BSc (Hons) Monash, PhD Kansas
For the past 20 years or so, I have been engaged in ecological research, both within Australia and in various parts of the Neotropics. My current research interests fall into four broad areas: the biological consequences of habitat fragmentation' ecological interactions between plants and animals with an emphasis on parasitic plants, biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes, and biodiversity survey methods. Combining community-scale descriptive work with species-specific studies, most of my work is restricted to vertebrates, although I recognize the central role that arthropod and microbial assemblages play in these systems. I have complemented this community-level descriptive approach with a resource-based experimental approach, treating mistletoe and other parasitic plants as model systems. Some of my research has been conducted in national parks, travelling stock reserves and other public lands, but most of my field sites are on private land and I work closely with natural resource agencies, regional bodies and individual landholders to convert my findings into practical on-ground outcomes.
Personal Web page for David M Watson and the Watson lab
View full list of Publications
In addition, Dave is the Course Coordinator for the Ornithology Programme, and leader of the Ecology and Biodiversity Groups within the Institute for Land, Water and Society
Most of Dave's research is centred around a deceptively simple question: "Why are there more species in some areas than others?" This issue is at the centre of community ecology, and he have addressed it in a number of ways-detailed community-level field studies in Australia and Latin America, species-specific studies of distribution and abundance, theoretical advances, empirical studies based on previously published data, and synthetic reviews consolidating existing information and proposing new hypotheses to guide future research. Most of this work has been conducted in fragmented landscapes-both anthropogenic and natural-and he has stressed the importance of temporal scale in sculpting observed patterns. He has complemented this community-level distributional approach with a resource-based approach, treating mistletoe as a model system. While representing a different approach to scholarship, involving experimental methods and inter-disciplinary collaboration, the fundamental goal remains the same-resolving the unequal distribution of organismal diversity on the planet. While some of Dave's research is theoretical, most is applied and has a direct influence on improving our understanding of natural systems and enhancing their management. His work has informed conservation and management policy in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Mexico and the "Standardized Search" approach to conducting bird surveys he developed has gained international prominence. In addition to community and species-level ecology, part of his research programme also relates to evolutionary biology. Implicit in any ecological research is the assumption that the units being evaluated 'species' are valid and correctly diagnosed. Dave explored this assumption in detail, and suggested that the number of bird species currently recognized may greatly underestimate their actual diversity.