I’m a Senior Research Fellow at University of Melbourne and this is my not-so-regularly-updated blog site. More information on the other pages. Note also the tweets on the right hand side.


How climate change will impact the tree of life of Australian eucalypts

We already know that climate change will force species to shift their distributions as climate zones move towards poles and to higher altitudes with increasing global temperatures. Several studies have looked at how biodiversity patterns across countries and continents are likely to change as a result, but fewer have taken the extra step to explore what these changes mean for the tree of life, that is, to the evolutionary lineages of biodiversity. Continue reading

Remembering Ilkka Hanski


Last week marked one of the saddest moments of my so far career as I learned that my previous lab director, mentor and a friend Prof Ilkka Hanski had passed away. Ilkka was the director of the Metapopulation Research Centre (MRC), a Finnish Center of Excellence, where I had the privilege of doing both my MSci and PhD. In addition to being an amazing, multi-awarded scientist, Ilkka was a much loved group leader.

Happy memories. Ilkka delivering his little personalized present to me in the celebration of my PhD defense. (Yep, it’s pretty formal in Finland). Photo: Evgeniy Meyke.

Together with my great colleagues here at QAECO we wrote a little tribute to Ilkka. I feel that so many more great things could have been said of him, but I hope we managed to pay homage to some of his many achievements.

A loss of a loved one is always a tremendously sad moment and my thoughts are with Ilkka’s family and friends back in Helsinki. In the past week I have talked to some of my old colleagues from MRC, many of who now live around the world, sharing memories of Ilkka and the wonderful time we had with him. It warms my heart that not only Ilkka’s brilliant work but also his amazing working philosophy is being carried forward by the many new generations of wonderful researchers he trained, directly or indirectly, during his career.

Goodbye Ilkka. And thank you.


PADDDtracker – a new web tool to see where conservation takes steps back

A couple years back Michael Mascia and Sharon Pailler published an interesting paper where they reviewed how protected area downgrading (=decrease in legal protection), downsizing (=decrease in area) and degazettement (=loss of entire PA) – or PADDD as they call it – has taken place around the world. I really enjoyed reading this paper and think that it was a great opening on a very important topic. We’ve all heard news about relaxing protected area regulations to allow, for example, mining activities within protected sites. But it’s important to keep in mind that PADDD actions are not always negative as they can help us to solve complex social issues that are critical to the effectiveness of the protected areas (such as re-establishing the rights of indigenous people on their land). Right after this paper came out we discussed it in the journal club of my old lab. Afterwards I wrote a short summary on the points that rose from our discussion, in case you are interested to see what our first thoughts about the work were.

Now the work of Mascia and Pailler has taken a step forward as they recently launched a web tool that tracks where PADDD actions take place in the world (and here’s a link to a news piece about the launching). This is a great continuation to their paper, which more or less concluded that with the current available data  there are no ways of quantifying the global magnitude and impacts of PADDD actions.

Screenshot from PADDDtracker showing current data points from Australia. The tool allows you to view different types of PADDD actions, their causes and current status. The data can also be filtered by time points or actions taken in different types of protected areas.

Hopefully this tool will get the critical mass behind it and eventually help us to understand how to make protected areas persistent and effective. In the meanwhile it will no doubly help us to grasp the global size of the phenomena, by simply putting dots on a map and pointing out that PADDD actions are not just singular cases – they are happening on all continents and the pace of both proposed and successful PADDD actions is increasing.

Nice work guys!

The PADDDtracker