Dr Simon Ferrier: researching new analytical approaches to biodiversity assessment and conservation
26 November 2010 | Updated 28 November 2013
In this article
- Publishing History
Dr Ferrier and his team are researching, developing and applying a new generation of macroecological approaches to biodiversity modelling and conservation assessment.
Dr Ferrier and his team are helping to forge links between fields as diverse as biodiversity informatics, genomics, and remote sensing.
In contrast to the prevailing “bottom up” paradigm based around modelling individual species, these alternative approaches view biodiversity from a more holistic macroecological or “top down” perspective. This means focusing less on particular biological components and more on collective properties of biodiversity (e.g. compositional turnover and richness) at a whole-community or whole-ecosystem level.
Working with collective biodiversity properties offers a powerful and cost-effective means of factoring highly diverse, yet lesser known and/or poorly sampled, biological groups into practical conservation assessment across extensive regions. An additional strength of these approaches is the extent to which they use modelling to integrate, and thereby add value to, multiple sources of information from a range of new and emerging disciplines that have, in the past, rarely interacted with one another.
The approaches are thereby helping to forge links between advances and initiatives in fields as diverse as biodiversity informatics, genomics (including environmental metagenomics), remote sensing, and modelling focused on other environmental, social and economic variables and systems.
Techniques developed by Dr Ferrier’s team are being employed at regional, national and global scales to map spatial patterns in biodiversity distribution, assess and monitor past-to-present change in the status of biodiversity, project impacts of future scenarios of climate and land-use change, and assess the potential effectiveness of alternative policy and management options in ameliorating these impacts.
Dr Ferrier joined CSIRO in 2008. Prior to this, he spent 23 years working as a research scientist with the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change (now the Office of Environment and Heritage) based in Armidale, Australia.
During that time, he led an internationally-renowned team researching and developing innovative analytical approaches to regional biodiversity assessment and conservation planning. He worked extensively with planning staff and stakeholders in applying these techniques to a wide range of conservation assessment and decision-making activities throughout NSW.
Dr Ferrier has been awarded a:
- Bachelor of Science with Honours, from the University of Queensland, Australia in 1978
- Doctor of Philosophy from the University of New England, NSW, Australia in 1984. Thesis titled: The status of the Rufous Scrub-bird: habitat, geographical variation and abundance.
- Postgraduate Diploma in Computing Science, from the University of New England in 1987.
Dr Ferrier is actively involved in a number of major global initiatives in biodiversity modelling and assessment, most notably as a Steering Committee member and a Working Group lead for the emerging Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).
He is frequently invited to participate in national and international committees, review panels, scientific working groups, and conferences.
He interacts and collaborates with an extensive network of ecologists, biodiversity modellers and conservation scientists around the world, both from the university sector and from various conservation agencies and organisations (including the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, where he is an Honorary Senior Fellow). He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University.
Dr Ferrier received a CSIRO Office of the Chief Executive (OCE) Newton Turner Award in 2011, and an OCE Science Leader Award in 2012.
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