Current Lab Members

Research Fellows, Associates & Assistants

Dr Cath Leigh is a quantitative community ecologist with a background in river flow-regime, water quality, biodiversity and food web analysis. Her research has sought to further understanding of ecological responses to natural and human-induced changes in the environment. She has been lucky to work on a range of exciting projects, from examining the ecology and biodiversity of intermittent rivers across the world (postdoc in IRSTEA, France), to predicting impacts of flow regime modification on river ecosystems of Australia’s wet-dry tropics (PhD) and the vulnerability of Southeast Queensland reservoirs to harmful algal blooms (postdoc, Griffith University), developing river health monitoring and assessment programs in China, assessing environmental risks to the sustainability of rice-shrimp farming systems in the Mekong Delta, and estimating carbon flux emissions from dry aquatic sediments (GLEON project). Most recently Cath worked as Lecturer within the School of Environment at Griffith University teaching undergraduates a love of statistics in courses such as Applied Statistics and Community Ecology. She currently serve as Secretary and Queensland State rep for the peak body for Australian freshwater scientists and managers, the Australian Society for Freshwater Sciences, receiving the society’s Early Career Excellence Award in 2017.

Cath is working with Erin Peterson, Kerrie Mengersen, Omar Alsibai, and other members of ACEMS on anomaly detection in water-quality sensor data collected from Queensland rivers and prediction of key water quality variables using lower-cost surrogates.

Alan Pearse is a Research Assistant to Dr Erin Peterson at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers. I have worked on several projects over two years with Dr Peterson. These include

– Developing IDW-PLUS; an ArcGIS toolbox for calculating spatially explicit land use attributes for streams;

– Jaguar conservation using citizen science data in Peru;

– Virtual monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef using virtual reality and citizen science;

– Modelling the vulnerability of two iconic coral reef fishes (the humphead wrasse and the bumphead parrotfish) to night spearfishing in the Solomon Islands;

– Improving a freshwater monitoring program using autonomous sensors and optimal and adaptive experimental designs.

For my involvement with the development of IDW-PLUS, I was also awarded the 2017 Australian Esri Young Scholar award and presented a poster on my project at the 2017 Esri User Conference. My academic interests are scientific programming, geographic information systems, spatial statistical data analysis and experimental design.

Grace Heron is a Research Assistant and an undergraduate mathematics and engineering student at QUT. Grace recently took part in the Vacation Research Experience Scheme at ACEMS researching new technologies for nature conservation. In particular using Virtual Reality for expert elicitation to model Koala presences and absences in South East Queensland.

Grace hopes to increase her knowledge in spatial statistics and programming to assist in further collaborative projects.

Postgraduate Students

Jacinta Holloway  – The focus of my research is measuring the ecological success of reforestation projects through statistical analysis of satellite imagery data.


My research intends to contribute a reasonably accurate method for assessing success of reforestation projects based on freely available satellite imagery data and low or no cost ground truth data. The aim is to effectively inform environmental management decisions at a reduced cost compared with extensive field data collection. This will be particularly useful in the context of developing countries which are impacted environmentally, societally and economically by land use and environmental decisions, and have limited funds available or prioritised for environmental monitoring.

The project will also contribute to UN Sustainable Development goal 15; to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

Before starting in research I worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in Canberra and Brisbane in a range of statistical and methodology roles, including tourism statistics and data integration. During my last 18 months at the ABS my full time role was researching how statistical analysis of satellite imagery data can be used to measure sustainable development and improve outcomes for people as part of the United Nations Satellite Imagery and Geospatial Data TaskTeam. I was a co-author and editor of the Task Team’s report about using satellite imagery data for official statistics and led the development of a practical workshop on the same topic. This work at the ABS led me quite directly to my current research. My background is journalism, economics and statistics, and what makes me tick is finding and sharing the useful and interesting stories data can tell us about the world we live in.

Key stakeholders: Geoscience Australia, QLD Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, and United Nations Statistics Division.

