Research Students

Until 2015, I had a fantastic job working as an ecology researcher at Charles Sturt University. I left that position in 2015 and now work as a science writer. This page lists all the wonderful PhD, Masters and Honours students I supervised during my time at CSU. This list is now historical and will no longer be updated. You can read about my recent work at my new web site.

Current PhD and Masters Students

Ian Cole

How can we restore diverse understoreys dominated by native grasses and wildflowers in degraded remnant woodlands? Ian Cole’s PhD focuses on this important conservation issue. In a large experiment in southern NSW, Ian is examining how disturbances such as crash grazing and burning, and changes to soil nutrient levels influence the establishment and growth of native grasses in degraded woodlands. Ian’s work supports a large project that is co-supervised by Dr Suzanne Prober (pictured) of CSIRO and I. This project is funded and supported by many organizations, including the NSW Environmental Trust, Murray CMA, DECCW NSW, the Future Farm Industries, CRC and Sugar Australia. Email Ian:

Erika Cross


Why do woodlands have such an open structure? Is it because disturbance prevent recruitment, keeping stands at lower densities than might otherwise occur? Or is it because big, old trees have wide root systems that prevent other trees from regenerating near them? Are woodlands kept open because of frequent disturbances or inadequate resources? Answers to these questions underpin many important issues about woodland stand structure, future stand dynamics, and stand management (such as thinning) in remnant and regenerating sites. Erika seeks answers to these questions by surveying leaf area index and using experimental transplants in regenerating woodlands and forests in central Victoria. Her results will improve our understanding of how woodlands change as they get older, and of the processes that influence tree spacings and site occupancy. I co-supervise Erika’s PhD project with Dr John Morgan. Email Erika:

Karolina Petrovic

Mistletoes and possums have little in common in evolutionary terms, but possess similar functional roles in forests and woodlands – both ‘feed’ on dominant forest trees. But do they select similar or different trees? Do the defensive chemicals that trees produce to deter possums also deter mistletoes? Karolina is investigating these questions and many more in her project on mistletoes, possums and tree leaf chemistry. Karolina’s project is supervised by Associate Professor David Watson and I. Email Karolina:

Don’t miss Karolina’s cool YouTube video!

Mel Schroder

Alpine areas support many of Australia’s endemic ecosystems, which are highly vulnerable to climate change. Parts of the alps are also threatened by exotic weed invasion. The diversity of weed species in the alps has increased rapidly since the 1960’s. Developing strategies to work out which weeds pose the most serious threats to natural areas and which ecosystems are most vulnerable to invasion is a challenge. Mel is tackling this challenge by exploring the causes of weed invasion. Currently she is focusing on how soil nutrients vary across altitudinal gradients, and how plant traits associated with nutrient acquisition vary among weeds and native plants. High nutrient levels are known to promote exotic plant invasions in many ecosystems. Is this also true for the Australian alps? Mel is a part-time Masters research student, and works with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. I am co-supervising Mel’s project with Dr Keith McDougall of NSW NPWS. Email Mel:

Lisa Smallbone

Which birds get the most benefit from regenerating native vegetation in agricultural areas? Lisa is working in the Rushworth region in central Victoria, where she is documenting how shrubs and trees are regenerating as agricultural areas change to hobby farms, and how bird communities change as regenerating vegetation gets older. I co-supervise Lisa’s PhD project with Drs Alison Matthews and John Morgan. Email Lisa: See Lisa on ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

Joey Walters-Nevet

JoeyWe know a lot about how higher plants and animals change when we clear and plant native vegetation. But what happens to soil microbes? How well do microbes recover when native vegetation regenerates? In this fascinating project Joey aims to discover how soil microbes differ between remnant forests, cleared farmland and – most importantly – in regenerating forests and shrublands that have recovered after agriculture and livestock have been removed. Do remnant paddock trees provide refuges from which microbes can re-colonize regenerating areas? I co-supervise Joey’s PhD project with Assoc. Professor David Watson. Email Joey:

Completed PhD & Masters students

Nicky BruceNicole Bruce

Bruce, Nicole (2011). A bird’s eye view: development of a remote sensing approach to monitoring semi-arid grasslands for biodiversity conservation. Ph.D. Co-supervised with Meredith Mitchell and Dr Mohammad Abuzar (Dept. Primary Industries Victoria).

Janet Cohn

Cohn, Janet (2011). How are the dynamics of woodland dominants influenced by climate and disturbances in south eastern Australia? Ph.D. Co-supervised with Prof. Ross Bradstock and Dr Karen Ross.

