Welcome to the Invasion Ecology Group, a research team led by Dr Phill Cassey at The University of Adelaide's Environment Institute. As trans-disciplinary scientists and research students, we bring critical analytical techniques to the study of invasion ecology, wildlife trade, and biosecurity risk management; areas characterised by complexity and uncertainty.

Anyone interested in working with us or joining the group as a researcher or student can view our research page and contact Phill directly to discuss the opportunities currently available.

News Highlights


Senior Policy Officer, PIRSA

The Senior Policy Officer, Biosecurity is responsible for administering Livestock Industry funds and sponsored projects, and coordinating Biosecurity SA cost recovery processes across the Division. The position also delivers policy advice, consultancy services and high level Ministerial and Cabinet documents to facilitate the performance and sustainability of biosecurity systems and Industry funds. Whilst the role is focused on livestock industry funds, it will also include providing general strategy and policy support to various biosecurity sectors across the Division. Apply now!

April 2016

The lab has been buzzing with activity this last couple of months! The NRM conference was a huge success with many of our lab members presenting their research findings throughout the three day event. Pablo, Amy, Freyja, Phill, and Tom all presented talks and showcased the diverse range of research output from our lab!

The NRM conference also hosted the launch of the University of Adelaide’s new Centre for Conservation Science & Technology (CCoST) of which Phill is the Deputy Director. For more information on CCoST and the research objectives please download the brochure here!

Jack has been busy running the field component of his PhD research at Kalamurina Sanctuary, located between Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and the Simpson Desert. Jack has been trapping and collaring dingoes with GPS and accelerometer sensors to determine their behaviour, resource selection and aspects of their physiology, including daily energy expenditure and behavioural thermoregulation. Jack has continued to be successful with his grant applications so far this year. We would like to congratulate him on being awarded two grants to help fund his project, the Joyce W. Vickery Scientific Research Fund from the Linnean Society of NSW and the Nature Foundation of SA’s ‘Scholarship Grant’.

We are very excited to officially welcome Sarah Heinrich as our newest PhD student, and congratulate her on recently being awarded an international PhD scholarship for her project titled ‘Quantitative assessment of the illegal global trade of pangolin species from Southeast Asia and Africa’.

We would like to congratulate Tom Prowse on his new role as a statistical modeller in the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence, in the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide. We would also like to congratulate Robert Cope for his new role, also in the School of Mathematical Sciences where he will be working as a postdoctoral research fellow on a Data to Decisions CRC project to predict disease outbreaks and spread using data assimilation and open data.

We are very grateful that Craig White from Monash University took the time to visit the lab again this year. Craig gave a fantastic seminar to the School of Biological Science’s on the causes and consequences of metabolic variation in animals, and he also opened our student awards night ceremony with an inspiring talk for our students looking to build a career in biological sciences.

Phill and Pablo have been busy running the third year field trip in Calperum over the university holidays, and Phill is off again to Sydney this week with several meetings with our collaborators at TRAFFIC, ZAA, and the Australian Museum.

We have three new papers accepted for publication this week. Toni’s paper on the proposed surveillance for influenza A in feral pigs with be available in EcoHealth very soon! Phill’s new paper has been accepted for publication in Oryx and will be available this week ‘Taking a stand against illegal wildlife trade: the Zimbabwean approach to pangolin conservation’. Ellie’s PhD paper ‘A global analysis of the determinants of alien geographic range size in birds’ has also been accepted in Global Ecology & Biogeography. Keep an eye on our twitter feed for updates on these papers and more!

February 2016

We hope everyone has had a great start to the New Year!

The IEG have hit the ground running and we have two new publications out this week!

Our publication in PLoS ONE ‘Integrative analysis of the physical transport network into Australia’ comes with a novel interactive web tool! Be sure to test it out here. We have also had a great response to our paper in Biology Letters on alien species as drivers of recent extinctions!

We would like to congratulate Sarah Heinrich on her new position in the lab, working on ‘transnational illicit wildlife trade in pangolin species’.

A big congratulations also goes to our colleague, Dr Joshua Ross, for being awarded the 2016 JH Michell Medal!

Pablo has launched a new blog, so be sure to check out his latest tips on modelling and analysing ecological data!

Sadly this month we have to farewell two valuable team members, Sally Scrivens and Dr Nina Schwensow. We wish them both well on their travels and hope to see them back in the IEG soon!

