Research Staff

Professor Sarah Bekessy


Sarah leads the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group (ICSRG). She is Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow at RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and a researcher in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and in two National Environmental Science Program (NESP) hubs (Threatened Species and Clean Air and Urban Landscapes).  She is interested in the intersection between science and policy in environmental management and is currently involved in an interdisciplinary range of research and consulting projects, including an ARC Future Fellowship titled ‘Socio-ecological models for environmental decision making’. Her research interests include threatened species management, environmental decision analysis, population and landscape modelling, urban ecology and education for sustainability.

Contact Sarah:     Sarah’s RMIT staff profile

Dr Ascelin Gordon

Ascelin is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow with the ICSRG.  He works as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and the National Environmental Research Program.  Ascelin’s research focuses on developing modelling approaches for understanding the impacts of environmental policies on biodiversity values in the landscape.  His research interests include conservation planning and spatial prioritisation, dealing with uncertainties in conservation, setting priorities for conservation investment, population modelling and conservation on private land.

Contact Ascelin:     Ascelin’s RMIT staff profile

Dr Georgia Garrard

Georgia is a Senior RGeorgia_CentralCk.pngesearch Fellow with the ICSRG.  She is a quantitative ecologist and has worked on projects related to urban biodiversity conservation, imperfect detectability and conservation decision making. She currently works as part of the National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub, where she co-leads a project investigating how to increase community buy-in to threatened species conservation through better communication and engagement. Georgia’s recent research investigated better planning for biodiversity in urban environments and her protocol for Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design was nominated as a finalist in the 2016 Banksia Sustainable Cities Award.

Contact Georgia:     Georgia’s blog     Georgia’s RMIT staff profile

Dr Holly Kirk

Alex Kusmanoff


Alex has a background in law and environmental science, and has previously worked in various policy roles for the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments. His PhD research, supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED),   explored the use of message framing to enhance conservation messages.



Contact Alex:

Dr Luis Mata

Luis Mata

Luis is a Research Fellow with the ICSRG. He works as part of the National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub, where he is contributing to The Shared Urban Habitat, a research project looking at addressing the broad question of how humans can effectively share the urban habitat with other species. He is particularly interested in developing a protocol for bringing nature back into cities through reintroductions and ecological replacements. He is also conducting research for The Little Things that Run The City, an insect ecology and conservation project exploring how Melbourne’s green spaces support insect biodiversity and ecosystem health. He is an Associate Member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED).

Contact Luis:     Luis’s research blog

Dr Isaac Peterson

Dr Dhirendra Singh

Freya Thomas

Version 3Freya is a Research Fellow with ICSRG. She is a quantitative plant ecologist, who adores plants and whose work has previously focused on developing predictive trait-based models of plant growth. She has also spent time working on designing and implementing long term monitoring programs for riparian vegetation in Victoria. Freya’s current research at RMIT investigates the design of green spaces in urban areas for biodiversity and human well-being.

Contact:   Freya’s research blog

Dr Nooshin Torabi

Nooshin2Nooshin’s PhD explored the socio-cultural drivers of private landholders who participate in biodiverse carbon plantings on their properties.

Contact Nooshin:    Nooshin’s RMIT staff profile



Dr Ben Cooke

Ben completed his PhD in the ICSRG in 2013.  He is currently a Lecturer in Sustainability and Urban Planning in RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies.  Ben’s RMIT Staff Profile.

Dr Fiona Fidler


Fiona is an ARC Future Fellow based at the University of Melbourne. She is a psychologist, with a PhD in philosophy of science. Amongst other things, she is interested in: how scientists and experts make decisions; methodological and statistical controversies; statistical reasoning; research ethics and scientific integrity. Her current research aims to improve the integration of social/behavioural science and conservation science.

Contact Fiona:     Fiona’s largely inactive blog

Dr Christopher Ives

Chris is an Assistant Professor in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham (UK). He was previously a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University (Germany), where he worked as part of the project Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation, funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung, via the ‘Science for sustainable development’ call. He explored how reconnecting people with nature can assist us transition to a more sustainable society. His interests also lie in understanding the functioning of cities as socio-ecological systems and how science can be used to inform plans and policies related to biodiversity conservation. Chris has a diverse research background, having worked on projects in the fields of riparian ecology, urban planning and social psychology. As part of the National Environmental Research Program (NERP), Chris worked with the ICSRG on a project investigating how urban open space contributes to biodiversity conservation and human well-being, and how it should be considered in regional planning strategies.

