Research Staff

Professor Sarah Bekessy


Sarah leads the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group (ICON Science). She is a Professor and ARC Future Fellow at RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and a researcher in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and in two National Environmental Science Program (NESP) hubs (Threatened Species and Clean Air and Urban Landscapes).  She is interested in the intersection between science and policy in environmental management and is currently involved in an interdisciplinary range of research and consulting projects, including an ARC Future Fellowship titled ‘Socio-ecological models for environmental decision making’. Her research interests include threatened species management, environmental decision analysis, population and landscape modelling, urban ecology and education for sustainability.

E:  W: RMIT staff profile T: @sbekessy

Dr Ascelin Gordon

ascelingordon.jpgAscelin is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow with ICON Science.  He works as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and the National Environmental Research Program.  Ascelin’s research focuses on developing modelling approaches for understanding the impacts of environmental policies on biodiversity values in the landscape.  His research interests include conservation planning and spatial prioritisation, dealing with uncertainties in conservation, setting priorities for conservation investment, population modelling and conservation on private land.

E:  W: RMIT staff profile T: @Ascelin

Dr Georgia Garrard

Georgia is a Senior Rgeorgia_centralck-png.jpgesearch Fellow with ICON Science.  She is a quantitative ecologist and has worked on projects related to urban biodiversity conservation, imperfect detectability and conservation decision making. She currently works as part of the National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub, where she co-leads a project investigating how to increase community buy-in to threatened species conservation through better communication and engagement. Georgia’s recent research investigated better planning for biodiversity in urban environments and her protocol for Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design was nominated as a finalist in the 2016 Banksia Sustainable Cities Award.

E: W: Georgia’s blog  RMIT staff profile T: @GeorgiaGarrard

Dr Freya Thomas

Version 3Freya is a Research Fellow with ICON Science. She is a quantitative plant ecologist, who adores plants and whose work has previously focused on developing predictive trait-based models of plant growth. She has also spent time working on designing and implementing long term monitoring programs for riparian vegetation in Victoria. Freya’s current research at RMIT investigates the design of green spaces in urban areas for biodiversity and human well-being.

E:  W: Freya’s research blog T: @freyamthomas

Dr Alex Kusmanoff


Alex has a background in law and environmental science, and has previously worked in various policy roles for the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments. His PhD research, supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED),   explored the use of message framing to enhance conservation messages.

E: T: @AlexKusmanoff

Dr Holly Kirk


Holly is an ecologist who is fascinated by how animals move around their environment, from foraging fairy-wrens to migrating monarch butterflies. She is currently working in the ICON Science group investigating movement ecology in urban birds as part of an Endeavour post-doctoral fellowship. Before joining RMIT University, Holly completed her PhD studying migration and behavioural ecology in UK seabirds. Here she developed a keen interest in using miniaturised technology to eves-drop on secretive animal species.

E: W: Holly’s research blog T: @HollyKirk

Dr Pia Lentini Pia

Pia is a Senior Research Fellow with ICON Science whose interests’ span ecology, conservation and the social sciences, and her current research is focussed on reducing the biodiversity impacts of the coffee supply chain. Her work generally explores human-wildlife coexistence and how our management decisions and behaviours are linked to conservation outcomes. Whenever possible she works directly with decision makers and agency stakeholders, and although she loves all aspects of nature, she particularly enjoys working on questions related to bats. Pia also sits on the DELWP Scientific Advisory Committee and the Board of Wildlife Victoria

E: W: T: @pelentini

Dr Matthew Selinske

MS1Matthew is a postdoctoral research fellow at ICON. Matthew works on a range of research projects including social acceptability of offsets and alternative policies such as ‘onsets’, social dimensions of private land conservation, and prioritizing conservation behavior change. Matthew
currently serves as a board member on the Society for Conservation Biology’s Social Science Working Group and is the treasurer of the Greater Melbourne Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology. Prior to his research career Matthew worked in ecological restoration projects in Minnesota and New York, and managed a protected area in West Africa, focused on primate conservation. Matthew received his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota College of Natural Resources and MSc from Imperial College.

E: T: @M_Selinske

Natasha Ward

Natasha is a Research officer and educator with an interest in Indigenous science education. For her honours project she investigated the implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge into secondary science curriculum. She is currently working on developing holistic curriculums for primary schools which explore traditional knowledges by working with local Aboriginal groups, creating a connection between the school and the local Aboriginal peoples.

Dr Lily Van Eeden

Lily_van_Eeden_reduced-01Lily is a Research Fellow based at Arthur Rylah Institute but with affiliations at ICON Science as well as BehaviourWorks Australia (Monash University). She is an environmental social scientist interested in understanding how to get people to engage in behaviours that benefit biodiversity conservation and she is undertaking her current work as part of the state government’s Victorians Value Nature program. Her research background is primarily in the human dimensions of wildlife management and she has also spent around eight years working as an ecological consultant.

