Associate Professor Eve McDonald-Madden

Eve is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Queensland. She is also a Chief Investigator on the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Eve studied Ecology and Environmental Science in her undergraduate at the University of Melbourne and then worked for the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research on the management of invasive species. It was here that she developed an appreciation for the more quantitative side of research and pursued her study of applied mathematics through distance education. She completed her PhD at the University of Queensland on optimization techniques for conservation management. Eve is driven by a desire to improve environmental decision-making and her research group focusses mainly on quantitative approaches to decision-making.



Dr Matthew Holden

Matthew is a theoretical ecologist who uses dynamic models and decision theory to improve conservation planning. He is especially interested in determining the most cost effective management actions when conservation benefits depend on how humans modify their behaviour in response to policy.

Matthew is currently a Lecturer at the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. He earned his PhD in Applied mathematics at Cornell University, supervised by Stephen Ellner, where he worked on optimization problems in fisheries management, invasive species control, and sustainable agriculture. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, where he won the University Medal, working with Sebastian Schreiber on the effect of habitat fragmentation on metapopulation persistence.


Dr Matthew Adams

Matthew is a postdoctoral fellow who uses applied mathematical modelling to investigate the dynamics underlying ecological, biological and physical systems. Matthew’s work spans the spectrum from quantitative analysis of experimental data to theoretical models, and focuses especially on environmental systems. He is currently working on improving decision-making for species translocations.



Shantala Brisbane

Shantala is a Research Assistant and Lab Manager for the McDonald-Madden lab. She has a BSc (Hons) in marine biology and ecology. After working in environmental consulting for a number of years she has more recently worked in research coordination / management and research assistant roles (including marine and coastal restoration, coastal wetland dieback, and research infrastructure requirements in ecosystem science). She is particularly interested in marine and coastal conservation.



Dr Tracy Rout

As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Tracy uses mathematics, modelling, statistical analysis, and ecological theory to find the best ways to manage and conserve natural systems. She is currently working on decision modelling for fox eradication in Tasmania.

She is also interested in optimal adaptive management, declaring extinction, and statistical methods for working with scarce data.



Dr Adam Charette-Castonguay

Adam is a postdoctoral research fellow currently working on building a model of global beef production to minimise local environmental impacts. His research revolves around using models to explore human-environmental systems to inform environmental policies and find solutions to “wicked problems”. In his PhD at Monash University, he developed an agent-based model to simulate the behaviour and interactions of stakeholders in urban stormwater management leading to the adoption of decentralised stormwater treatment and harvesting technologies.


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Dr Zunyi Xie

Zunyi is a postdoctoral research fellow and his research uses novel applications of remote sensing, spatial modelling and time-series analysis to explore ecohydrological interactions and map environmental changes for improved management. His PhD work focused on integrating GRACE observations with various other satellite data to study hydrological dynamics, ecological functions and their interactions under hydroclimatic extremes. His current Postdoc project is developing a novel approach coupling remote sensing big data techniques (e.g. GEE) with socio-economic analysis and decision making to identify global ‘Uncontested lands’ for multiple SDGs of renewable energy, poverty, food and conservation.



Dr Christopher O'Bryan

As a postdoctoral research fellow I am assisting in developing a multi-agency pest prioritisation framework. This framework will incorporate novel tools and techniques derived from game theory to insure that management agencies can not only benefit from working together to achieve local and regional goals, but will also save resources and maximise the control of non-native species that are harmful to biodiversity and human well-being. I have a background in spatial ecology, landscape-scale conservation, and decision science ranging from studying reptile movement patterns and habitat selection to private land management and stakeholder engagement. I finished my PhD at UQ in 2019 studying the exposure and contribution of carnivores to humans. I have written about the unrecognised benefits of predators and scavengers in human-dominated landscapes and the unique contribution of apex scavengers to ecosystems and human health.



Sofía Lopez

I am currently a PhD student at the University of Queensland supervised by Dr. Eve McDonald-Madden and Dr. Margaret Mayfield. My research is based on the ground that pollinators’ diversity is rapidly declining and one of the main factors is agriculture expansion.


