Optimising and Improving Species Detections
Prof Mick McCarthy
Dr Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita
School of Agriculture, Food and Ecosystem Sciences
Faculty of Science
Ecologists face the ongoing issue of imperfect detection of species. Just because we were unable to detect a species during a survey it doesn't mean that they weren't there, just that we didn't find them on that occasion. Species detections are particularly important in the conservation of rare or threatened species, in understanding the spread of invasive species or declaring extinction or eradication of species. Conservation and research funding is limited and researchers need to ensure that they are working within their means. Often important considerations such as survey duration or the number of sites surveyed are based on the available budget, equipment or time frame that the project needs to be completed in. These constraints do not always lead to the optimal survey design and optimisation should be performed to find the design that performs best, whilst taking these into account. My PhD aims to improve and understand the detection of species, particularly species that are rare or cryptic. There are two main components: (i) maximising the number of sites with at least one detection of multiple species and (ii) understanding the factors that influence the detection of an individual of a species. Due to the nature of imperfect detection researchers need to ensure robust methodologies that increase confidence in the resulting analysis.
Q & A
Why did you decide to do a PhD?
I went back to uni as a mature-aged student and was originally planning on becoming a high school teacher but after spending some time in a classroom I decided that really wasn't for me. In my second year of my undergrad I was lucky enough to receive a summer research scholarship through the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute where I completed a research project on Occupancy Modelling for frogs and I really enjoyed the process so decided that I wanted to continue pursuing research. I moved to the University of Melbourne in 2019 for Honours and then continued on to a PhD. I really enjoy the research side of the work, but also working as a demonstrator alongside.
What do you enjoy reading?
Anything but the papers that I should be reading as part of my PhD! I enjoy fantasy novels like the Wheel of Time series but I don't get a chance to read much.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not working on your PhD?
I tend to get out in nature, garden, play video games or spend time at the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre as the volunteer manager.
Name one fun fact about you.
I'm particularly passionate about Australian native species and I work with dingoes including Wandi the Dingo who is one of the most famous dingoes in the world!