Our planet’s biodiversity is in crisis. Professor Don Driscoll is helping find solutions to counteract the significant pressures humans place on this earth.
Preserving the planet
Think back to your childhood interests and imagine for a moment if you were able to turn them into a successful career that contributes to solving some of the world’s largest issues – what would your life look like now?
The Professor of Terrestrial Ecology and leader of the Wildlife and Conservation Biology Group at Deakin University took a teenage passion and transformed it into a successful research career, supporting the protection of our planet.
His love of bushwalking and support from high school biology teachers led him to a research field he describes as “a big field with plenty of room to explore important issues, for decades as it turns out.”
Still to this day, Professor Driscoll loves to spend his time on multi-day bushwalks exploring and he’s passionate about increasing awareness of science communication and helping people understand the flow-on impacts of their own actions for biodiversity.
Expanding the ecological field
Ecology – a branch of biology that works to understand how species interact with each other and their environment – is a research field that supports the work towards environmental solutions to counteract the devastating impact humans have on biodiversity.
"Ecological research is essential for understanding how nature is affected by human impacts,” said Professor Driscoll. “I combine ecology with the expanded scope and norms of Conservation Biology to guide my research. It's analogous to medical science, where saving lives is regarded as a central tenet. In conservation biology, conserving biodiversity is the central value.
“The planet’s biodiversity is in crisis because of the massive and increasing human pressures placed on the natural world,” Professor Driscoll says. “So, research in ecology and conservation biology is critically important, but also incredibly challenging.”
To help expand the boundaries of the field and comprehend the impact human pressures have, Professor Driscoll supports HDR students to take on their own research projects.
In fact, one of his favourite aspects of his position within the University is helping PhD students “bring passion and determination” to their research.
The field has so many opportunities for collaboration, and Professor Driscoll is grateful to get to support PhD students push the boundaries with their research and achieve amazing things.
Exploring for solutions
Using conservation biology as a central theme, Professor Driscoll’s research focuses on how species use whole landscapes, particularly the role of dispersal.
Using a range of approaches to capture data, including manipulative experiments, natural experiments and the application of population genetic techniques, Professor Driscoll aims to place a strong emphasis on testing ecological theory using applied conservation problems.
“My research helps to solve conservation problems to improve how biodiversity is managed,” he says. “It also works to raise awareness about environmental issues that are not currently receiving adequate policy or management attention and offers solutions.”
Encouraging opportunities for collaboration
Alongside Professor Driscoll’s passion for supporting early career research, he emphasises the multitude of opportunities for collaboration with industry and government.
Through strong partnerships, Professor Driscoll says we can:
- develop and apply new technology for monitoring wildlife
- conserve threatened species
- manage invasive species impacts
- understand fire ecology
- conserve endangered species.
“It will take all our ingenuity and a sustained and strategic effort to minimise threats to biodiversity,” Professor Driscoll says.
Find out more about Professor Driscoll’s work
Read all of Professor Driscoll’s articles for The Conversation
Visit Professor Driscoll’s profile
Follow Professor Driscoll on Twitter
Find out more about the Wildlife and Conservation Biology Group
Find out more about the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment
Watch Biodiversity crisis hierarchy with Professor Don Driscoll
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