In my project, I will apply optimization models to understand the optimal expansion of agricultural lands and the conservation of pollinators in the wild. Additionally, I will explore how are the negotiations for conserving natural areas between different stakeholders in heterogeneous agricultural landscapes.


Rosalie Willacy

Cat and rat predation has been implicated in the recent decline and extinction of a number of Christmas Island endemic mammals, reptiles and bird species. Parks Australia are now attempting to control cats but it is unknown what the effect will be on rats and remaining bird populations. My project will investigate the impacts of rats on native birds, whether changes in the abundance of rats affects those impacts, and whether cat control results in an increase in rat populations. By answering these questions we may also gain insight into the interaction between rats and crabs, and whether crabs suppress rat populations through competition for resources.



Katie Lee

Katie is a PhD candidate under the supervision of Associate Professor Eve McDonald-Madden, Dr Adam Charette-Castonguay and Dr Matthew Holden. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia completing Honours in Physics. Following this she worked as a Research Assistant at Monash University in conjunction with the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in X-ray Optics working in an interdisciplinary group focused on neonatal lung development. Her experience in modelling and spatial analysis are currently being applied to her PhD research looking at the global distribution of livestock to minimise environmental impacts.


Scott Spillias

Scott is a PhD candidate working on understanding how the co-benefits of seaweed farming can be leveraged to accelerate its uptake in Australia and globally. Seaweed farming has been demonstrated to yield numerous ecological benefits such as reducing eutrophication, buffering ocean acidification, creating new habitat for wildlife, and sequestering carbon, in addition to the social and economic benefits that can be derived from harvesting and converting seaweed biomass into food, animal feed, biofuel, and high-value organic molecules. His project aims to understand how these benefits are sensitive to environmental and species-specific contexts and how/where seaweed farming can best be implemented to create these benefits.  He is being supervised at the University of Queensland by Dr. Eve McDonald-Madden. He holds a Masters of Environmental Management in Environmental and Resource Economics from UQ and a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology from Duke University. Scott’s previous research topics have included the ecosystem-based fisheries management, ecosystem impacts of ocean energy, and the adoption rate of pro-environmental behaviours.


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Nisa Abeysinghe

Nisansala is a PhD candidate  working on the  pest linkage project on tackling invasive pests using game theory to support cooperative management. It is one of the major global environmental issues and it requires proper allocation of scarce financial and management resources. Her project will produce a novel framework to engage different stakeholders for cost-efficient collaborative pest management strategies. She is being supervised by Dr. Eve McDonald-Madden and Assoc Prof. Jonathan Rhodes. Her background is Agriculture and Environmental Management.  Email: 


Payal Bal

Payal was a PhD Student interested in understanding the use and selection of indicators of biodiversity in conservation decision making. Using principles of decision theory and optimal monitoring, her PhD developed a framework for indicator selection that explicitly links the indicator to the management objective, the expected improvement in management performance and the cost of monitoring. Such an approach can help us choose cost-effective indicators so that we get maximum management benefit for every dollar spent on monitoring. Through the use of case studies she explored different scenarios of decision making to find real world applicability for her work. Payal's PhD was jointly supervised by Dr Jonathan Rhodes, Dr Eve McDonald-Madden and Dr Ayesha Tulloch (ANU).


Michaela Plein

Micha was a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and part of the Threatened Species Hub of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP). She investigated how interactions between species influence management of invasive species and translocations of threatened species. We often have to act quickly to conserve threatened species, but we also need to minimise the potential for adverse outcomes of management actions. Finding methods for predicting the outcome of management actions in advance is therefore crucial, especially when little information about the system is available. Michaela’s interest has always involved interactions: in her PhD at the University of Melbourne, she focused on how to assess and manage interacting species when one is threatened and puts its interaction partner at risk. Her master’s thesis (at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt) looked at interaction networks of frugivore birds in different habitats.


