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Heather Bryan

Contact me

Email: Heather.Bryan@utas.edu.au

About me

I have been employed as a Research Assistant with DEEP since April 2019. My main role is to communicate and emphasise the diverse research undertaken by the group through media relations and website maintenance. This employment opportunity arose following the completion of my honours project in November 2018 and provided an opening for me to build on my employee skill set outside of ecological research, but within a research setting. As I intend on commencing a PhD involving ecological modelling, my connection with the DEEP research group is extremely valuable. My research interests lie mostly with contemporary and future threats to biodiversity and environment, specifically land-use and climate change. I am particularly interested in unpacking the complexities of species and community responses to climate change, to reduce uncertainties in model predictions.

Key interests

  • environmental conservation

  • climate change ecology

  • species redistribution

  • population dynamics

  • biotic interactions

  • neotropical rain-forests

Current work with D.E.E.P

  • media relations

  • website creation and maintenance

  • events coordination

  • travel arrangement for staff

  • general administration duties

My research history

2016 - 2018: Honours (first class)

Patterns of extinction risk in range-restricted and widespread lizards under climate change

Supervisors: Prof Barry Brook, Assoc Prof Erik Wapstra

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Snow skinks with currently broad distributions were predicted to experience expansions in suitable habitat to higher elevations, while lowland habitat was maintained, with a corresponding increase in metapopulation abundance. In contrast, species currently restricted to alpine areas were predicted to experience contractions in suitable habitat of up to 93% and even higher reductions in metapopulation abundance. The divergent pattern in climate change vulnerability within Niveoscincus is not a story of lizard, ectotherm or even alpine species vulnerability, but the vulnerability of range-restricted specialists, a pattern relevant to all biotic systems.

Alongside my duties as Research Assistant, I am working to get the results of my honours project published. I am currently building an individual-based model to capture increased inter-specific competition under climate change as a potential mechanism driving extinction of alpine specialists.

2013 - 2016: Field work

My interest in ecological conservation has a wide geographic and taxonomic reach, with most of my academic training undertaken in Tasmania, but most of my work experience occurring in Latin America. Prior to commencing honours at UTAS I spent several years in and out of Central and South America working as a field assistant, volunteer supervisor and project leader in Neotropical rain-forests, including the Peruvian Amazon,  Caribbean coast and the Calakmul biosphere in Mexico. My survey experience covers every vertebrate class, (except fish) and includes terrestrial fauna (small & large mammals, bats, birds, camera trapping, herpetofauna surveys) and sea turtles. I have also done some invertebrate work (mostly butterflies) and assisted with habitat surveys.

Summary

Predicting responses of natural systems to climate change is a major challenge but imperative if we are to influence or mitigate its impacts to biodiversity. I predicted congeneric responses to climate change for four species of Tasmanian snow skinks (Niveoscincus), a genus which has divergent life-history strategies between and within species in response to different thermal environments. Making use of a series of comprehensive datasets, I employed a range of predictive approaches from relatively simple correlative methods, to more data-intensive demographic models. I reduced uncertainty in single-model predictions by comparing output from a range of approaches and explored how the likely mechanisms restricting species ranges may influence predictions.

At the Calakmul Mayan Ruins, Mexico in 2015

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