Dr Cathy Oke

While at the ICSRG, Cathy worked with Chris Ives on the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) project investigating how urban open space contributes to biodiversity conservation and human well-being. She is currently a Councillor at the City of Melbourne, and Knowledge Broker for the National Environmental Science Programme Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, based at the University of Melbourne.

Research Students

Anna Backstrom

Anna is a PhD student with the ICSRG.  Anna is investigating the benefits of the novel ecosystem concept for environmental management in highly modified systems.

Katherine Berthon

Katie is a PhD student investigating drivers of biodiversity change and function in urban landscapes. Her passion for conservation biology and curiosity for understanding natural phenomena has led to a diverse research background in animal behaviour, spatial analysis, invasion biology and ecological theory. During her candidature she will investigate how plant choice, local environment and landscape context influence colonisation and persistence of animals in cities, with the aim of informing design guidelines for urban greenspaces.

Contact Katie:

Helen Corney

Helen C 2

Helen is a PhD candidate investigating the relationship between biodiversity values and amenity values of urban waterway corridors and the implications this has for environmental management. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Management from Deakin University and a Masters Degree in Forest Science from the University of Melbourne. Her passion for the environment has led her into a number of interesting career positions – from Park Ranger to River Health Officer to teaching in the Conservation and Restoration sector. She believes in putting theory into practice and has extensive experience with working with members of the community to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of the environment whilst undertaking conservation work.

Contact Helen:

Florence Damiens

Florence is a PhD candidate investigating the relationships between the stakeholders involved in offset policies. She aims to better understand how different sets of values and governance systems impact the design and implementation of offset policies and their ecological outcomes. Her PhD is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project entitled “Evaluating environment policy that has immediate costs but long-term gains”. Florence has a Bachelor in Political Sciences from Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) and a Master in Economics and Public Policy from Sciences Po and École Polytechnique. During her studies she worked with various stakeholders in the fields of environment and biodiversity conservation in Australia, France and the Middle-East.

Contact Florence:

Emily Gregg

Emily is a PhD student working on improving communications in order to increase community buy-in to threatened species conservation. She has a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) and a Master of Science (Zoology) from the University of Melbourne, where she investigated the feasibility of a ‘waterless barrier’ in halting toad spread through Western Australia. She has also recently completed a research internship with the Arid Recovery reserve, where she worked on anything from annual trapping surveys to community engagement.

Contact Emily:

Mat Hardy

MatMat is a PhD candidate investigating decision theoretic approaches to private land conservation in Australia, supported by RMIT University and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. He is particularly interested in the use of conservation covenants and revolving funds for protecting biodiversity on private land. Mat has a research background in ecology and conservation, and has worked previously in the private land conservation, landscape restoration and water management fields, predominantly in the non-government sector. Mat has a deep underlying interest in biodiversity conservation, particularly on private land and its contribution to landscape scale conservation efforts.

Contact Mat:

Sarrah Hurley

Sarrah HSarrah is a PhD candidate.  She is an Architect with a Masters degree from Queensland University of Technology. Her professional and research agenda is focused on improving how the built environment can be better designed to support biodiversity in urban areas. Before starting her PhD she worked as a research assistant alongside Luis Mata and other colleagues on developing a survey to identify charismatic species.

Contact Sarrah:

Lindall Kidd

David Meiklejohn

DavidDavid Meiklejohn is a PhD candidate researching the effectiveness of behaviour change programs delivered by Australian local governments responding to climate change. He is using a framing of climate change as a “super wicked problem” to analyse current approaches and identify alternatives for future testing. David has worked on behaviour change programs for 16 years in Australia and the UK, including establishing the TravelSmart Workplaces program in Victoria. He currently works as the Executive Officer for the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA), a network of nine Melbourne metropolitan councils working together on climate change projects.

Contact David:     David’s research website

Laura Mumaw

Laura is a PhD Student in the ICSRG. Laura has worked for many years in wildlife conservation and community engagement with a professional career in the zoo industry and board positions involved with species management, land care research and natural resource management. In her PhD Laura is exploring biodiversity decision making and stewardship in urban neighbourhoods, focusing on how an urban community can build capacity to sustain its indigenous biodiversity.