Melissa Wynn

Melissa was a PhD candidate at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at The Australian National University in Canberra and is supervised by Don Driscoll (ANU), Samuel Banks (ANU) and Eve McDonald-Madden (UQ). She completed her undergraduate degree at UQ, majoring in Ecology and completing an Honours on physiology and biomechanical trade-offs in endangered northern quolls on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory. Her background and 2 years overseas field experience in reptile conservation led her to a PhD, and her true passion; researching the role of invasive species in the decline of Christmas Island's reptiles. This project, in collaboration with Parks Australia, uses a combination of field methods and decision making strategies, to inform cost-effective management of endangered reptiles.


Sean Maxwell

Sean completed his PhD with James Watson, Eve McDonald-Madden and Jonathan Rhodes on conservation decision-making and human responses to climate change.


Sean is a conservation ecologist with a diverse range of interests, including structured decision-making, value-of-information analysis, spatial modelling and extreme climatic events. 


Dr Anita Cosgrove

Anita was a Research Assistant for the McDonald-Madden lab. She has a BSc in ecology and zoology and won the University Medal for her efforts. Anita completed her PhD at the University of Queensland. Her doctoral studies focused on uniting landscape ecology, physiology, and resource availability to better understand why Australian woodland birds are so susceptible to the detrimental effects of habitat loss and fragmentation.



Emma Hudgins

Emma is a PhD student in Brian Leung’s lab at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She won a scholarship to visit UQ for 3 months from the Canada’s National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to be supervised by Eve on a side project to her main thesis project. The topic of her PhD research is modelling largescale generalities across species invasions. Throughout this project, she has been building country-scale models of invasive species spread and establishment, both in forests and freshwater ecosystems. She recently built a general, spatially-explicit model for the spread of all invasive forest pests in the US, which she is using in her project at UQ to model optimal forest pest management in this system. She is interested in seeing whether there are generalities in optimal management strategies across species and space that mirror the generalities we have already observed in dispersal dynamics. 

Dr Martin Stringer

Martin was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab with a background in theoretical physics, who worked predominantly on analytic & numerical models of cosmology and galaxy formation following a D.Phil at Oxford & Caltech. He joined the group to apply this modelling experience to environmental systems. Though stars and endangered species may not seem to have much in common, both are governed by births, deaths, resources, competition and feedback.  But though the Universe at large will be just fine for another 10 billion years, whether we can model it or not, the need to understand our ecological systems is a bit more pressing!

Dr Christopher Baker

Christopher Baker was a John Stocker Fellow at the University of Queensland. He is interested in using mathematical modelling to help inform the way that we manage complex systems. He has primarily worked on environmental systems, where he had developed models of species interactions to predict how management of one species will affect other species. During his PhD, he worked extensively in solving optimal control problems for the control of invasive species. Bringing these two research aspects together leads to problems about optimising management of interacting species, which is an ongoing area of research. Species removal problems cover many areas of biology and Chris has worked across a wide range of them. These includes managing invasive predators, such as feral cats, and plants in Australia, the removal of diseased Tasmanian devils from isolated regions to create devil facial tumour disease free areas, and modelling the effect of antibiotics on microbes to develop treatment strategies that prevent the emergence of treatment resistant infections. 


Hernán Cáceres

Hernan was a PhD Student at the University of Queensland, working with Salit Kark, Eve McDonald-Madden and Hugh Possingham. He completed his degree in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Chile (Chile), where he worked in the human-wildlife conflict.

With his research he aimed to investigate the links between threatened and pest mammals in Australia to incorporate it into a prioritisation protocol of actions to control invasive mammals. To achieve this, he used case studies and modelling. Hopefully his work will help conservation and government agencies to manage pest mammals, incorporating different stakeholders into the decision process.


Hui Xiao

Hui was a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. She studied Economics in her undergraduate in China and then completed a Master degree in Statistics and Econometrics in France. At the end of her study in France she worked in Airbus for methodology study in air traffic forecast and it was there she realized how mathematical modelling and quantitative analysis could shape the view of decision makers.

With a solid knowledge of Economics and Mathematics, she focussed on investigating 'state of the art' approaches on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services optimization problem. Hopefully her study could provide new ideas and act as a convincing tool for decision makers to conserve our nature more wisely.


​Darren Southwell, Megan Barnes, Yi Han, Will Probert and Nadiah Kristensen