New publication!

Berry, L. E., Lindenmayer, D. B., & Driscoll, D. A. (2014). Large unburnt areas, not small unburnt patches are needed to conserve avian diversity in fire‐prone landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology.


1. Mitigating the impacts of large-scale fires on biodiversity is becoming increasingly important as their frequency increases. In response, fire managers have engaged with the concept that retaining small unburnt residual areas of vegetation within extensively burnt landscapes may facilitate biodiversity conservation. However, it remains uncertain how the size and isolation of these unburnt residuals influence faunal distributions, persistence and recovery following fire.

2. We used a replicated observation study to test bird responses to the size and isolation of unburnt residuals in a Mallee woodland area recently burnt by a 28,000-ha wildfire in southern Australia. The scale of our study provided a rare opportunity to consider the responses of large mobile organisms to fire-induced habitat fragmentation. Within five replicated spatial blocks, we crossed two levels of isolation with large (5–7ha) and small (1–3ha) unburnt patches and matrix sites burnt five years previously. We compared these site types to six continuous (non-fragmented) unburnt sites. We surveyed each site on eight occasions.

3. Most birds occurred more frequently in unburnt habitat beyond the extent of the fire. Bird responses to the availability and spatial distribution of unburnt remnants within the fire were largely influenced by their ability to use the recently burnt matrix. Occurrence of five species was higher in unburnt residuals when more of the landscape within 500 m was burnt.

4. A fire refuge effect may be likely for two competitive species that occurred more frequently in unburnt residuals than in the burnt matrix or continuous unburnt habitat. For the weebill, re-colonisation following fire was likely to occur gradually over-time from ex-situ sources.

5. Synthesis and applications. To maintain avian diversity in fire-prone landscapes, our results suggest a need to shift management focus from creating networks of small unburnt patches, towards preserving large, intact areas of habitat. However, five species common to the burnt matrix preferentially selected residual patches when unburnt resources were locally scarce. Therefore, to benefit birds, land managers should limit the extent of applied burns and use narrow burns. When planning large burns, practitioners should consider that a number of species will remain absent from the landscape for several decades.

New publication!

Berry, L., Driscoll, D., Banks, S., & Lindenmayer, D. (2014). The use of topographic fire refuges by the greater glider, Petauroides volans and the mountain brushtail possum, Trichosurus cunninghami following a landscape-scale fire. Australian Mammalogy.


We examined the potential conservation value of topographic fire refuges for arboreal marsupials in a stand-replacing crown-fire forest ecosystem. We surveyed arboreal marsupial abundance across 48 sites in rainforest gullies burnt to differing extents by the 2009 fires in the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forests of the Victorian Central Highlands, Australia. The greater glider (Petauroides volans) was significantly less abundant within the extent of the 2009 fire. The mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus cunninghami) appeared to be more abundant within the extent of the 2009 fire and was particularly abundant within unburnt peninsulas protruding into burnt areas from unburnt edges. Our results indicate that while fire refuges are potentially important outcomes of large fires for some species; further research is required to address the mechanisms underpinning these response patterns.

Volunteer blogs

As part of their undergraduate studies at the Fenner School, two of our volunteers have written short blogs about their experiences working with us in the field earlier this year. Our study greatly benefited from the help of these two enthusiastic and passionate students. It is great to see how their experiences in these forests have influenced their thinking on some of the key conservation issues facing the region.


You can find Partick’s post here

Taking some measurements

and Jordan’s post here

Radio Interview

During our recent field season, we were visted by ABC Radio National’s Ann Jones, who documented our work on the mountain brushtail possum for her show Off Track. The programme is excellently put together and gives a great insight into our work on the species and the Central Highlands long term research study in general. You can check out the audio by following this link -

poss1 vch2

Dispersal paper

Our paper “The trajectory of dispersal research in conservation biology: Systematic review” has been published in the journal PLOS One.

Driscoll, D.A., Banks, S.C., Barton, P.S., Ikin, K., Lentini, P., Lindenmayer, D.B., Smith, A.L., Berry, L.E., Burns, E.L., Edworthy, A., Evans, M.J., Gibson, R., Heinsohn, R., Howland, B., Kay, G., Munro, N., Scheele, B.C., Stirnemann, I., Stojanovic, D., Sweaney, N., Villaseñor, N.R., and Westgate, M.J. (2014). The trajectory of dispersal research in conservation biology: Systematic review. PLOS One, 9, e95053.

The paper can be found here –

Funding News!


I have been awarded the 2014 Margaret Middleton Fund Award for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals! This will be used to fund our work on the Fine-scale post-fire landscape ecology of the Mountain Brushtail Possum. I would like to thank the Australian Academy of Science for their support!  

Volunteers Wanted!

Fitting a GPS tracking collar to a Mountain Brushtail Possum

Enthusiastic volunteers are required to assist our research on the post-fire ecology of the Mountain Brushtail possum in the Victorian Central Highlands. We will use a landscape study to investigate the mechanisms which allow this  species to persist within extensively burnt landscapes. We will use GPS telemetry to compare possum habitat use and dispersal habit between landscapes which were burnt to different degrees by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Volunteers are primarily needed to help deploy, retrieve and clean traps. This work will be strenuous and will involved clambering through dense re-growth vegetation and ascending/ descending steep slopes with heavy loads (and possums!). Other tasks will potentially include safely handling animals during trapping and processing, radio-tracking, vegetation surveys and spotlighting. Due to the demanding nature of the landscape, you must be physically fit and prepared to work in all conditions. Trapping will begin early in the morning and work will continue throughout the day concluding at dusk. Volunteers must be passionate about wildlife conservation and available for at least one whole week. The work will all be conducted around the Cambarville Area. Food and accommodation in Healesville will be provided. If interested please contact me and I will send you an information pack including the dates for each trapping session.