Contact Laura:     Laura’s RMIT staff profile     Laura’s LinkedIn

Matthew Selinske

MS1Matthew is a PhD candidate investigating human behaviour in incentivised conservation programmes. As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Matthew graduated with a Fisheries and Wildlife degree and received his Conservation Science MSc from Imperial College of London. Matthew’s previous research focuses on the effectiveness and social outcomes of voluntary stewardship programmes on private lands in South Africa. His work experiences include landscape restoration in the US Midwest, urban habitat restoration and community engagement in New York City, and six years in West Africa in protected area management and primate conservation. Matthew’s research is supported by RMIT University and the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions.

Contact Matthew:

Research support

Noemie Seck

Frederike Zielman

Past members and students

Kate Cranney

Kate CranneyKate was research assistant that worked alongside Luis Mata and other colleagues curating the insect specimens from ‘The Little Things that Run the City‘ project. Kate studied a Bachelor of Law (Hons)/ Science (Environment) at Griffith University, Queensland. Following graduation she worked with the Queensland Government in water planning. She later moved to Waiben (Thursday Island) to work with the Torres Strait Ranger Program. Kate is currently studying a Master of Science (Botany) at the University of Melbourne. She is passionate about insect ecology, private conservation, Indigenous Caring for Country programs, art and science communication.

Contact Kate:     Kate’s blog

Richard Faulkner

Richard FaulknerRich has a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) degree and a Master of Environment (Conservation, Restoration and Landscape Management) degree, both from the University of Melbourne. He has spent many years working as a Ranger, ecologist and land manager promoting wildlife conservation across Australia. He has worked in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, on Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula and South East Queensland. Internationally he has worked on and visited projects in Spain and East Timor and spent 6 months living in Central Kalimantan (Borneo) on a fellowship for release work on Orangutans and Sun Bears. Since returning to Melbourne Rich has started a small not-for-profit organisation called ‘Reach Out For Wildlife’ and focuses on environmental education for young children. Rich worked with the ICSRG, to investigate the national effort going into feral cat control.  Rich is now the Vertebrate Pest Program Ranger at Phillip Island Nature Parks.

Lea Fauth


Lea is a Landscape Architecture student (B.Sc.) from Germany working. During her internship research semester (September 2016 – February 2017) at the ICSRG she worked with Sarah Bekessy and Luis Mata on a systematic review of the urban green space literature to understand the current state of the knowledge regarding the demonstrated and potential biodiversity and human well-being benefits contributed by urban green spaces. She also sought to identify the range of potential explanatory and response variables that could be extracted from the literature, and to develop a protocol to use the acquired data in a meta-analysis framework.

Contact Lea:

Natasha Howard


Natasha was a research assistant  working on a project with Mathew Selinske investigating the motivations that drive landholders to place covenants on their land as well as their level of satisfaction with the covenant managing authorities. This project was commissioned by the Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA) and is being conducted across New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. She completed her MSc in Conservation Science at Imperial College, London last year and then worked for six months in South Africa evaluating South African Breweries’ “Better Barley, Better Beer” programme – designed to improve economic, environmental and social practices on the farms that supply the brewery’s barley.

Contact Natasha:

Tessa Smith


Tessa was a research assistant working on the ‘The Little Things that Run the City’ project. She has a Bachelor of Science (Monash University) with Honours (Deakin University). Her honours thesis entitled ‘The consequences of marine-derived avian nutrient input into island ecosystems: Palaeoecological insights from Rimatara, French Polynesia’ focused on palaeoecology and human impacts on a Pacific Island. Tessa has teaching experience from Deakin University where she tutored SLE101: Techniques in Environmental Science and SLE102: Physical Geography. She would like to continue pursuing her interests in palaeoecology, ecology, geology and science communication with further study.

Contact Tessa:

Simon van Wijnen

Simon is a landscape architect and urban designer. He worked with Georgia Garrard and Sarah Bekessy to investigate better planning for biodiversity in the urban environment, a research project funded by The Myer Foundation. As a design professional he has worked for local governments and companies in Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia. He has a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from VHL University in Boskoop the Netherlands and a Masters Degree in Urbanism from the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture. Simon has a particular interest in biodiversity in relation to architecture, urban design and planning. He is passionate about landscape architecture being a discipline to promote ‘nature inclusive urban design’ and improvement of urban environments. Simon is now working as a senior urban designer at the City of Melbourne.

Dr Kathryn Hegarty     Kathryn’s RMIT staff profile

Dr Sarah Holdsworth     Sarah’s RMIT staff profile

Dr Bill Langford     Bill’s RMIT staff profile

Dr Alex Lechner     Alex’s UQ staff profile

Dr Adjie Pamungkas

Dr Joab Wilson


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