The NRM Science Conference is fast approaching, don’t forget to register your attendance now!

A new strain of RHDV!

A new strain of RHDV (the rabbit calicivirus) is on the move in South Australia right now and we're very keen to find out more about what it is doing and how different it is to the usual strain. We'd really appreciate any reports of mysteriously dead rabbits - they usually look more or less like they've just fallen asleep on the ground, with no obvious wounds unless a scavenger has got to them. Rabbits that have died from myxomatosis on the other hand tend to have puffy sores around the face. If you find a mysteriously dead rabbit like this please give David Peacock a call on 08 83039504 or 0417355498. If you're happy to put the rabbit in the freezer or at least some place protected from scavenging foxes then we can organise to get hold of it for samples, so that we can verify whether the cause of death was this new RHDV strain.

Current Opportunities

Invasion Biogeography & Quantitative Ecology

Human actions have contributed to pervasive changes in biodiversity at a variety of scales through the dual processes of species extinction and introduction. We are interested in the use of invasive vertebrate populations as models for studying the flexibility in behavioural and physiological traits during the invasion process. All projects will be well-supported logistically and the development of individual research projects, to match the students’ interests, will be particularly encouraged.

Our lab has strong research and collaborative funding ties with Biosecurity SA and the quantitative sciences and invasive species groups in the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. We are participating members of the Invasive Animals CRC. Scholarships are available for candidates with particularly strong academic records.

A number of projects are available in Animal Behaviour and Physiology, Biosecurity Risk and Policy, Invasive Species Biology, Global Change Ecology, and Biogeography. Examples of some of these are listed below:

Project: Distribution and habitat preferences of overabundant vertebrate pests
South Australia has a number of over-abundant (exotic and native) vertebrate pest species. These species include over-abundant native marsupials (Kangaroo Island), pest birds (Fleurieu Peninsula), marine mammals (Coorong). These projects will work with state and local Government agencies and stakeholder groups to determine the distribution and habitat preferences of over-abundant species and the impacts that these populations are having on other species and native communities. Guidelines for their future management will be developed. The suitable candidate should be prepared to undertake a project with both intensive field and quantitative components.

Project: The role of insect vectors in the spread of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV)
The rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is one of the most abundant pest species in Australia causing considerable ecological and economic damage. The biological control agent Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) was initially successful in reducing rabbit numbers. However, in recent years rabbit numbers have increased and there is evidence for adaptation in both, the virus and the host genome. This project will investigate how the disease is transmitted between rabbit populations and what role the likely insect vectors (blowflies) have in the seasonal variability and timing of RHD outbreaks.

Project: Monitoring of threatened species in the Mount Lofty Ranges
Effective conservation of threatened species relies on an adequate and reliable knowledge of their distribution. Threatened species are usually sparsely distributed and their populations are localised, resulting in challenging situations to conduct essential monitoring programs. The project will examine different methods and techniques for obtaining reliable information about the status of a vulnerable bird species (Zoothera lunulata halmaturina) in the Mount Lofty Ranges. The results would be of interest not only for the management of the particular study species, but also to a broader audience of both researchers and managers. The suitable candidate should be prepared to undertake a project with both intensive field and quantitative components.

Interested candidates can refer to our research page for further information on the IEG lab or contact the Honours Coordinator.

December 2015

What a year 2015 has been! Our honours students have been awarded with First Class results after successfully completing their theses, while our new and continuing PhD students have been busy with field work and presenting at conferences. We would like to congratulate Dr Su Shan and Dr Ellie Dyer on their outstanding efforts, having successfully completed their PhD candidatures this month. It has been a pleasure to have had them both as part of the Invasion Ecology Group and we wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

The ARC Discovery Project 'Transport risk pathways for emerging invasive species' is progressing well, our paper on the ‘Integrative analysis of the physical transport network into Australia’ is currently in review and comes with an interactive web tool that we are excited to share with the broader research community.

November was a busy month with ESA in town, with many of our lab members both attending and presenting at the conference. The lab has also been buzzing with visitors. We would like to thank Tim Blackburn for visiting throughout November, and presenting the EES department with a great talk on ‘Following alien birds along the pathway to impact’. We would also like to thank Richard Duncan from the Institute for Applied Ecology for his recent visit to the lab, and we look forward to collaborating on some exciting projects in the near future.

