Keynote Speakers

We are pleased to confirm the following keynote speakers for ESA 2024

Professor Emily Nicholson, The University of Melbourne

Professor Emily Nicholson is a conservation scientist, whose work has impacts on conservation policy and practice at global and local levels. Her research interests include biodiversity monitoring and risk assessment, conservation decision-making, and ecosystem science. She co-leads the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems thematic group in the Commission on Ecosystem Management, and is a member of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert group on indicators for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and UN Statistics Division working groups on ecosystem accounting. She has >100 scientific publications, including in Nature and Science, cited over 6500 times, and has been awarded $9M in external competitive grants, including an ARC Future Fellowship, an ARC Discovery grant, and four ARC Linkage grants.

Dr Rachael Nolan, Western Sydney University

Rachael Nolan works at the intersection of plant ecophysiology, fire ecology and forest fire management. Her research bridges science, policy and management, aiming to provide an early warning of the risk of bushfires, and to predict their impacts on ecosystems under a changing climate. Rachael has worked in fire ecology since 2005, initially as an ecological consultant. She gained her PhD in 2013 from The University of Melbourne, and currently holds a Senior Fellowship in Bushfire Research at Western Sydney University. Rachael is the Director of the NSW Bushfire and Natural Hazards Research Centre, a collaboration between six universities and multiple government agencies.

Dr Kylie Soanes, University of Melbourne

Dr Kylie Soanes is a researcher in urban ecology and conservation science based at the University of Melbourne. Since completing her PhD in 2015, she has focused on raising the profile of urban biodiversity and conducting science that supports its conservation.
Kylie has published extensively in the fields of urban ecology and wildlife conservation, including 32 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 20 reports for research partners. She previously led the Shared Urban Habitat project within the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub (2017–2020), which significantly advanced our understanding of the nature of urban biodiversity, the threats faced, and the capacity for conservation action. A leading expert in her field, she collaborates with councils, community groups, engineers and architects to make real change for wildlife in urban environments. Her projects include building rope bridges to help gliding possums cross roads, 3D-printing nesting hollows for powerful owls, and adding floating wetlands to busy city rivers.

A passionate and skilled communicator, Kylie regularly shares her research with policy makers, practitioners and the broader public. She has published popular science articles in The Guardian, The Conversation and Australian Geographic, and is a regular guest on ABC Radio National. Her expertise in science communication has been recognised through awards from the Royal Society of Victoria and Science and Technology Australia’s ‘Superstars of STEM’ program.

Professor Paul Sunnucks, Monash University. Wildlife Genetic Management Group, School of Biological Sciences

Paul’s training led him to the intersection between conservation biology and evolutionary genetics. A Zoology degree at Oxford University was followed by a PhD at University College London applying genetic markers to understanding animal population biology. This prepared him for joining one of the first conservation genetics groups in the world, at the Institute of Zoology, London, applying genetics for conservation of endangered species. Since that exciting beginning, his career has been spent in Australia, working with many national and international collaborators applying genetic and evolutionary thinking to conservation of threatened species. Paul’s team, the Wildlife Genetic Management Group co-led with Sasha (Alexandra) Pavlova, works closely with wildlife management agencies and other biodiversity stakeholders, participating in threatened species policy and planning.

Paul has an inordinate fondness for all lifeforms, and with >30 PhD graduates has enjoyed working with >100 different species. Having promised himself never to write a book, his first was Frankham et al. (2017) Genetic Management of Fragmented Animal and Plant Populations, the second was Frankham et al. (2019) A Practical Guide for Genetic Management of Fragmented Animal and Plant Populations, and the third is in train: Frankham R, Ballou JD, Grueber CE, Pickup M, Stow AJ and Sunnucks P Introduction to Conservation Genetics and Genomics, 3rd edition, CUP.

Dr Phil Zylstra, Adjunct Associate Professor, Curtin University; Visiting Fellow, Australian National University

Phil Zylstra came into bushfire research from a background in fire management and remote area firefighting. His research focuses on understanding the processes and mechanisms that control fire behaviour, with a particular emphasis on those aspects that affect critical decisions. This has led to the development of the Fire Research and Modelling Environment (FRaME), which predicts complex details of fire behaviour from plant species composition and structure and uses this understanding to predict fire impacts on flora, fauna, and soils. Dr Zylstra is now working with FRaME to analyse historical trends in bushfire frequency and understand the ways that forest growth and succession interact with the climate to control bushfire risk. Currently working as an Adjunct Associate Professor with Curtin University, Dr Zylstra is also a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University.