My research focusses on solving problems in biodiversity conservation. My current research interests include measuring change in biodiversity, predicting the impacts of change, and making conservation decisions. I also work on ecosystem risk assessment, mainly with the IUCN Red list of Ecosystems. For more detail, see more on my research groups page.

Most of my research is quantitative and usually involves modelling of some description. Here are my main current research themes and some current projects – if you are interested in working on any of these topics as a postdoc or PhD student, please contact me.

I am also very interested in gender equity in science, and more broadly, as you can see from my blog posts.

LacAlaotra: Emily Nicholson 2007Measuring change in biodiversity

Much of my research focuses on measuring biodiversity and change in biodiversity, from local site-based monitoring to global indicators. Projects include:

Optimal monitoring: The aims of these projects vary from comparing monitoring methods (e.g. camera traps versus live trapping), understanding how variability in climate affects biodiversity in stochastic systems, assessing detectability, and optimal monitoring strategies. This includes work on the Tiwi Islands.

IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: the new global standard for assessing the threat status of ecosystems, in collaboration with Jon Paul Rodriguez, David Keith (UNSW) and Tracey Regan and Lucie Bland (University of Melbourne), and others. We currently have an ARC Linkage grant to test the new criteria for the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. For more information, see the official website of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, the unofficial RLE Research page, and our page on the Conservation Science website.

Evaluating the performance of biodiversity indicators: we are performing some of the first rigorous evaluations of biodiversity indicators, including those recommended for use under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Much of this work is in collaboration with Ben Collen (UCL), EJ Milner-Gulland (Imperial College London), Mick McCarthy (Qaeco, University of Melbourne) and others. Biodiversity metrics are also needed to aggregate data for quantifying the effects of scenarios and make planning decisions at local scales – see work on the Tiwi Islands, and by Chris Hallam (PhD student) in collaboration with Brendan Wintle (Qaeco, University of Melbourne).


Photo: Andrea WallacePredicting the impacts of change on biodiversity

I use a range of predictive modelling tools to forecast change in ecological and social-ecological systems, and aid understanding about system dynamics, evaluate the effectiveness of alternative policies and assess the performance of indicators for monitoring change. Work in this area includes models of social-ecological systems, ecosystem services, ecological models for decision support, and indicator testing. Current research projects include: the Tiwi Islands; Lac Alaotra, Madagascar, a wetland system of high value for rice, fish and biodiversity, in collaboration with Andrea Wallace, EJ, and Julia Jones.


Indri: Emily NicholsonConservation decisions

Systematic conservation planning is also known as spatial conservation prioritization, reserve design, multi-objective planning… the list goes on; example software/tools include Zonation and Marxan. My research in this area includes planning for species persistence, integrating social and biodiversity values, types of biodiversity data, and effects of uncertainty on decisions. Projects include the Tiwi Islands. Collaborators include Professor Hugh Possingham (University of Queensland), Bob Pressey (JCU), and many people at Qaeco.

Uncertainty: Conservation decisions are inevitably made with incomplete and uncertain data, and based on uncertain models. Therefore better tools and frameworks are needed to understand types and sources of uncertainty, and ways of dealing with uncertainty to make more robust management decisions. This research theme spans across all the others listed – uncertainty is pervasive!


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