E: T: @lilyvaneeden W:

Research Students

Thami Croeser


Thami is an urban planner and spatial analyst with a specialist interest in urban greening, with a history of delivering greening projects and policy in Melbourne’s most urbanised spaces. He currently is part of an international project team advising the European Union on planning for urban greening; over the next three years Thami will facilitate the development of greening plans for four cities around the world.


Anna Backstrom

Anna is a PhD student with the ICON Science.  Anna is investigating the benefits of the novel ecosystem concept for environmental management in highly modified systems.


Katherine Berthon

dscn3703.jpgKatherine is a PhD student investigating drivers of biodiversity change and function in urban landscapes. Her passion for conservation biology and curiosity for understanding natural phenomena has led to a diverse research background in animal behaviour, spatial analysis, invasion biology and ecological theory. During her candidature, she will use a variety of methods to understand and predict the influence of design on plant-insect relationships, including a year-long observation study of garden beds in CityofMelbourne, deploying experimental “phytometres” in Munich and metabarcoding pollen. The goal of this research is to inform design guidelines for enhancing biodiversity in urban greenspaces.

E: T: @CityKat75 W: Katherine’s ResearchGate

Emily Gregg

R15pi1ou_400x400Emily is a PhD student working on improving communications in order to increase community buy-in to threatened species conservation. She has a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) and a Master of Science (Zoology) from the University of Melbourne, where she investigated the feasibility of a ‘waterless barrier’ in halting toad spread through Western Australia. She has also recently completed a research internship with the Arid Recovery reserve, where she worked on anything from annual trapping surveys to community engagement.

E: T: @SciEms W: Emily’s research blog 

Marco Gutiérrez


Marco is a PhD student investigating strategic environmental assessment as an environmental decision-making support instrument, seeking to better understand the outcomes, opportunities and risks that such an approach presents to biodiversity and ecosystem services. Marco has a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering from ITESO University in Mexico and a Master of Environment (Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions) from the University of Melbourne. He has worked as an environmental regulator and consultant in Mexico.

E: T: @MarcoGtez


Cristina Hernandez


Cristina is a PhD student investigating strategies to translate ecological knowledge to support ‘place’ for both humans and non-humans to coexist. Specifically, she aspires to merge the idea of participatory design with ecology by incorporating the voice and needs of the non-humans and using this knowledge to increase the resilience of our urban areas. Cristina has a background in ecology from the University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico and a Master of Environment (Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions) from the University of Melbourne. Across the years since she first completed her bachelor’s degree, she has avidly worked to bring together ecology and design as well as creating partnerships between academy and industry.

E: LinkedIn:ández-santín-aa1a6b85

Lindall Kidd

Lindall is doing her PhD investigating communication strategies to engage people in biodiversity conservation. Her research is funded by the National Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub. Lindall specializes in bird conservation and currently works for the Migratory Shorebird Program at BirdLife Australia.

Roshan Sharma

roshan-shrma.pngRoshan has a background in forestry and natural resources management and has worked in policy and science interface in international development organizations like UNFCCC, German Development Institute, and CIFOR. He is interested in addressing environmental problems using remote sensing and geospatial modelling. For his PhD he is evaluating the conservation intervention impacts using spatial statistics.


Hugh Stanford

Hugh’s research focuses on urban planning and how cities can be better designed to improve urban biodiversity and open space outcomes in the face of urban development and inner-city densification. He is currently investigating how informal and neglected urban spaces can play a role in improving urban biodiversity outcomes and how urban governance can facilitate this in practice. While undertaking his PhD, Hugh works as a Senior Strategic Planner at the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) and is involved in planning for Melbourne’s outer metropolitan areas.


Nyree Raabe


Nyree is in her honours year of the Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT University. Her honours thesis is focused on the role of governance structures in the uptake of urban greening as a key strategy in adapting to the pressures of climate change and urbanisation. Nyree was recipient of the International Studies Award for Academic Excellence in 2019 and RMIT’s J N McNicol Prize for 2020.


Dale Wright

Dale WrightDale’s love for birds from an early age led him to a career in biodiversity conservation. His experience in applied conservation includes working as the manager of a protected area in Tanzania, an extension officer on WWF-SA’s Biodiversity & Wine Initiative and as the national IBA Conservation Implementation Manager for BirdLife South Africa. However, he also enjoys conservation research, completing an MSc in Conservation Biology and collaborating on several ornithological and conservation policy related research projects. He joins ICON Science as a PhD candidate on the ARC Coffee Linkage project, investigating how sustainable agriculture can support biodiversity conservation.  


