Research themes

Conservation policy

I’m passionate about making policies and management interventions work better to improve on-ground conservation outcomes. Environmental policies operate within complex social-ecological systems, benefiting from a multidisciplinary analytical lens. I employ quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore policy development, implementation, and outcomes, and draw upon my experience as a policy specialist in the Queensland Government to identify opportunities to conduct research with practical policy applications.

Impact evaluation

How do we know if a conservation intervention is working? Impact evaluation is an assessment approach that employs the principles of causal inference to determine whether a conservation intervention works better than an alternative intervention, or no intervention at all. I am interested in developing and utilising theories of change to evaluate the impact of conservation interventions using quasi-experimental techniques. The findings of impact evaluations can inform the adjustment of policy settings and management actions to optimise conservation outcomes.

Decision making

Biodiversity conservation is critically underfunded, so decision-makers are under pressure to deliver the greatest conservation outcomes for the least cost. I apply conservation decision-making tools such as conservation planning, and frameworks such as cost-effectiveness analysis and project prioritisation, to support strategic decisions about when, where, and how to act to conserve species and ecosystems.

Postgraduate research topics

PhD thesis (2021 – 2024)

In addition to the global threat of climate change, Antarctic environments are at increasing risk of harm from expanding and intensifying research and tourism activities. Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) are the continent’s key environmental conservation mechanism; however, their effectiveness in achieving their intended conservation outcomes is presently unknown. My PhD thesis by publication explores the importance of, and methods for, evaluating the conservation impact of ASPAs with the end goal of improving policy settings and management decisions to optimise biodiversity conservation outcomes. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches including impact evaluation, expert elicitation, and institutional fit analysis, the performance of ASPAs is examined in relation to both the biophysical effects of ASPAs on Antarctic environments, as well as the functionality of the ASPA regulatory mechanism itself.

Supervisors: Professor Kerrie Wilson & Professor Michael Bode

Master’s thesis (2017)

Direct mortality from collisions with vehicles is one of the most significant impacts of human development on wildlife. Though a comprehensive toolkit for wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation exists, decision-makers lack the necessary information to guide choices among management options. My Master’s research employed a decision science approach to prioritise mitigation options within Redland City (south-east Queensland, Australia) based on their cost-effectiveness. I developed a data-driven decision support framework for prioritising wildlife-vehicle collision mitigation actions, spatially and for multiple species, to maximise the conservation benefits generated per dollar invested, and in which taxa can be alternately weighted to support different conservation objectives.

Supervisor: Professor Jonathan Rhodes

Publications

Burrows, J.L., Lee, J.R., & Wilson, K.A. (2022). Evaluating the conservation impact of Antarctica’s protected areas. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Conference presentations

2022 – Evaluating the conservation impact of Antarctica’s protected areas. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Open Science Conference, online.

2018 – A decision support framework for prioritising actions to mitigate wildlife-vehicle collisions. Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ) Australasian Network for Ecology and Transportation Conference, Victoria, Australia.