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.



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.

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.

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Adam Cisterne

I graduated with a BSc (Hon) in microbiology, cell biology and genetics from the University of Sydney and worked for many years in cancer research. I have an enduring interest in ecology and evolution. In 2012-2014 I gained a Masters Degree from James Cook University, where my research compared behavioural responses of an invasive and a native sympatric gecko, to predator cues, and to direct competition between the species over resources.

I have joined the DBRG as a PhD candidate. I am initiating a new project studying the spatial ecology and conservation of the Tasmanian masked owl. Two key features of my research are the use of, conservation sniffer dog surveys to increase detection probabilities of this elusive bird, and GPS telemetry to estimate masked owl home range distributions and the landscape characteristics that affect them.        


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Janneke VOOGDT

I studied biology at the University of Goettingen in Germany and have a broad interest in ecology, ornithology and conservation. My Master’s thesis and work on swift parrot (Lathamus discolour) nesting habitat characteristics in Tasmania highlight the importance of mature, senescent trees and the significant role of recruitment trees in already highly fragmented habitat.

Based in Tasmania, I have started a PhD with the Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU. Looking at parrots again - while some species struggle to the point of extinction, others thrive midst human activities plus their consequences. In my research I will look at trends and traits of invasive parrot species worldwide and at the invasive rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus) in Tasmania at a finer scale.


Giselle Owens

Currently I am researching a way to repel sugar gliders from the breeding areas of swift parrots using predatory owl calls. This is aimed at reducing predation events of breeding swift parrots and slow imminent population decline. I am undertaking this study as an honours student with ANU. Previously I studied Wildlife & Conservation Biology (B.Sc) at La Trobe University and worked as a park ranger, an ecologist intern and research assistant with other research institutions. This included a study in the Brazilian Amazon assessing the abundance of bird species on the edge of deforestation, the Mountain Pygmy Possum recovery project in the Victorian Alps and a study on koala diet in over-browsed eucalyptus communities on Cape Otway. I am particularly interested in ecological relationships between species and how we can restore balance to ecosystems under anthropogenic pressure

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McLean Cobden

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science from the University of Canberra. During my honours I undertook research into the management of African lions and ecotourism in a South African game reserve. I have also worked closely with a range of native parrots, including the orange-bellied parrot, in a breeding and animal husbandry role.My experience and interest in parrots and complex conservation issues has led to a Masters project with the DBRG. This project attempts to establish the occupancy of the invasive rainbow lorikeets in Tasmania, while also analysing the breeding biology of the species. This rather successful little parrot offers a range of interesting questions and growing concerns, placing further pressures on already struggling native species.

daniel gautschi

I am currently undertaking an honours year at the ANU, and will be contributing to the DBRG through my research. Specifically, I am focusing on the impact of predation on the regent honeyeater; exploring nest predator abundance, its predictors and its influence on nest success within the Capertee Valley, NSW. My research aims to increase understanding of nest predation to inform future management of the species. Prior to undertaking my honours I completed a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Commerce at the ANU and worked for 18 months as a management consultant. I am particularly interested in behavioural ecology and its application to the conservation of vulnerable species.

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Zorro is a young border collie X springer spaniel, who’s in training to search for Tasmanian masked owl habitat.  Working with scientists at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Detection Dogs for Conservation program, Zorro is learning how to search forests for tell-tale owl pellets, which will allow us to identify potential nesting and roosting habitat for these elusive owls.  Zorro belongs to DBRG’s Masters student Nicole Gill, who’s investigating the efficiency and accuracy of dogs in detecting Tasmanian masked owl pellets in different forest environments.  Zorro will be joined by one of the Detection Dogs for Conservation’s experienced detection dogs, and PhD student Adam Cistern will be comparing the dogs’ rates of masked owl habitat discovery to those of humans searching the same sites using audio playback techniques.  Unlike the humans, the dogs will be able to search during daylight hours, and are expected to be significantly faster and more accurate than ecologists working alone.

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Nicole gill

My background is in environmental management, with an invasive species focus.  I did my Honours degree at UTAS, looking at predicting factors for weeds on Tasmanian beaches, and since then, have worked as a botanist and invasive species management specialist both as an independent consultant and for various NGOs, private enterprises, local government bodies and State government departments. 

I’m currently doing my Masters with the Difficult Birds Research Group, looking at the efficacy of conservation dogs for the detection of Tasmanian masked owl habitat with my dog, Zorro, as well as some of the scientists and dogs from the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Detection Dogs for Conservation program.  I’m also an environmental writer – my work has featured in Good Weekend Magazine, The Monthly and The Guardian.  My children’s book, Animal Eco-Warriors, profiled a series of animal/human teams working to solve environmental problems, reflecting my interest in the area of harnessing skilled animals’ talents to obtain good conservation science outcomes.


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.

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Ewan dalladay

I am a 4th year honors student currently studying with ANU into the distribution of invasive rainbow lorikeets in the Hobart region.  My research will aid in identifying the threat this invasive species may create for the endangered species this team is trying to protect. I have completed my undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology with Griffith University in the Gold Coast Campus. During this degree I have completed course that required me to conduct fieldwork in remote areas in South Western Queensland and the jungles of Thailand. Between completing my undergraduate degree and commencing my honors year I spent 3 months volunteering for the Macaw Project in Peru. I am particularly interested in parrots and raptors and aim to work in the conservation of such species.


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.