The Scientists

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Professor Richard Fuller
Fuller Lab

University of Queensland in Brisbane

 

East Asian Australasian Flyway

Richard heads the research group. He is a professor in conservation and biodiversity, and has been at UQ since 2008. His research is focused on science to enable society to avert the extinction crisis, which is impacting biodiversity and human well-being globally. His work spans multiple disciplines, from the ecology and conservation of mobile species to understanding what explains variation in conservation concern among the human population.

Biography

My central research interest lies in the relationship between people and biodiversity. I study how people have affected the natural world around them, and how some of their destructive effects can best be reversed. On the flip side, I am also keen to understand whether and how people can benefit positively from experiences of biodiversity. The central innovation in my work is to integrate the fields of urban ecology and conservation biology, and the breadth of my research questions means that I frequently collaborate outside these disciplines to achieve truly integrative analyses. Reflecting the importance of the research questions that I usually tackle, about half of my work is published in journals that cover the whole of biology rather than in disciplinary journals within the fields of urban ecology or conservation biology. I publish regularly in the highest impact journals within biology and have made major contributions in multidisciplinary journals including several papers in Nature and Science.

Conservation biology

As a body of work, my research in conservation biology has improved our understanding of the huge range of variation in the ecological effectiveness of protected areas in delivering conservation benefits. Most importantly, I have discovered a way to improve the performance of protected area networks, by proposing a dynamic method for planning protected areas (Fuller et al. 2010, published in Nature). The paper was enthusiastically supported with a commentary from Peter Karevia, chief scientist at the world’s largest conservation NGO (The Nature Conservancy). According to Kareiva, this discovery represents “the best thing that could happen to conservation in Australia and, by extrapolation, elsewhere in the world”. Other important discoveries in the science behind reserve planning include the first demonstration of an algorithm that sites new protected areas in places that deliver carbon sequestration as well as biodiversity gains (Venter et al. 2009), and methods to fill the gaps in threatened species coverage in Australia (Watson et al. 2010). These are important discoveries because the designation of more and more protected areas cannot alone deliver conservation outcomes, and human and ecological imperatives for protection must be integrated in an urbanising world.

My discoveries more broadly across the field of conservation biology include that (i) there is a great degree of variation in cost-effectiveness of existing protected areas (Fuller et al. 2010), (ii) Australian threatened species with a high proportion of their geographic range overlapping protected areas are more likely to be stable or recovering than those with little protection (Taylor et al. 2011), (iii), well-planned reserve networks can incorporate human recreation as well as biodiversity objectives (Fuller et al. 2010), (iv) protected areas in South Asia are highly vulnerable to habitat loss (Clark et al. 2013), (v) threats to species persistence show complex spatial dynamics that need to be taken into account when planning protected area networks (Evans et al. 2011), (iv) habitat clearance has spread contagiously across the Earth’s surface highlighting the importance of preventing threats penetrating wilderness areas (Boakes et al. 2010). 

https://fullerlab.org/drrichardfuller/

Jan van Gils (1971) is an enthusiastic Dutch ecologist that has been studying migratory shorebirds for more than 30 years now. The current focus of his work centers around the devastating effects of climate change on his beloved birds. By breeding in the rapidly warming Arctic and wintering at tropical latitudes, his birds can be considered as canaries in our global coal mine, signaling ecological problems along their migratory flyway. Jan studied Biology at the University of Groningen (1996), where he also defended his PhD thesis (2004), and where he currently holds an honorary professorship (2020). He is appointed a senior scientist (2014) at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and has published over a hundred peer-reviewed papers.

Evolution in action

‘We can see that over the past 35 years, red knots have gradually become smaller, and we are now investigating whether that might be due to insects in the rapidly warming Siberian breeding grounds emerging from the soil earlier; too early for red knot chicks to grow to full adult body size. In the overwintering area in West Africa, it is precisely the smaller red knots that tend to perish first, because their beaks have become too short to reach the food. The birds with the highest chance of survival are those that still have a relatively long beak despite the shrinking. So here we see evolution in action: red knots are becoming smaller with relatively longer beaks.’

