Keynote speakers

We are pleased to confirm the following keynote speakers at ESA2020

Vanessa Cavanagh, Associate Lecture, University of Wollongong, NSW

(Indigenous Keynote Presentation)

VanessaCavanaghVanessa Cavanagh is a Bundjalung and Wonnarua Aboriginal woman. Vanessa is an Associate Lecturer and PhD candidate located within the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities in the University of Wollongong (UOW). Vanessa’s research explores and amplifies the experiences of Aboriginal women in cultural burning in NSW. This research links back to Vanessa’s experience in environmental conservation in both the corporate and government sector. Vanessa has worked in a variety of roles in NSW national parks, including as a field officer where she participated in remote area fire-fighting, park operations and bush regeneration; as well as Ranger, joint management, cultural heritage management and research. In the corporate sector, Vanessa managed the Georges River Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team project between 2014-2017. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in Land and Heritage Management, with first class Honours from UOW. Vanessa’s passion is Indigenous leadership and the encouragement of Indigenous women in environmental conservation activities, she empowers these values within her various roles, including with family and community

Professor Belinda Medlyn, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University

Belinda Medlyn is Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Modelling at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University. Her research work focuses on using information from plant and ecosystem scale experiments to develop models predicting vegetation function, particularly vegetation responses to elevated carbon dioxide, rising temperature and drought. She has been instrumental in international model intercomparison projects evaluating ecosystem models against Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiments, and leads model synthesis activities at the Eucalyptus FACE experiment in Western Sydney. Her research on stomatal conductance has drawn together the main strands of evidence about stomatal behaviour to develop a unified theory that now serves as the major framework for research in this area, and her work on drought mortality led her to establish the Dead Tree Detective citizen science initiative. She was a Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher in 2018-19, and in 2019 won the Australian Research Council Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowship.

Laura Brannelly, University of Melbourne

(Next Generation Ecologist Award Winner)

Laura is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Her DECRA research project focuses on understanding how some populations survive a disease epidemic while others do not. She is exploring how changes in reproduction in response to disease might help some species survive. She is aiming to understand multiple aspects of amphibian reproduction that are affected by disease, such as gamete production and viability, mating behaviours, offspring success and genes under selection. She hopes to be able to directly use the information generated from her research to further conservation efforts to protect Australia’s declining frog species.

Laura received her undergraduate degree and Masters of Science from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. During her masters, she began investigating the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis. Laura received her PhD at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland Australia in 2016. For her PhD research, she explored the interactions between frogs, disease, and the management of critically endangered species. She explored the pathogenesis of disease on understudied and endangered species, as well as determining mechanisms of population persistence. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh from 2016-2018, where she investigated the interactions between frogs, chytrid fungal disease, and the environment: specifically, how climate change impacts these relationships.

Laura’s research interests include amphibians, wildlife disease, endangered species, conservation, and chytridiomycosis. She is particularly interested in how some populations survive following disease invasion, particularly those species and populations that have not developed an effective immune response. Laura is interested in directly combining academic research into management strategies for the protection of endangered species.

Associate Professor Diana Fisher, University of Queensland

(ESA AERA Award Winner)

Diana Fisher is a mammal ecologist. She and her research group work on ecology and biogeography of mammals, especially in Australia and Melanesia. Her research interests include causes and detectability of extinction and decline; conservation ecology of threatened and declining marsupials, bats, and tropical mammals; mating systems; and life history evolution, especially associations between life histories and seasonality, climate, and sexual selection. Her group’s field study animals include dasyurids, macropods, Melanesian flying foxes, and invasive predators. Diana did her honours project on dasyurids at the University of Sydney with Chris Dickman, and her PhD on ecology of bridled nailtail wallabies at the University of Queensland with Craig Moritz and Anne Goldizen. She completed a Royal Society fellowship at the University of Aberdeen with Xavier Lambin, an ARC APD fellowship at ANU with Andrew Cockburn, and an ARF fellowship, a Future Fellowship and UQ Fellowship at UQ. She has worked in state environment agencies and the Australian Museum at times between academic positions, before joining UQ in 2007. She is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland. Diana has supervised 24 PhD students, nine masters and ten honours students at UQ; many have done field projects with industry and agency partners. She is co-chair of the IUCN Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group, Vice President of the Australian Mammal Society, a CI in the NESP Threatened Species Recovery hub, part of the UQ Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science group leadership, a member of the ARC College of Experts, and on the editorial board of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B and Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Dr Yung En Chee (University of Melbourne) and Dr Rhys Coleman (Melbourne Water)

(ESA Ecological Impact Award Winners)

 Dr Yung En Chee is a quantitative applied ecologist. Her research interests include spatial and ecological modelling, decision analysis, reasoning under uncertainty and interdisciplinary research. She works on how ideas and methods from these fields can be integrated to improve conservation and environmental decision making.

Dr Rhys Coleman is an aquatic ecologist who currently manages the waterways and wetlands research program at Melbourne Water – including projects relating to the stormwater management, protection of aquatic biodiversity, vegetation management, aquatic recreation and public health, environmental flows, and catchment impacts on estuaries and bays.

In collaboration with colleagues at Melbourne Water, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University, Yung and Rhys won the 2020 ESA Ecological Impact Award for their project ‘Ecological modelling and waterway management prioritisation in greater Melbourne’. More information on their project can be found here.