Dr Annabel Smith

Lecturer in Wildlife Management

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Faculty of Science
annabel.smith@uq.edu.au
+61 7 54601 692

Overview

RESEARCH INTERESTS Fire Ecology, Ecological Genomics, Wildlife Ecology, Conservation Biology, Invasive Plants

My research group studies wildlife & ecology in southeast Queensland, Australia. Currently, we are working on:

  • Platypus distribution & conservation
  • Mammal community dynamics post-fire
  • Plant-animal interactions with changing fire regimes
  • Interactions between fire regimes & invasive plants
  • Restoration of native grassland

We have a special interest in plants and animals living in fire-prone areas because of the fascinating fact that these ecosystems are never static but continually re-shaped by cycles of fire and regeneration. While being grounded in fundamental biology and ecological theory, our research is always aimed at improving knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Our work has applications in fire management, biological invasion and threatened species conservation.

TECHNICAL APPROACHES Statistical modelling of species distributions, spatial demographic and genetic simulation modelling, landscape genomics resistance modelling, programming (advanced R, basic Unix, basic Python), molecular laboratory skills (genotyping-by-sequencing library preparation, SNP analysis, microsatellite marker development, high-throughput DNA extraction & PCR), remote-area and rural field work with native Australian animals (over ten years’ experience)

TEACHING: I teach ecology, wildlife management and wildlife technology. In ecology and wildlife management, my teaching covers species distributions; population ecology; species interactions (including competition, predation, parasitism and mutualism); community ecology (including species diversity and co-existence); conservation biology, and the impacts of global change on biodiversity. In wildlife technology, my teaching covers soundscape analysis; movement ecology and wildlife tracking; computer vision, image analysis and artificial intelligence; remote sensing, big data and molecular technology.

EDITORIAL I am Associate Editor for Wildlife Letters (2023–)

I was Associate Editor for Journal of Applied Ecology for four years (2018–2022).

CURRICULUM VITAE

2019– Lecturer in Wildlife Management, University of Queensland

2018–2019 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, Trinity College Dublin

2016–2018 Postdoctoral Reseach Fellow, Trinity College Dublin

2015–2016 Freelance Ecological Consultant

2012–2014 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian National University

EDUCATION

2012 PhD Australian National University

2006 BSc in Biodiversity Conservation Honours, Flinders University

2005 BSc in Biodiversity Conservation, Flinders University

Research Interests

  • FIRE MANAGEMENT
    One of the main themes in my research group is fire ecology and management, from the perspective of plants, animals and their underlying genetic population structure. My students work (1) on the influence of fire on plant-animal interactions and how changing fire regimes impact threatened species in south-east Queensland; (2) how the 2019 bushfires in south-east Queensland impacted mammal communities. Results of this research are fed directly to decision makers to assist in managing fire for biodiversity and for the preservation of healthy communities.
  • WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
    My group studies wildlife management mixed-use landscapes of in south-east Queensland across where agriculture, nature conservation and urban areas influence the distribution of species and ecosystem processes. We recently completed a project examining the use of roads by wildlife to help stakeholders better manage vegetation around roads to reduce roadkill.
  • CONSERVATION
    My research group has a strong focus on biodiversity conservation, with our work being under-pinned by a strong drive to conserve the incredible diversity of plant and animal species in Australia. We use both field-based approaches and genetic data to make discoveries about what affects biodiversity and also how best to manage landscapes to conserve biodiversity. My students work on (1) better understanding and conserve the platypus in south-east Queensland and (2) resoration strategies to conserve invertebrate biodiversity in grasslands.
  • INVASIVE SPECIES
    Invasive plants pose one of the biggest threats to ecosystems, along with climate change, changing fire regimes and habitat loss. In my lab, we have a particular interest in the population genetics and biology of invasive plants. We are also investigating how invasive plants and fire regimes interact. Does increasing fire frequency give invasive plants greater opportunity for spread? Does it make them more tolerant to fire over time? Answering these questions has important implications for invasive species control and fire management.