Jack recently attended the Eco-Stats conference in Sydney and Robert is off to Sydney in the New Year for the Marine Bioinvasions conference.

We would also like to congratulate Emma Matthews for being awarded a summer scholarship to work with the Invasion Ecology Group and thank her for all of her great work towards our current wildlife trade projects.

IEG look forward to welcoming more visitors throughout 2016 and sharing more of our research output. We wish you all a safe and relaxing Xmas and summer period!

October 2015

We would like to congratulate Freyja and Melanie for recently completing their honours projects and handing in their theses; both have worked extremely hard throughout the year and we wish them well in their future endeavours. Check out next year’s Honours Projects if you are interested in joining the IEG team!

Pablo and Phill recently travelled to Melbourne for the IA CRC Incursions Theme Meeting, and Phill has also been on an exciting trip to Singapore for the Songbird crisis summit.

A Red-eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) was recently spotted in Salisbury East, South Australia. Red-eared Slider Turtles are in the top 100 worst pests worldwide, and it is illegal to import, keep, trade or release Red-eared Sliders in Australia. Please help to keep Australia pest free!

Red-eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) © Pablo Garcia Diaz

We would like to congratulate Nina for securing more funding from Rabbit Free Australia to support a de novo genome assembly of the RHD virus isolated from flies. This project aims to discover more about the transmission of RHDV between rabbit populations.

Our PhD students have been very busy. Su Shan recently published a new paper in Biological Invasions on The wildlife pet trade as a driver of introduction and establishment in alien birds in Taiwan. Toni is off to Innamincka again in November to add another year of data to her PhD project "The persistence of avian influenza in the South Australian environment and the potential role of invasive mammals for additional surveillance". Jack is also off on some exciting fieldwork in November, where he will be helping out with some fox trapping at Scotia Sanctuary.

We would like to thank Associate Professor Craig White and PhD Candidate Pieter Arnold for recently visiting the lab and presenting us with an informative update on their recent research on the evolution of physiological and behavioural traits benefiting dispersal at the invasion front.

The ESA 2015 Annual Conference is just around the corner. Steve, Tom, Pablo and Robert from the IEG team will all be presenting on their research so don’t forget to register now!

August 2015

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming ESA 2015 Annual Conference to be held in Adelaide this November! Check out the exciting list of keynote speakers online now. Early bird registrations close Friday 18th September so don’t miss out!

Robert has an exciting trip ahead! He is jetting off to Rome in September to present his work on climate matching at the European Ecological Federation Conference. Toni will be attending the national avian influenza working group meeting in Melbourne this September and Jack has been busy wrangling wombats and yellow-footed rock wallabies. Jack travelled to Aroona Sanctuary and trapped yellow-footed rock wallabies as part of a long term mark-recapture study and also caught southern hairy-nosed wombats at Brookfield Conservation Park as part of a study investigating the relationship between wombat and vegetation condition.

We would like to thank Dave Ramsey for his recent visit to the lab in July and we are excited to welcome more visitors over the coming months. Don’t forget to keep up to date with our regular biosecurity and wildlife trafficking news feed and follow us on Twitter!

June 2015

The invasion ecology group has been very busy this month! PhD student Jack Tatler has been awarded the BSSA Field Research Grant, the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia’s Conservation Biology grant, and the Australian Geographic Society grant! We would like to congratulate Jack on his outstanding effort. We are also very proud to announce that Pablo was awarded the student prize for his talk at the SEEM in New Zealand this month. Toni will be attending the Wildlife Disease Association International Conference at Maroochydore in Queensland in July, and Pablo and Miquel will be heading to Christmas Island for field work in July. The lab has also had lots of visitors and would like to thank Reid Tingley, Andrew Woolnough and Lee Ann Rollins for their informative seminars.

We would like to farewell one of our valuable team members Miquel this month. Miquel is finishing his post doc with the IEG and heading off to Birmingham. We would like to thank him for his invaluable input to the lab and wish him all the best in his new role. We also welcome a new member to our team, Sarah Heinrich who has joined us from Germany on an internship.