Past members and students

David Meiklejohn

DavidDavid Meiklejohn is a PhD candidate researching the effectiveness of behaviour change programs delivered by Australian local governments responding to climate change. He is using a framing of climate change as a “super wicked problem” to analyse current approaches and identify alternatives for future testing. David has worked on behaviour change programs for 16 years in Australia and the UK, including establishing the TravelSmart Workplaces program in Victoria. He currently works as the Executive Officer for the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA), a network of nine Melbourne metropolitan councils working together on climate change projects.

E: W: David’s research website

Dr Mat Hardy

mat.jpgMat’s PhD investigated decision theoretic approaches to private land conservation in Australia and was supported by RMIT University and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. He is particularly interested in the use of conservation covenants and revolving funds for protecting biodiversity on private land. Mat has a research background in ecology and conservation, and has worked previously in the private land conservation, landscape restoration and water management fields, predominantly in the non-government sector. Mat has a deep underlying interest in biodiversity conservation, particularly on private land and its contribution to landscape scale conservation efforts.

E: T: @matjhardy

Dr Jeremy Ringma 

bilbysmugglingJeremy is a quantitative ecologist and conservation scientist specialising in terrestrial vertebrates. Jeremy completed his PhD in Australian mammal conservation in 2016 and has since held postdoctoral position at the University of Hawaii, investigating the impact of feral pigs on threatened plant communities, and the NESP threatened species hub 4.1 project, prioritising conservation action for introduced predator affected Australian mammals. In Jeremy’s current position at RMIT he is investigating the use of climatic predictor variables in species distribution modelling.


Dr Nooshin Torabi


landholders who participate in biodiverse carbon plantings on their properties.

Nooshin’s PhD explored the socio-cultural drivers of private

E: W: RMIT staff profile

T: @nooshin_t

Sarrah Hurley

sarrah-h.jpgSarrah is an Architect with a Masters degree from Queensland University of Technology. Her professional and research agenda is focused on improving how the built environment can be better designed to support biodiversity in urban areas. Before starting her PhD she worked as a research assistant alongside Luis Mata and other colleagues on developing a survey to identify charismatic species.


Helen Corney

Helen C 2

Helen is a PhD candidate investigating the relationship between biodiversity values and amenity values of urban waterway corridors and the implications this has for environmental management. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Management from Deakin University and a Masters Degree in Forest Science from the University of Melbourne. Her passion for the environment has led her into a number of interesting career positions – from Park Ranger to River Health Officer to teaching in the Conservation and Restoration sector. She believes in putting theory into practice and has extensive experience with working with members of the community to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of the environment whilst undertaking conservation work.


Blythe Vogel

Blythe Vogel is studying a Master of Science (BioSciences) at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with ICON Science. She is studying plant-insect pollinator interactions in urban parks within Melbourne, and in particular how we can engage citizen scientists to conduct this research. Through her research, she hopes to make observing pollinators more accessible and enjoyable to the public.

E: T: @BlytheVogel

Florence Damiens

Florence is a PhD candidate investigating the relationships between the stakeholders involved in offset policies. She aims to better understand how different sets of values and governance systems impact the design and implementation of offset policies and their ecological outcomes. Her PhD is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project entitled “Evaluating environment policy that has immediate costs but long-term gains”. Florence has a Bachelor in Political Sciences from Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) and a Master in Economics and Public Policy from Sciences Po and École Polytechnique. During her studies she worked with various stakeholders in the fields of environment and biodiversity conservation in Australia, France and the Middle-East.


Dr Ben Cooke

Ben completed his PhD in the ICON Science in 2013.  He is currently a Lecturer in Sustainability and Urban Planning in RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies.

W: RMIT Staff Profile.

Kate Cranney

Kate CranneyAs a research assistant, Kate worked alongside Luis Mata and other colleagues curating the insect specimens from ‘The Little Things that Run the City‘ project. She studied a Bachelor of Law (Hons)/ Science (Environment) at Griffith University, Queensland. Following graduation she worked with the Queensland Government in water planning. She later moved to Waiben (Thursday Island) to work with the Torres Strait Ranger Program. Kate recently finished a Master of Science (Botany) at the University of Melbourne. She is passionate about insect ecology, private conservation, Indigenous Caring for Country programs, art and science communication.

E: W: Kate’s website T: @KateCCranney

Richard Faulkner

Richard FaulknerRich has a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) degree and a Master of Environment (Conservation, Restoration and Landscape Management) degree, both from the University of Melbourne. He has spent many years working as a Ranger, ecologist and land manager promoting wildlife conservation across Australia. He has worked in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, on Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula and South East Queensland. Internationally he has worked on and visited projects in Spain and East Timor and spent 6 months living in Central Kalimantan (Borneo) on a fellowship for release work on Orangutans and Sun Bears. Since returning to Melbourne Rich has started a small not-for-profit organisation called ‘Reach Out For Wildlife’ and focuses on environmental education for young children. While working for ICON Science, Rich investigated the national effort going into feral cat control. He is now the Vertebrate Pest Program Ranger at Phillip Island Nature Parks.

