax blumenbachii) in one of the remaining lowland Atlantic Forest stronghold for this species. I have been working with ANU research team since September 2015 on a training program to develop a research project on the endangered forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus). During my training I have also helped with field work on Swift parrots. Recently, I was awarded a PhD scholarship at the Research School of Biology to conduct my research on Forty-spotted pardalotes. My research on forty spotted pardalotes focusses on their landscape scale patterns of occupancy and abundance, plus fine scale aspects of their breeding success and parasite ecology.

Henry Cook B.Sc, Ma (appl sci) 

I have been a research officer with the Difficult Bird Research Group for several and have worked on the Swift Parrot and Superb Parrot projects, as well as driving the crowdfunding initiatives. 
As well as ecological research and consulting, I am also an accomplished wildlife photographer, with my images often placing highly in Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year award.



I studied a BSc in Ecology at the University of East Anglia, UK. I spent a year as an exchange student at the University of Wollongong, where I studied the ecology of fairy wrens. After graduating, I worked as a research assistant at the Edward Grey Institute, University of Oxford, on a large scale study into the social ecology of wild songbirds using novel tracking devices.

In 2015 I returned to Australia to commence my PhD into the ecology and conservation of the regent honeyeater.


Miles Keighley

I study palm cockatoos with Rob Heinsohn and Naomi Langmore. My research builds on the foundations laid by Steve Murphy and Christina Zdenek and extends the research to include the other populations on Cape York Peninsula to see whether they are connected enough to buffer the east coast population from decline. My research work includes comparison of calls between the populations (eg west coast versus east coast) and population genetics to determine the connectedness of the populations, and will lead to a population viability analysis to determine the conservation status of this species in Australia.


I am a conservation biologist interested in evolutionary genetics and tropical ecology. I gained my MSc degree in Applied Zoology from the University of Veterinary Sciences in Budapest, Hungary. I obtained extensive field experience on psittacines in many Latin-American countries in the Neotropics. During my PhD at the Australian National University I became an expert in modern molecular genetics. Before and during my PhD research I worked years in the Peruvian Amazon with local communities and the eco-tourism industry. I recently produced a documentary movie about this work (www.macawmovie.com). My interest in genetic analyses and my endeavour to preserve biological diversity via well established conservation management found their common niche in conservation genetics and genomics.

Dr Laura Rayner

I am a conservation ecologist studying population dynamics of species in modified landscapes. I am particularly interested in long-term biodiversity monitoring for the identification of threatening processes in dynamic systems, and the evaluation of conservation interventions aimed at maintaining biodiversity values and safeguarding species persistence. I am experienced in the analysis of long-term monitoring data having explored the impacts of key regulatory factors (e.g. weather, reservation, urbanisation, restoration) on vulnerable woodland bird communities for over 5 years. My primary conservation focus is the protection and restoration of Australia’s critically endangered box-gum woodlands and associated biota. I am passionate about citizen science and its huge potential for enhancing evidence-based conservation planning.

Within the DBRG, my primary role is to design and implement a national-scale monitoring program for the regent honeyeater to refine existing population estimates, and enhance understanding of the bird’s habitat selection and resource use. For this role, I have used time-sliced species distribution modelling to locate new populations of the bird. Most of my time is spent searching for regents and collecting critical new bird data across the massive range. I am super-excited for the next stage of monitoring when we will begin tracking the nectar resource critical to so many Australian species. Outside of regent honeyeater research, I also study the breeding biology and movement ecology of the superb parrot.


Dr Debbie Saunders

I am an ecologist with a passion for wild creatures and wild places. My most recent project is a collaboration NSW Government to protect the state's Swift Parrot population.  The project will take place over a 10-year project to protect threatened species and will focus on the western slopes habitats in the Riverina and drought refuge habitat on the Central Coast. I will conduct research on the swift parrots' changing use of habitats over the past 20 years, as well as the implications for land management in relation to changing climate. My past projects include an Australian Research Council Linkage Project with international partner Loro Parque Fundación, which provide multi-scale insights into the breeding biology and migration ecology of the endangered swift parrot. I shed new light on habitat requirements, reproductive success, mortality, disease prevalence and migratory movements of this small migrant to enable optimal conservation strategies to be developed and more effective land management to be implemented. In order to better understand the movements of small animals that move dynamically through the environment or inhabit rugged or inaccessible terrain, I also worked with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics and Loro Parque Foundacion to adapt cutting-edge drone technologies for robotic aerial-tracking of small, radio-tagged wildlife.  By delving into the world of robotic drones, I shed light on the movements of many species that have previously proved elusive due to the challenges of their variable movements across vast landscapes or their habitats that are difficult to access on the ground.



I am a conservation scientist interested in the factors that affect small and declining populations, and am responsible for managing on-ground operations of the DBRG. I undertook my PhD research on the breeding biology of the endangered swift parrot in their Tasmanian breeding range, and it was this research that led to the discovery of the severe predation on birds by sugar gliders. My research was the first to apply new technology and sophisticated analytical tools to address a major gap in knowledge about one of Australia’s most threatened birds. My research shed light on details about the breeding ecology of a species for which there were no data in spite of its severely threatened status. I am closely involved in the management of the orange-bellied parrot program at the Melaleuca population and for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons I was responsible for implementing the on-ground management of nest boxes and banding of nestlings for the OBP recovery program. My extensive experience in the management approaches applied to the recovery program for the OBP provides a unique insight into the challenges and opportunities facing this species. My work also extends to research into the critically endangered regent honeyeater and endangered forty spotted pardalote.

Matthew Webb

My work in conservation management over 15 years has highlighted the paucity of biological information available to inform conservation management for so many of our threatened species. This has led me to a particular interest in developing novel and robust monitoring programs for populations for highly mobile, rare or elusive species for which information is usually lacking. I have developed and continue to implement a unique population-level monitoring program for the critically endangered Swift Parrot which has revealed dramatic spatial shifts in their breeding distribution highlighting severe habitat limitation, ongoing habitat loss, and variable exposure to nest predation. Similarly, the recent development of a monitoring protocol for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater with our project team has been particularly satisfying and is allowing the identification of critical sites and gain a better understanding of key threats. In addition to over a decade of conducting fieldwork on the Orange-bellied Parrot, my work has revealed the need for urgent action to prevent the extinction of the critically endangered King Island Scrubtit resulting from complex interactions between habitat loss and acid-sulphate soils. Some of my other work has discovering new populations and revealed local extinctions of the endangered Forty-spotted Pardalote. This work highlights the need to trial reintroductions of the Pardalote to create insurance populations because of the severe threats to posed by wildfire and Noisy Minor invasions. My work continues to focus on identifying processes threatening our native species, quantifying population trends and identifying clear and measurable actions to recovery our endangered species.


Christina Zdenek

I have worked closely with Palm Cockatoos (palmies) on Cape York for over eight years. My work has been dedicated to the biological understanding and important conservation of this iconic species. Although research on these difficult birds has been challenging for a number of reasons, it has laid the foundation for how to successfully survey for and protect palmies and their hollows in proposed mining sites on Cape York Peninsula. I am currently working as a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, researching snake venom and conducting fieldwork on Death Adders. Concurrently, I work as an ecologist part-time on Cape York surveying for palmies.