Read Janet’s papers: 1, 2 and 3.

Kylie Eklom

Eklom, Kylie (2011). Vegetation structure and food resources in drought affected semi-natural grasslands: Implications for the nationally vulnerable Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus. Ph.D. Co-supervised with Dr Gary Luck..

Alison Skinner

Skinner, Alison (2011). The effects of grassland state on natural regeneration of eucalypts. Ph.D. Co-supervised with Drs Sue McIntyre and Prof. Sandra Lavorel.

Read Alison’s papers: 1 and 2..


Robyn Whipp

Whipp, Robyn (2009). Historical vegetation change in relation to timber management in the Pilliga State Forests of northern NSW, Australia. Ph.D. Co-supervised with Dr Peter Spooner and Dr Ross Bradstock (Uni Wollongong).

Read Robyn’s papers: 1 and 2..

Hughes, Sue (2008). Remnants from the past: Exploring the impacts of post-Colonial settlement on landscape patterns in the NSW wheat-sheep belt. Ph.D. Co-supervised with Assoc. Prof. Dirk Spennemann.

Spooner, Peter (2005). The effects of anthropogenic disturbance regimes on roadside vegetation in a fragmented agricultural landscape. Ph.D. Co-supervised with Dr David Freudenberger (CSIRO) and Dr Sue Briggs (NPWS). Visit Peter’s web page.

Cole, Ian (2003). Developing techniques for landscape scale re-establishment of the perennial native grass, Themeda triandra Forssk. in degraded box woodlands in the South West Slopes region of NSW. M.Appl.Sci.

Thanks to Margrit Beemster who took most of the photos on this page, and the photo of me on the ‘About Me’ page.

Honours students

Lots of papers have been written based on great projects undertaken by Honours students. Please look up the publications page (see tab above) to search and download papers by Honours students.

Neely, Simon (2014). Effects of vegetation patterns on ant composition and function in a regenerating landscape in central Victoria. Co-supervised with Dr Wayne Robinson.

Zeeman, Benjamin (2013). Vegetation dynamics of a long-unburned coastal woodland: changes from 1971 to 2012. Co-supervised with Dr John Morgan. (La Trobe University, Melbourne).

Anderson, Pheona (2012). Effects of woody plant encroachment on soil properties in a regenerating landscape in central Victoria.

Coulson, Claire (2012). Factors influencing the occurrence of Brachychiton populneus and Schinus molle in a fragmented agricultural landscape. Co-supervised with Dr Peter Spooner.

Grant, Toby (2008). Changes in woody vegetation in central Victoria from 1972 to 2005.

Seberry, Lisa (2007). Changes in woody vegetation cover in Victorian ecosystems: an analysis of the National Carbon Accounting System land cover data.

O’Bryan, Katherine (2007). Effects of management on vegetation structure, bryophyte and lichen composition in a high quality derived native grassland community in central New South Wales.

Smallbone, L. (2005). Restoration ecology of native forbs in degraded white box grassy woodlands.

Edmonds, T. (2004). The effects of the frequency of persistent summer snowdrifts on the compos­ition and structure of alpine vegetation.

Turner, J. (2004). Post-settlement changes in forest structure in Pilliga West State Forest, New South Wales.

Watson, C. (2004). Habitat modelling and effects of fire on Callitris endlicheri in the Chiltern – Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria.

Kenny, S. (2003). Effects of grazing exclusion on understorey vegetation in river red gum forests and ephemeral wetlands in Millewa State Forest, NSW.

Michael, D. (2001). Vertebrate fauna in a semi-arid grassland at Terrick Terrick National Park, Victoria: distributions, habitat preferences and use of experimental refuges.

Herring, M. (2001). The Brolga (Grus rubicunda) in the New South Wales and Victorian Riverina: distribution, breeding habitat and potential role as an umbrella species.

Spooner, P. (2000). The effects of fencing remnant native woodlands in the NSW south-west slopes region.

Conway, M. (2000). The effects of grazing exclusion on a long-grazed species-rich Riverina grassland.

Bourd, S. (2000). The effects of soils and stock grazing on grassland composition in Terrick Terrick National Park, Victoria.

Parker, D. (1999). Structural patterns and changes in Callitris – Eucalyptus woodlands at Terrick Terrick State Park, Victoria.

Costello, D.A. (1998). Ecological impacts of Coast Wattle (Acacia sophorae) on coastal grasslands in south-eastern NSW.