Lea Fauth


Lea is a Landscape Architecture student (B.Sc.) from Germany working. During her internship research semester (September 2016 – February 2017) at ICON Science she worked with Sarah Bekessy and Luis Mata on a systematic review of the urban green space literature to understand the current state of the knowledge regarding the demonstrated and potential biodiversity and human well-being benefits contributed by urban green spaces. She also sought to identify the range of potential explanatory and response variables that could be extracted from the literature, and to develop a protocol to use the acquired data in a meta-analysis framework.

Dr Fiona Fidler


Fiona is an ARC Future Fellow based at the University of Melbourne. She is a psychologist, with a PhD in philosophy of science. Amongst other things, she is interested in: how scientists and experts make decisions; methodological and statistical controversies; statistical reasoning; research ethics and scientific integrity. Her current research aims to improve the integration of social/behavioural science and conservation science.

E: W: Fiona’s largely inactive blog T: @fidlerfm

Natasha Howard


Natasha was a research assistant  working on a project with Mathew Selinske investigating the motivations that drive landholders to place covenants on their land as well as their level of satisfaction with the covenant managing authorities. This project was commissioned by the Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA) and is being conducted across New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. She completed her MSc in Conservation Science at Imperial College, London last year and then worked for six months in South Africa evaluating South African Breweries’ “Better Barley, Better Beer” programme – designed to improve economic, environmental and social practices on the farms that supply the brewery’s barley.


Dr Christopher Ives

Chris is an Assistant Professor in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham (UK). He was previously a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University (Germany), where he worked as part of the project Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation, funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung, via the ‘Science for sustainable development’ call. He explored how reconnecting people with nature can assist us transition to a more sustainable society. His interests also lie in understanding the functioning of cities as socio-ecological systems and how science can be used to inform plans and policies related to biodiversity conservation. Chris has a diverse research background, having worked on projects in the fields of riparian ecology, urban planning and social psychology. As part of the National Environmental Research Program (NERP), Chris worked with ICON Science on a project investigating how urban open space contributes to biodiversity conservation and human well-being, and how it should be considered in regional planning strategies.

E: T: @Chris_D_Ives

Dr Laura Mumaw

Laura is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research. Laura has worked for many years in wildlife conservation and community engagement with a professional career in the zoo industry and board positions involved with nature conservation, land care research and natural resource management. In her PhD with ICON Science, Laura explored how an urban community can build capacity to sustain its indigenous biodiversity and wellbeing through a wildlife gardening conservation collaboration. Her current research investigates how to nurture sustainable citizen-local government nature stewardship collaborations, how to understand and improve their social and ecological impacts, and how to link community efforts with regional and state planning and policies.

E: W: RMIT staff profile T: @laura_mumaw

Dr Cathy Oke

While at ICON Science, Cathy worked with Chris Ives on the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) project investigating how urban open space contributes to biodiversity conservation and human well-being. She is currently a Councillor at the City of Melbourne, and Knowledge Broker for the National Environmental Science Programme Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, based at the University of Melbourne.

E: T: @cathyoke

Tessa Smith


Tessa was a research assistant working on the ‘The Little Things that Run the City’ project. She has a Bachelor of Science (Monash University) with Honours (Deakin University). Her honours thesis entitled ‘The consequences of marine-derived avian nutrient input into island ecosystems: Palaeoecological insights from Rimatara, French Polynesia’ focused on palaeoecology and human impacts on a Pacific Island. Tessa has teaching experience from Deakin University where she tutored SLE101: Techniques in Environmental Science and SLE102: Physical Geography. She would like to continue pursuing her interests in palaeoecology, ecology, geology and science communication with further study.

E: T: @_TessaSmith_

Simon van Wijnen

Simon is a landscape architect and urban designer. He worked with Georgia Garrard and Sarah Bekessy to investigate better planning for biodiversity in the urban environment, a research project funded by The Myer Foundation. As a design professional he has worked for local governments and companies in Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia. He has a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from VHL University in Boskoop the Netherlands and a Masters Degree in Urbanism from the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture. Simon has a particular interest in biodiversity in relation to architecture, urban design and planning. He is passionate about landscape architecture being a discipline to promote ‘nature inclusive urban design’ and improvement of urban environments. Simon is now working as a senior urban designer at the City of Melbourne.

Dr Bill Langford

Dr Alex Lechner

Frederike Zielman

Dr Isaac Peterson

Dr Dhirendra Singh

Dr Luis Mata

Dr Kathryn Hegarty

Dr Sarah Holdsworth

Dr Joab Wilson

Dr Adjie Pamungkas

Noemie Seck

We at ICON Science acknowledge the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct our research, teaching and service.

1 thought on “People

  1. Pingback: Melbourne | The Anthronaut Experience

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s