I am an ecologist who works predominantly in urban areas because although they are the cause of many of the world’s environmental problems cities also offer humanity great hope for a sustainable future. I seek to understand urban biodiversity patterns and ecosystem processes and then develop applied solutions to reduce the negative impacts of urbanization such as biodiversity loss, excess urban heat, stormwater runoff and CO2 emissions. I am predominantly a plant ecologist with particular expertise in how urbanisation influences plant traits, native grassland conservation and restoration and weed invasions but I have also worked on mammals, molluscs and insects. Together with social scientist colleagues I have even investigated the most complex aspect of urban environments – humans! In 2007 I established a research program to develop and evaluate the benefits of green infrastructure, in particular vegetated roofs and facades, as a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy for Australian cities. This has since become a major research focus of the Burnley Campus, attracting substantial funding and has led to the construction of three green roofs and development of specialist subjects and courses.
I’m a plant ecologist who likes to address applied ecological problems using multiple approaches such as field experiments, GIS analyses and modelling. Although I have conducted research in agricultural, forest and alpine environments I am particularly interested in the ecology of urban areas. This is because they are a unique combination of habitats that are becoming increasingly prevalent on a global scale and present many important research questions. My interest in urban ecology was developed during nine years working at the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE), a division of the Royal Botanic Gardens based in the Botany School at Melbourne University. While there I completed a PhD investigating how the ecology of native grasslands changed across an urban to rural gradient. This research highlighted how surrounding landscapes influence the processes which occur in remnant habitats, such as edge effects and local extinctions. I continue to conduct urban ecology and native grassland research with a number of collaborators. In 2007 I established a research program to develop green infrastructure, in particular vegetated roofs, suitable for Australian conditions as a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy. This has since become a research focus on the Burnley Campus and attracted substantial publicity and funding.