Other supervisors: Kerrie Mengersen (QUT, ACEMS) and Kate Helmstedt (QUT)


Chris Sergeant was born and raised in the suburbs south of Seattle, USA and now lives in Juneau. He has a B.S. and M.S. in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington. Since 2000, Chris has held fisheries biologist positions in government, private, and non-profit sectors. In May 2011, he became the ecologist for the US National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network, which is responsible for implementing long-term natural resource monitoring in three parks: Glacier Bay, Klondike Gold Rush, and Sitka. He is continuing this position while pursuing a PhD in the Freshwater Fish Ecology Lab, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Chris’ research has become increasingly interdisciplinary and integrates topics such as marine and freshwater ecology, water quality, ecotoxicology, predator-prey interactions, bioenergetics, and salmon biology. During his time as a PhD student, Chris hopes to explore the consequences of increasing human pressures on the freshwater ecosystems of southeastern Alaska and use spatially explicit modeling to describe current and future risks to fish populations. Chris also likes to spend time with his family (especially cooking and eating pizza together), fishing, backpacking, and showing friends around this incredibly soggy and beautiful part of the world.

Other supervisors: Jeff Falke (Primary, University of Alaska Fairbanks), J. Ryan Bellmore (US Forest Service), Peter Westley (UAF), Franz Mueter (UAF)

Gaz Hopewell, a part-time candidate, commenced his PhD on December 1 2015. His research topic is “The influence of cambial age and ontogenetic control of wood properties of southern pine resources in sub-tropical Australia”. The thesis by publication is due for completion by 30 November 2021.

His PhD topic evolved through his combined work responsibilities as the government wood anatomist and product development scientist. The aim of the PhD research is to understand the drivers of wood variation and their impact on physical and mechanical properties that define value to the end-user. This research is linked to a Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) co-funded project PNC361-1415 Improving returns from southern pine plantations through innovative resource characterisation, 2015-2018. The research plan was prepared in consultation with Dr Henri Bailleres (Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) who conceived the FWPA project, and Dr David Lee, the FWPA Project Leader (University of the Sunshine Coast).

Gaz works in a full-time scientist role with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Forest Products Innovation team based in Salisbury on Brisbane’s southside. He has conducted research in Argentina, the United Kingdom, Fiji Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, Lao PDR and Papua New Guinea as well as most Australian States. He has received the two major Australian forestry fellowship awards- Maxwell Ralph Jacobs Award (1993) and Denis Cullity Fellowship Award (2001).

Gaz completed an Associate Diploma in Applied Science (Forestry) at the Gympie Forestry Training Centre during the mid-1980s, then undertook his MSc (Wood Science) at the University of Melbourne in the mid-2000s. His extra-curricular pursuits have included 3 years at the Brisbane Institute of Art and coaching qualifications in boxing and mountain biking.

Other supervisors: Stuart Parsons (QUT), Ian Turner (QUT), Henri Bailleres (DAF), Tanya Scharaschkin (QUT)

Pubudu Thilan, a full time PhD student, commenced studies in 2016. His research focuses on developing an innovative adaptive modelling and sampling framework for monitoring the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) using new Bayesian computational algorithms.

The health and the long-term resilience of coral reefs around the world are negatively impacted by environmental threats (e.g. cyclones, crown-of-thorns starfish, climate change). The aim of this project is to use adaptive design methods to determine when and where samples should be collected on the GBR based on a particular environmental disturbance to quantify its impact. Such adaptive design methods have been shown to be cost effective and yield highly informative data. Thus, these methods should help to improve the effectiveness of reef monitoring programs.

Prior to joining QUT, Pubudu worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Sam Houston State University, USA. He is a Lecturer attached to the Department of Mathematics, University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka and currently on study leave to follow his PhD studies. Pubudu received his B.S. with a First Class Honours in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka, and his Master of Philosophy from the same university. He also has a M.S. in Statistics from the Sam Houston State University, USA.

Other supervisors: James McGree (Primary, QUT), Chris Drovandi (QUT)

Zoe Mellick is a PhD candidate and teacher in Fashion at QUT in Brisbane. Zoe has been involved as a research assistant in two research projects examining the Australian cotton value chain (2016-18). Zoe’s PhD research, co-funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and an Australian Government Research Training Stipend, focuses on understanding opportunities to create sustainable value along the apparel and textile supply chain. She also has over a decade of experience working in retail with Australian fashion brands.

 Other supervisors: Dr Alice Payne (QUT) and Prof. Laurie Buys (QUT)

%d bloggers like this: