Angela Guerrero’s work profiled by the government-funded Threatened Species Recovery Hub

Angela Guerrero’s research focuses on the people side of conservation: how governance systems and the decision-making processes can be designed to enable effective management.

Last year Angela worked with the National Environmental Science Programme’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub (TSR) to examine recovery efforts across Australia in an effort to identify the barriers and enablers of successful recovery efforts. The TSR published a profile of Angela’s work. You can see it here.

The $60 million Threatened Species Recovery Hub is supported by funding through the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme (NESP), and matched by contributions from 10 of the country’s leading academic institutions and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. It works closely with more than two dozen collaborating organisations, including management agencies and conservation groups, to ensure its research has an on-ground impact in threatened species management (NESP)

New interdisciplinary research positions now available in the Wilson Conservation Lab

The Wilson Conservation Lab, as part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, is currently adversiting for a 2 year Post-doctoral Fellow and a 1-year Research Assistant. Applications must be received by the 15th of December 2016 and submitted online through the UQ jobs portal.

For further information and a links for submitting applications please see here (for the post-doctoral role) and here (for the research assistance role).

Please also share through your networks if you know of anyone suitable for the roles.


Ethics of Conservation Triage

Conservation triage is hard. The fact conservation decisions are made everyday doesn’t make it easier to face decisions to potentially sacrifice hope for highly threatened species in order to better protect the ‘greater good’. In our new paper, “Ethics of conservation triage”, we argue that triage should be hard: conservation triage is far from ‘just’ decision-making, rather it involves complex ethical dilemmas.

We argue that ethics of conservation triage has been treated superficially. While triage contexts – where there are not enough resources to save all species – may be largely inevitable, decision theory itself does not inform what objective ought to be maximized, for whom, or how. These choices are value laden, and therefore incumbent with ethical dilemmas. Unfortunately, current conservation triage is often framed solely as a utilitarian maximization problem, a framing that often sits at odds with the broader conservation ethic of preservation of all species, and also doesn’t align with society preferences and moral ideals.

We looked to emergency medicine, where triage decisions are more common, to ask why triage is much more acceptable in medicine than conservation. We show how conservation triage can be more acceptable, by addressing distributive justice, respecting autonomy, placing triage in a broader system of care, explicitly dealing with risk and risk preferences, and questioning whether these normative ideals are delivered in practice.

We also identify substantial differences distinguishing conservation and emergency medicine contexts, however. These differences mean that conservation triage – at least in some cases – may be more akin to disaster and pandemic scenarios, where resources are more severely constrained, allocated at a population level, and harder decisions need to be faced. Such decisions are often far from optimal, and remain highly controversial: clear indication of the ethical complexity of these problems.

The lesson here is that if you are involved in conservation, as a researcher or practitioner, you really ought to have at least a basic understanding of ethics. Fortunately, our paper provides this, outlining the main ethical frameworks of western philosophy, and how this translates to different perspectives on conservation triage. So if you only ever read one paper on ethics, then let it be this one!

Kalimantan floods – understanding just how seriously they affect lives and livelihoods

Borneo_Flooding_C_HutanRecent research published by Dr Jessie Wells & colleagues in Environmental Research Letters is one of the first to gather data on flooding in Indonesian Borneo.  Over 360 interviews were conducted and news archives examinedto analyse the impact of flooding on lives, livelihoods and then environment.

A YouTube video has also been produced on this work.

See the full publications online HERE

Liz Law accepted into UQ’s Future Leaders Program

Congratulations to Liz Law, who has been included in this year’s UQ Future Leaders Program!

The UQ Future Leaders program recognises graduating students who have gone beyond their typical program of studies to make a positive impact on campus, their community and even the world. Only a small proportion of the near 10,000 new alumni each year are recognised for demonstrating a superior commitment to leadership, enriching the student experience and advancing the UQ community….read more at UQ

Biodiversity loses when the term ‘degraded’ is loosely defined

What is the best form of management to protect tropical rainforests? CEED researchers (from the Wilson lab) recently set out to answer this question for Kalimantan. In the process they discovered that the manner in which the Indonesian government defines ‘degraded land’ is critical to conservation outcomes in the region…read more

Undergraduate story: Ariana Magini attends Students for Sustainability


By Ariana Magini

I was extremely grateful to be granted the opportunity of being flown down to Sydney to present my research at the national Students for Sustainability conference. The conference was held at the Western Sydney University Hawkesbury campus on September 15th and 16th, and was attended by over 100 delegates, representing 17 universities from around Australia. The theme for the conference was “HOPE for the Future”, and presentations explored the social and environmental impacts of our current society and where the youth can lead it into the future. Thirty current undergraduate and honours students presented their projects of sustainable and innovative ideas and solutions to issues related to the environment, food, and/or ethics. Six keynote speakers, including Christine Milne (former Australian Greens leader), and Stephanie Lorenzo (CEO of Project Futures), shared their expertise and advice for how to apply sustainable changes and told of their experiences on doing so.

