Fire and Avian Ecology
Professor Michael Clarke
Head of School of Life Sciences, College of Science, Health and Engineering
Our research investigates how threatening processes like fire, drought and over-abundant native species affect the ecology and conservation of native fauna. We conduct research at multiple scales, from single species, to communities of organisms and whole landscapes. Our goal is conduct research that informs better management of our wildlife and landscapes.
Research areas and major projects:
In collaboration with Professor Andrew Bennett and Assoc. Professor Jim Radford, we are studying the effects of fire and fire regimes on the conservation of flora and fauna in several ecosystems. Major projects include:
- Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Project – this major project (7 PhD completions) used a 'natural experiment' to investigate the response of plant and animal communities of semi-arid 'mallee' ecosystems to different fire mosaics, and to time-since fire.
- Experimental Mosaic Burning in Box-Ironbark forests – using an experimental approach to create different fire mosaics and evaluate their impacts on flora, fauna and forest structure in dry box and ironbark forests.
- Faunal Refuges Project – investigating the role of different types of 'refuges', and the role of planned burning in creating refuges, in the fire scar from the 2009 Black Saturday wildfire.
- Foothills Forests and Fire – a major synthesis of data on fire ecology in foothill forests in Victoria.
- Mallee Hawkeye Project – examining the capacity of fire-affected bird communities to recover when drought-breaking rains follow fires.
- Ecosystem Resilience Project- examining the nature and timing of plant and bird species responses in plant communities in the Big and Little Deserts of western Victoria
- Bird Community Recovery after Bushfire- this is an ongoing, long-term study documenting the recovery of bird communities in 6 vegetation types at Wilsons Promontory, following large bushfires in 2005 and 2009.
Conservation biology of wildlife species and communities
A range of past and present projects have investigated the conservation biology of threatened species. Current projects include work on the Mallee Emu-wren and the Shy Heathwren (in relation to fire).
Impact of over-abundant native species
A range of past and present projects have investigated the impact of the native Noisy Miner upon bird communities in remnant vegetation in rural landscapes.