‘Red knots are not only shrinking; a shift in their sex ratio is occurring too. Male birds are increasingly often in the minority, and that is already the case when they hatch from the egg. That also seems to be a consequence of the shifting temperature and the lower survival chances of the males, which are slightly smaller than the females.’

Red knots are the link

‘All things being considered, we study far more than just the one species of wader, however interesting that one species is. The red knot connects the far north with our Wadden Sea, with Africa, and ultimately with our entire planet. What we do with greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has a relatively strong effect on the Arctic region and with that eventually on the survival of birds in West Africa. The fact that the red knot is shrinking is a foreboding sign. Research into fossils reveals that animals that became extinct often experienced a period of shrinking first.’

 

https://www.nioz.nl/en/about/organisation/staff/jan-van-gils

 

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Professor Jan van Gils
Lead Researcher

Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

‘The red knot is the canary in our global coal mine’

Ecologist Jan van Gils investigates the red knot, a wader that breeds in the Arctic, overwinters in the Wadden Sea, but also migrates through the Netherlands to its winter quarters in West Africa. ‘In effect, the red knot is like a canary in a global coal mine. Just like the miner’s canaries in the past warned for impending high concentrations of mine gases, the red knot now informs us now about the state of the climate.’

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Jenny Linscott

Enviro. Cons PHD Student. Uni Massachusets

Before becoming a biologist, Jenny received a B.A. in English from Hendrix College and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Mississippi. She was a Science Reporting Intern at Louisiana State University, where she interviewed researchers in the field.

Now Jenny’s PhD research is focused on the migration of Hudsonian Godwits through mid-continental North America. She is hoping to understand how habitat quality and abiotic conditions during migration affect godwit stopover behavior, migratory performance, and reproductive success.

Jenny won the Wesley Lanyon Award from the American Ornithological Society in 2021. She is supported by a NASA Finesst Fellowship in Biological Diversity and Ecological Forecasting.

 

Jenny Linscott awarded the inaugural Lanyon Award from the American Ornithological Society

The American Ornithological Society’s Lanyon Award recognizes the early-career ornithologist who authors the best synthesis/review paper on avian science, to be published as an open-access article in an AOS journal. It is given in honor Wesley “Bud” Lanyon, who served as the 37th President of the American Ornithologists’ Union. The award winner receives a $1,500 honorarium plus a $1,000 travel stipend and free registration to attend the AOS annual meeting, where he/she will organize a symposium on the winning review topic.

Jennifer Linscott is a graduate student in the Senner lab who recently published a study titled “Beyond refueling: Investigating the diversity of functions of migratory stopover events” in the journal Ornithological Applications. Many birds make stops during their migratory journeys, and while it is commonly assumed that individuals stop primarily or exclusively in order to replenish energy stores, other non-fueling behaviors have also been described during stopover events. In her article, Jenny describes how individual tracking datasets can explore diverse functions for avian migratory stopovers. She also examines emerging research directions that infer behavior from movement paths and predict responsiveness to future environmental change at stopover sites. Jenny’s study was named Editor’s Choice and is now recognized as the best review by the AOS.

Nathan Senner started studying birds at the age of 14 while growing up in Alaska.

After earning a B.A. from Carleton College, he was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to follow Hudsonian Godwits on their annual migrations from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America and back again.

He continued this research while pursuing his PhD at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University with Dr. John Fitzpatrick. From there, he traveled across the Atlantic for a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Theunis Piersma at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands studying the flexibility of Black-tailed Godwit annual cycles.

 

Now an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Nathan’s research group uses tracking devices, intensive field studies, and large-scale community science projects to  investigate how shorebirds are responding to anthropogenic environmental changes across the globe.

 

http://www.sennerlab.com/

 

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Dr Nathan Senner

Assistant Professor
Uni Massachusets Amherst