Christine Milne and UQ students (Sook Kuan San, Christine Trompe, Ariana Magini and Brendan Fugate)
Christine Milne (centre) with Ariana Magini (second from right) and fellow UQ students (L-R) Sook Kuan San, Christine Trompe and Brendan Fugate).

I attended this conference unaware of what to expect, but returned full of inspiration and newfound knowledge. It is easy for young people to feel powerless in the face of the huge challenges that our society is experiencing. Yet this convergence of proactive students demonstrated that we are not limited by the out-dated and unsustainable practices of past generations- there is much room for improvement, and we have the intelligence to make the necessary changes. Something that really resonated with me were Stephanie Lorenzo’s words, “our generation sees that purpose is more important than profit”. In my opinion, the days of professions that seek only to bring wealth are numbered, while I see more and more youth actively pursuing careers that allow them to “be the change [they] wish to see in the world,” (Gandhi). That is my ambition anyway.

The sustainable solutions presented were far-reaching. Presentations related to food addressed the issues of food security, with solutions including changing the education system and food industry in order to improve the mainstream understanding of agricultural practices; reduce food waste; and transition to more sustainable methods, including the potential for insect protein. Solutions to environmental issues included the need to transition away from fossil fuel energies and move towards technologies such as renewable-based smart grids, with more consumer autonomy of electricity use; and evaluating the laws of property rights for land with conservation significance could allow for successful maintenance of biodiversity. Ethical sustainability may be improved with online mental health screening surveys that allow for easy diagnosis and referral of patients that are otherwise without contact.

Delegates of the Students for Sustainability conference 2015
Delegates of the Students for Sustainability conference 2015

My presentation considered the challenges faced within conservation science and the improvements required for effective protection of biodiversity and natural systems. I worked with Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson, in collaboration with six other researchers, on the first comprehensive global database analysis of conservation research within the literature. We analysed 8,111 publications, of the year 2014, from 274 countries, and found several trends of bias within the literature that obstructed the implementation of effective conservation practice. Biases include the lack of: open access journals, and the underrepresentation of developing countries; countries of high conservation importance; and authors led in-country. Our study did however find evidence of hope for solutions. There exists an emerging trend of increasing numbers of open access platforms. Additionally, the countries that spend more money on education and research produce more conservation research led in-country. Therefore my presentation concluded that knowledge is power, and our best chance of creating change and conserving natural systems is with improved education and awareness. 

PhD project: Learning from success and failure in threatened species conservation

We seek to understand the reasons behind success and failure of threatened species management in Australia. This project will examine the regulatory and policy instruments and governance processes that have influenced on-ground recovery of threatened species. The project is part of Theme 6 of the National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery hub. Successful applicants will have a demonstrated capacity and aptitude for conducting research and a general interest in environmental governance. It is also desirable that they possess or seek to obtain skills in social network analysis and expert elicitation.

Applicants must possess a Bachelor’s or equivalent degree with first-class Honours, Master of Science or MPhil with significant research components. Prospective applicants should apply for or be the recipient of an APA (or equivalent) scholarship.

Interested students should provide a professional CV and a short letter of interest to Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson (

Student research opportunity: Smart Allocation of Restoration Funds

The emerging imperative in Australia and globally for restoring ecosystems requires smart investment of limited funds available for conservation and natural resource management. Student research projects are available as part of a broader ARC Linkage project that involves researchers with expertise in applied conservation and restoration ecology and restoration managers and practitioners at the City of Gold Coast.

The overarching goal of the project is to explore the trade-off between minimising risk and maximising the return on investment in the context of restoration. The successful candidates will assess the relationships between vegetation recovery and time, for different types of restoration actions. The project is suitable to projects at undergraduate, honours and post-graduate level and can involve both field research and elicitation of information from experts.

Successful applicants will have a demonstrated capacity and aptitude for conducting research. The candidate will work jointly with scientists at The University of Queensland, Griffith University and City of Gold Coast. The supervisory team will include: Assoc Prof Kerrie Wilson (UQ), Dr Luke Shoo (UQ), and Professor Carla Catterall (Griffith University).

Prospective PhD applicants should apply for or be the recipient of an APA (or equivalent) scholarship. Interested students should provide a professional CV and a short letter of interest to Dr Kerrie Wilson (


Opportunities for research on Borneo

Student opportunities are available for research on accounting for ecosystem services on Borneo.

The objective of research program is to develop comprehensive accounts of forest ecosystem service values building on 5 years of multi-disciplinary research on the social, environment and economic aspects of land-use change on Borneo. The program is supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions and Borneo Futures, and led by Assoc Prof Kerrie Wilson…read more…