Phill is jetting off in July on the Water, Tropical Ecology and Animal Trafficking Study Tour with 15 students from the School of Biological Sciences to visit Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam. Students will be immersed in a 13 night experience observing ecology and animal trafficking in South Eastern Asia. Visits to live animal markets, conservation parks and a guided nature walk will also be included. This immersive cultural experience will enable students to gain knowledge and understanding of the South East Asian animal trafficking trade and their conservation efforts.

We are also excited to announce that Phill will be opening the 2015 Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year exhibition on Friday July 31st at the South Australian Museum. The exhibition will run from 1 August – 30 August 2015 so be sure to get along and check it out!

You can also listen to Phill’s recent interview ‘Exotic Invasion Stops Here’ on Radio Adelaide’s The Sound of Science Program online now!

April 2015

It is an exciting time for the lab in the coming months! Duckwatch lead by Dr Toni Dalziel is in full swing and if you are keen to volunteer jump on the Duckwatch website now! The international Pint of Science festival is coming to Adelaide in May! Some of the world’s best scientific researchers will be sharing their latest findings in pubs across Australia. The festival runs from the 18th to the 20th May 2015 in 40 cities across 8 different countries. Phill will be one of the panellists at the Tuxedo Cat on Tuesday May 19th from 7pm. Come along and meet the IEG team!

Congratulations to Pablo, Miquel, and Amy who successfully completed their IA CRC Research Reviews held in Canberra in March! Robert recently attended the fourth Australia New Zealand Applied Probability Workshop held in the Barossa and Roberts’s latest paper ‘Temporal modelling of ballast water discharge and ship-mediated invasion risk to Australia' is online now!

Pablo will be heading to New Zealand in June for the Statistics in Ecology and Environmental Monitoring conference. Pablo will be presenting a talk on ‘Australia’s border (bio-)security: cancelling the invasive frog-driven apocalypse?’. Pablo will also be attending the pre-conference workshop on advanced spatially-explicit capture-recapture in Dunedin.

We look forward to welcoming more visitors to the lab in the coming months. Dr. Reid Tingley from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) at the University of Melbourne will be presenting a talk to the lab on ‘Managing the spread of invasive amphibians under uncertainty’ on Tuesday May 26th at 12pm. Lee Ann Rollins from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University will also be visiting the lab in May. Lee Ann will be discussing ‘Invasive species as a model for the study of rapid evolution’. Please come along on Tuesday May 19th at 2pm. We hope to see you there!

Over the next 18 months, we need your support for research investigating the exposure of ducks and other water birds on the River Torrens to avian influenza or bird flu. Interested in volunteering? Find out more here!


Practical solutions to the biodiversity crisis.

Come along and meet the scientists who are making a difference to the planet we live on!

  • Prof. Andy Lowe: Illegal logging and forensic timber tracking technologies
  • Assoc. Prof. Lian Pin Koh: Innovative drone technology for conservation
  • Assoc. Prof. Phill Cassey: Mitigating human-induced biological invasions

February 2015

We are very pleased to welcome our commencing students Jack Tatler (PhD Candidate) and Melanie Crossley (Honours Candidate). Jack’s research will focus on the impacts of current dingo management techniques on biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and livestock. Melanie’s honours project will focus on the efficacy of wild-dog control in the South Australian pastoral arid lands.

In collaboration with the Pastoral Board of South Australia, our summer research scholarship student Grace Porter-Dabrowski has been very busy over the past 10 weeks digitising the archive database on the holding and turnover of sheep and cattle across South Australian pastoral properties.

Sally Scrivens is embarking on a new role in the lab, where she will be working on developing knowledge and tools to inform integrated management of Spencer Gulf: case study on shipping and ports.

Toni recently visited Marcel Klaassen’s lab at Deakin University in Geelong to learn how to run a diagnostic test for her research, and process samples taken from two field trips last year. Whilst there she also gave a short talk to Marcel’s lab group outlining her research and discussed some possibilities for collaboration in the future.

Thank you to Reuben Keller all the way from Loyola University of Chicago, and Dave Ramsay from the Arthur Rylah Institute for their recent visits to the lab. We would also like to thank Konstans Wells for presenting a summary of his research to our group this month.

The annual Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) conference will be held in Adelaide this year from November 29th - December 3rd. Phill is the Chair of the scientific committee, and expressions of interest for symposia are open now, jump online now to find out more!