Qualifications

  • PhD, Australian National University

Publications

  • Di, Binyin, Firn, Jennifer, Buckley, Yvonne M., Lomas, Kate, Pausas, Juli G. and Smith, Annabel L. (2022). The impact of roadside burning on genetic diversity in a high‐biomass invasive grass. Evolutionary Applications, 15 (5), 790-803. doi: 10.1111/eva.13369

  • Villellas, Jesus, Ehrlén, Johan, Crone, Elizabeth E., Csergő, Anna Mária, Garcia, Maria B., Laine, Anna‐Liisa, Roach, Deborah A., Salguero‐Gómez, Roberto, Wardle, Glenda M., Childs, Dylan Z., Elderd, Bret D., Finn, Alain, Munné‐Bosch, Sergi, Bachelot, Benedicte, Bódis, Judit, Bucharova, Anna, Caruso, Christina M., Catford, Jane A., Coghill, Matthew, Compagnoni, Aldo, Duncan, Richard P., Dwyer, John M., Ferguson, Aryana, Fraser, Lauchlan H., Griffoul, Emily, Groenteman, Ronny, Hamre, Liv Norunn, Helm, Aveliina, Kelly, Ruth ... Buckley, Yvonne M. (2021). Phenotypic plasticity masks range‐wide genetic differentiation for vegetative but not reproductive traits in a short‐lived plant. Ecology Letters, 24 (11) ele.13858, 1-16. doi: 10.1111/ele.13858

  • Kelly, Luke T., Giljohann, Katherine M., Duane, Andrea, Aquilué, Núria, Archibald, Sally, Batllori, Enric, Bennett, Andrew F., Buckland, Stephen T., Canelles, Quim, Clarke, Michael F., Fortin, Marie-Josée, Hermoso, Virgilio, Herrando, Sergi, Keane, Robert E., Lake, Frank K., McCarthy, Michael A., Morán-Ordóñez, Alejandra, Parr, Catherine L., Pausas, Juli G., Penman, Trent D., Regos, Adrián, Rumpff, Libby, Santos, Julianna L., Smith, Annabel L., Syphard, Alexandra D., Tingley, Morgan W. and Brotons, Lluís (2020). Fire and biodiversity in the Anthropocene. Science, 370 (6519) eabb0355, eabb0355-+. doi: 10.1126/science.abb0355

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • A long history of fire has shaped many ecosystems globally, but thousands of species are now threatened with extinction because climate change, inappropriate management and invasive plants are rapidly changing fire regimes. Effective fire management is more complex than simply re- instating a historical fire regime because ecosystems might require a specific initial management regime (e.g. more frequent burning) to re-establish native plant communities and increase their resilience to future invasion. In this project, we will establish an evidence-based management framework for grassy woodlands of southeast Queensland, by evaluating how variation in fire frequency affects the composition and function of native plant communities.

    Available student projects

    • How do different fire regimes affect plant community composition and the balance between native and exotic species?
    • How do different fire regimes affect animal (mammal & invertebrate) community composition and key demographic parameters?
    • Does genetic structure and genetic diversity of native and invasive plant species change under different fire regimes?

    This project is a collaboration with Dr Shane Campbell.

    Funding is available for the running costs of this project and we are accepting applications for honours and PhD projects. Students with a strong academic track record, wishing to pursue PhD studies, can apply for the competitive UQ Graduate School Scholarship.

    Please contact me (annabel.smith@uq.edu.au) if you would like to be involved!

  • Pest control costs agricultural industries several billion dollars per year in loss of productivity and direct control costs (McLeod 2016). In Australia for example, farmers spend $25 billion per year on pest control, including insect pests and weeds (Bradshaw et al. 2021). At the same time, biodiversity in farming landscapes is declining (Ward et al. 2022; Ward et al. 2019), and this is accompanied by a decline in the ecosystem services provided by animals such as pest control, nutrient cycling, pollination and seed dispersal (Dangles & Casas 2019; Kremen & Chaplin-Kramer 2007). Healthy, functioning ecosystems containing a broad range of insectivores play a substantial role in pest control as widely documented in North America, Europe (Maine & Boyles 2015; Naranjo et al. 2015; Puig-Montserrat et al. 2020) and Africa (Bohmann et al. 2011; Noer et al. 2012). These services contribute hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the global economy (Porto et al. 2020). Far less research has been conducted on insectivore ecosystem services in Australia, meaning it is still unclear how to optimise key habitat features that support these services while also maximising agricultural productivity (Lentini et al. 2012). For example, many native insectivores are hollow-dependent, but the optimal density of hollow bearing trees in a cropping landscape needed to maintain a full complement of foraging guilds for pollination and pest reduction is unknown. Previous work has found that the maintenance of 30% natural vegetation in the landscape can support bird communities that provide essential ecosystem services for agriculture (Simmonds et al. 2019). However, it is unknown if similar thresholds apply to other pest control agents such as insectivorous bats.

