Blake is broadly interested in landscape ecology, with a particular interest in the overarching effects of anthropogenic actions on ecological interactions and ecosystem function. Natural habitats are under increasing pressure from urbanization and the expansion and intensification of agricultural lands. As a consequence, numerous species are displaced, valuable ecosystem services are lost, and the function of a landscape can completely change. A prime example of this dichotomy between productive expansion and conservation is in Australian agricultural lands, which are under intense pressure to meet the demands of a growing population while confronting ever-increasing threats of diminished productivity, a reduction in ecosystem services, and climatic, environmental, and political uncertainty.
Blake’s PhD project aims to illuminate the complex factors driving land clearing at the individual level and their subsequent effects on biodiversity and ecosystem function, using the Brigalow Belt bioregion of eastern Queensland as a case study. Using a range of interdisciplinary approaches amalgamating the biophysical, economic, demographic, and cultural dimensions of clearing, he is interested in determining how effective historic vegetation management policy has been at reducing rates of remnant vegetation clearing over time, and how these observed trends may be influenced by economic indicators, psychosocial behaviours, and political regime changes. The goal for this project is to develop a transdisciplinary framework for assessing the underlying mechanisms of deforestation in a developed country, which can be applied to other developed and developing countries experiencing rapid declines of native vegetation. Ultimately, this project will serve as a guide for future vegetation management policy amendments that can be effectively tailored to maximize biodiversity, restore ecosystem functions, and sustain local livelihoods amidst mounting political and environmental uncertainties. His PhD is supported through the University of Queensland International Scholarship and an ARC Discovery award.
PhD candidate, University of Queensland, January 2016 – present
Master of Science (Biology, specialization: Biodiversity Conservation and Restoration), Universiteit Antwerpen, September 2013 – July 2015
Themes and Projects
Simmons, B.A., Law, E.A., Marcos-Martinez, R., Bryan, B.A., McAlpine, C., & Wilson, K.A. (2018) Spatial and temporal patterns of land clearing during policy change. Land Use Policy, 75: 399-410. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.03.049
Simmons, B.A. & McRae, T.R. (2014) Hidden Markov models of eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) alarm calls. Adaptive Behavior, 22(3): 180-188. doi:10.1177/1059712314529981