The Invasion Ecology Group has launched a new Twitter page this year! We will be tweeting all things invasive, please follow the link to start following us now!

December 2014

2014 has been jam packed with numerous visitors to the lab, new staff joining the team and the commencement of our ARC Discovery Grant ‘Transport risk pathways for emerging invasive species’.

Phill, Miquel, and Ellie recently attended the New Zealand Ecological Society conference in Palmerston North. Phill delivered the keynote plenary ‘Biological invasions of vertebrate species: pets, pests and people’. In addition, Miquel and Ellie presented their work on ‘Indian Ringnecks: from pets to pests - Assessment of the status, potential distribution and impacts of exotic Psittacula krameri in Australia’, and ‘The Global Avian Invasions Atlas (GAVIA): Using a global-scale spatial database of alien bird species to answer key questions in invasion ecology’, respectively. Congratulations to Ellie for winning the student prize for best presentation under the theme of the meeting!

Congratulations to Pablo García Díaz who has recently been awarded the 2014 IA CRC Student Grant for his work on vertebrate risk-assessment and pet-trade pathway models. Read more on the Invasive Animals CRC website: ‘Champions in pest animal research and management awarded’.

L-R: Helen Cathles – IA CRC Chair, Prof Stephen Sarre, Pablo García-Díaz and Andreas Glanznig, CEO – IA CRC (Image source: Invasive Animals CRC)

Welcome back to Toni and Sally from their successful field trip to Innamincka, collecting samples from feral pigs as part of Toni’s PhD: ‘The persistence of avian influenza in the South Australian environment and the potential role of invasive mammals for additional surveillance’.

Feral pig on the shore of Coongie Lake, Innamincka SA (Image source: Sally Scrivens)

We look forward to welcoming more visitors throughout 2015, and wish you all a very merry Xmas and happy New Year!

July 2014

We extend a warm welcome to Dr Robert Cope and Talia Wittmann who join us as a Research Associate and Research Assistant, respectively. Robert and Talia will be working on the ARC Discovery Project 'Transport risk pathways for emerging invasive species’. We are also very pleased to welcome our new 2014 Honours student Freyja Watters.

At the 16th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference in Brisbane, Phill delivered his keynote speech ‘Incursion and containment: Pests and pets, the future of vertebrate Biosecurity’. Phill was joined by fellow lab members Toni, Sally, Nina and Amy. In addition, Miquel and Pablo presented their work on ‘Predicting bird incursions: the role of abundance, market value and species traits as drivers of the private bird trade’, and ‘Understanding the transport and introduction of vertebrates to manage invasions: reptiles in Australia’, respectively. Tom and Phill also recently attended the AMSA conference in Canberra, to present their work on ‘Integrating species distribution models with transport networks to inform biosecurity risk assessment’.

Congratulations to Amy who has recently been awarded a grant from the Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia which will fund part of her PhD research ‘Investigating rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) resistance to rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) variants in Australia’. This funding will contribute to the development of an extensive rabbit pedigree, which will be used to determine how much influence genetic resistance to the calicivirus has on the rabbit's overall ability to survive and breed in the field. Miquel has also been awarded a post-doctoral travel grant by the Environment Institute to attend the 2014 NZ Ecological Society meeting, this November in Palmerston North.

Thank you to Erin Grey and Andy Suarez all the way from Notre Dame in the US and the University of Illinois, for their recent visits to the lab. We look forward to welcoming more visitors throughout the year. In particular, Ellie and Su Shan will be back in the lab in October. Please find a link to Ellie’s blog here.

In other news, the calicivirus "outbreak season" is arriving, and we're on the lookout for any dead rabbits (that don't appear to be road kill or eaten by foxes!) that we can take samples from. If anyone notices the outbreak in their area we'd love to be notified via the BIOSECURITY SA website.

More news highlights....

News Feed

Biosecurity & Wildlife Trafficking

The Invasion Ecology Group regularly collates a news feed on local and global biosecurity and wildlife trafficking news. Please find a link to our news feed archive below:

News Feed: 27th January 2016 Read here >>

News Feed: 8th September 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 25th August 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 11th August 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 28th July 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 9th July 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 2nd June 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 19th May 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 5th May 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 13th April 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 25th March 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 12th March 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 26th February 2015 Read here >>

News Feed: 10th February 2015 Read here >>

More news feeds....