    In this study, we aim to compare farming systems (organic vs conventional) and their landscape context (configuration of native vegetation) on the assemblage of insectivore pest controllers in an important farming region of eastern Australia.

    Available student projects

    • What is the threshold of native vegetation cover required for healthy bat communities?
    • Which farming practices related to pesticide use lead to more functionally diverse insectivorous vertebrate/bat communities?

    • A diversity of bat foraging guilds will provide the greatest pest control benefits?

    This project is a collaboration with Dr April Reside.

    Funding is available for the running costs of this project and we are accepting applications for honours and PhD projects. Students with a strong academic track record, wishing to pursue PhD studies, can apply for the competitive UQ Graduate School Scholarship.

    Please contact me (annabel.smith@uq.edu.au) if you would like to be involved!

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • A long history of fire has shaped many ecosystems globally, but thousands of species are now threatened with extinction because climate change, inappropriate management and invasive plants are rapidly changing fire regimes. Effective fire management is more complex than simply re- instating a historical fire regime because ecosystems might require a specific initial management regime (e.g. more frequent burning) to re-establish native plant communities and increase their resilience to future invasion. In this project, we will establish an evidence-based management framework for grassy woodlands of southeast Queensland, by evaluating how variation in fire frequency affects the composition and function of native plant communities.

    Available student projects

    • How do different fire regimes affect plant community composition and the balance between native and exotic species?
    • How do different fire regimes affect animal (mammal & invertebrate) community composition and key demographic parameters?
    • Does genetic structure and genetic diversity of native and invasive plant species change under different fire regimes?

    This project is a collaboration with Dr Shane Campbell.

    Funding is available for the running costs of this project and we are accepting applications for honours and PhD projects. Students with a strong academic track record, wishing to pursue PhD studies, can apply for the competitive UQ Graduate School Scholarship.

    Please contact me (annabel.smith@uq.edu.au) if you would like to be involved!

  • Pest control costs agricultural industries several billion dollars per year in loss of productivity and direct control costs (McLeod 2016). In Australia for example, farmers spend $25 billion per year on pest control, including insect pests and weeds (Bradshaw et al. 2021). At the same time, biodiversity in farming landscapes is declining (Ward et al. 2022; Ward et al. 2019), and this is accompanied by a decline in the ecosystem services provided by animals such as pest control, nutrient cycling, pollination and seed dispersal (Dangles & Casas 2019; Kremen & Chaplin-Kramer 2007). Healthy, functioning ecosystems containing a broad range of insectivores play a substantial role in pest control as widely documented in North America, Europe (Maine & Boyles 2015; Naranjo et al. 2015; Puig-Montserrat et al. 2020) and Africa (Bohmann et al. 2011; Noer et al. 2012). These services contribute hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the global economy (Porto et al. 2020). Far less research has been conducted on insectivore ecosystem services in Australia, meaning it is still unclear how to optimise key habitat features that support these services while also maximising agricultural productivity (Lentini et al. 2012). For example, many native insectivores are hollow-dependent, but the optimal density of hollow bearing trees in a cropping landscape needed to maintain a full complement of foraging guilds for pollination and pest reduction is unknown. Previous work has found that the maintenance of 30% natural vegetation in the landscape can support bird communities that provide essential ecosystem services for agriculture (Simmonds et al. 2019). However, it is unknown if similar thresholds apply to other pest control agents such as insectivorous bats.

    In this study, we aim to compare farming systems (organic vs conventional) and their landscape context (configuration of native vegetation) on the assemblage of insectivore pest controllers in an important farming region of eastern Australia.

    Available student projects

    • What is the threshold of native vegetation cover required for healthy bat communities?
    • Which farming practices related to pesticide use lead to more functionally diverse insectivorous vertebrate/bat communities?

    • A diversity of bat foraging guilds will provide the greatest pest control benefits?

    This project is a collaboration with Dr April Reside.

    Funding is available for the running costs of this project and we are accepting applications for honours and PhD projects. Students with a strong academic track record, wishing to pursue PhD studies, can apply for the competitive UQ Graduate School Scholarship.

    Please contact me (annabel.smith@uq.edu.au) if you would like to be involved!