Work with me

Current and previous PhD students

Philippa Bell – Building streetscape habitat to enrich biodiversity

Dale Wright – Investigating the social-ecological sustainability of coffee

Hugh Stanford – Determining the social-ecological Value and potential governance responses to informal green spaces in cities

Dr Thami Croeser – Strategic planning for urban nature-based solutions

Dr Lindall Kidd – Messaging matters: Improving conservation outcomes through strategic communication

Dr Emily GreggA strategic communication approach to biodiversity conservation

Dr Matthew SelinskeAdvancing the integration of human behaviour into biodiversity decision making

Dr Hannah FraserOvercoming inconsistency in woodland bird classification

Prospective Students

I am currently seeking Masters and PhD students to work on research projects in the areas of:

  • Biodiversity sensitive urban design
  • Biodiversity onsets (as opposed to biodiversity offsets)
  • Conservation messaging and behaviour change
  • Interdisciplinary conservation science

In particular, I am seeking students to conduct research in association with the following cross-institutional research projects:

Onsets not offsets for real biodiversity gains – ARC Discovery Project

This project seeks to develop an alternative to the pervasive, yet unsuccessful, biodiversity offsetting approach. The new approach – biodiversity onsets – focusses on ensuring onsite biodiversity gains associated with agricultural, urban and other land use developments. It will generate new knowledge in the areas of novel ecosystem function, land use optimisation and conservation attitudes. Key project outcomes will be a new framework for biodiversity onsetting, tested against environmental and social feasibility metrics, and new biodiversity evaluation methods for novel habitats. Key collaborators are Prof Sarah Bekessy (RMIT, ICON Science), Dr Matthew Selinske (RMIT, ICON Science) & Prof Atte Moilanen (University of Helsinki).

Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design: from theory to practice – Ian Potter Foundation

Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design (BSUD) is a process-based protocol designed to assist urban planners, designers and developers to create urban environments that generate net benefits for native biodiversity, through careful urban designs that provide habitat and resources, mitigate threats, and enhance connectivity. In this project, we are working collaboratively with industry partners Lend Lease, Yarra Valley Water and GHD Design Services to implement BSUD in demonstration sites and then rigorously evaluate the process to measure the real-world ecological, social and economic outcomes. Key researchers are Prof Sarah Bekessy (RMIT, ICON Science), Dr Holly Kirk (RMIT, ICON Science) & Dr Casey Visintin (RMIT, ICON Science).

Potential Research Projects

Potential research topics relating to these projects include:

  • Exploring potential benefits and perverse outcomes of biodiversity onsets. In theory, onsets would deliver positive biodiversity outcomes through incremental on-site gains; however, it is also possible that there could be unwanted and unexpected outcomes. This project would explore the potential positive and negative outcomes of biodiversity onsets with a view to informing a successful and effective onsets policy. It would particularly suit students with a legal, regulatory or policy background.
  • Establishing monitoring and evaluation methods for biodiversity onsets in novel habitats. Monitoring will be key to establishing the evidence base for and demonstrating the benefits of biodiversity onsets. This project would explore and develop methods for monitoring the biodiversity benefits of onsets. This will require innovation and adaptation of traditional biodiversity monitoring approaches to make them fit-for-purpose at multiple scales and for novel habitats. Exploration of other environmental, economic and social co-benefits is also in scope.
  • Can onsets help to reframe the conversation about conservation? Biodiversity onsets represents a paradigm shift in the way we approach conservation. The term biodiversity offsetting embodies multiple ideas and concepts that influence the way we think about, value and relate to nature – for example, that nature is tradeable, and that no net loss is sufficient to protect biodiversity. This project would draw on disciplines such as conservation psychology and conservation message framing to explore how onsets – an approach that seeks to integrate nature and human activity through on-site biodiversity gains – influences attitudes towards biodiversity conservation, and the ways in which people value and respond to it.
  • Exploring ‘everyday nature’ as a pathway for addressing the extinction of experience and delivering biodiversity benefits in urban environments. The extinction of experience is a global phenomenon that links a decrease in time spent in nature with reduced affinity with nature and devaluing of nature. This project would explore whether the extinction of experience could be addressed by enhancing opportunities for urban residents to have exposure to nature every day, as they go about their lives. This might include understanding what type of nature experiences can address the extinction of experience, and whether and how these can be facilitated in cities.
  • Improving integration of BSUD on private land. The private realm is an important component of biodiversity sensitive urban design. Yet the capacity for planning controls and regulations to influence privately-owned spaces in cities is limited. This project would explore novel ways to enhance BSUD in the private realm, including the influence of incentives and social norms on home-owners’ willingness to take up BSUD actions such as biodiverse landscaping options.

Please get in touch if you wish to discuss any of these projects, or any other potential research projects relating to biodiversity onsets, biodiversity sensitive urban design, interdisciplinary conservation science or conservation messaging and behaviour change.

You can familiarise yourself with Melbourne Uni’s PhD eligibility criteria and application processes (including key dates) here.