Otways Ecological Research Forum 2022

News > Our Patron and Board

The 2022 Otways Ecological Research Forum was held on 4 August 2022. Videos of the day’s presentations are now available to view online here, or by clicking on the talk titles below.

If you are interested in joining us for future events, please email

The Otways Ecological Research Forum is presented by the Conservation Ecology Centre and proudly supported by The Ian Potter Foundation and Beacon Ecological.


Landscape scale research and applied management – The Wild Otways Initiative

Jessica Miller Corangamite Catchment Management Authority

The Wild Otways Initiative is a unique program combining research and applied management across the Otways landscape for threatened species of mammals and plants.  The five key projects are being undertaken at a landscape scale on both public and private land and the key government agencies, Parks Victoria, DELWP and the CCMA have project officers working together with researchers to monitor and manage both threatened species and their key threatening processes; predators, disease and habitat modification.

Managing the threat of Phytophthora dieback in the Otway Ranges

M.J. Garkaklis, B.A. Wilson, C. Learmonth, D. Cahill and T. Wevill – Barbara Wilson Pty Ltd and Deakin University

Phytophthora dieback caused by the introduced plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi is threatening grasstree and other ecosystems and degrading the habitat for a range of native animals and plants in the Otway Ranges.  The Australian Government have recognised an increased risk to biodiversity conservation due to the advance of Phytophthora they have provided funds through the Corangamite CMA to augment current efforts to manage the disease under the Wild Otways Initiative. Here we present important project outcomes and discuss aspects of Phytophthora dieback hygiene, treatment, rehabilitation and training that are needed to improve our capacity to manage this devastating disease. 

Pigs: What do we know a couple of years on?

Jack Pascoe, Tim Wilson, Mark Le Pla and Emma Birnbaum – Conservation Ecology Centre

Two years into our research of feral pigs in the Otways, this presentation will summarise the results we have gathered from our use of infra-red camera grids, GPS tracking collars and eDNA.

Small mammal refuges in a changing climate

Kristen Agosta – Zoos Victoria

Refuge potential of Carlisle Heath and factors influencing small mammal assemblages.

Conserving threatened small mammals in the Otway Ranges: significant refuges

Wilson B. A., M.J. Garkaklis, P. Burns, J. White, K. Agosta  – Deakin University, Barbara Wilson Pty Ltd)

Regional persistence of mammal populations is often reliant on the presence of refuges that provide favourable environmental conditions, higher resource availability and protection from disturbances (fire, predation, thermal & water stress). While severe declines of small mammals have been recorded in the eastern Otways over the last decade, there is evidence that gullies and coastal dunes are providing refuges for the mammals. Here we describe progress in identifying key refuges across the Otway landscape, and their characteristics. 

The use of artificial refuges by small vertebrates after prescribed fire

Darcy Watchorn – Deakin University

Darcy Watchorn is a PhD candidate at Deakin University investigating the efficacy of artificial refuges for improving the persistence of wildlife after fire. In this presentation, Darcy will discuss some preliminary results from his before-after (prescribed fire) control-impact experiments in heathy woodland on Wathaurong Country—behind Aireys Inlet and Anglesea. Specifically, he will highlight which small animals used the artificial refuges, and what impact they had on small mammal populations in the 12 months following the fires.

The status of Broad-toothed Rats in the Otways

Phoebe Burns – Zoos Victoria

Results from our recent Broad-toothed Rat (BTR) surveys across the Otways, and a crash course on your new favourite hobby: BTR scat detection and identification.

Introduction to the Carlisle Fire Project

Jack Pascoe – Conservation Ecology Centre

The CEC has now been working in partnership with the DELWP, Parks Victoria and the University of Melbourne to understand the relationship between fire, predation and its impact on flora and fauna and wildfire risk in the Carlisle Heath. This presentation will briefly outline the background of the project and summarise the research which is being undertaken in the region.

Describing the response of predators and prey to fire in the Carlisle Heath

Mark Le Pla – University of Melbourne

Recently burnt environments offer both challenges and opportunities for predators and prey. Predators that focus their activity within recently burnt areas may potentially improve their chances of both detecting and capturing prey in the newly simplified post-fire environments. Similarly, prey that display inappropriate behavioural adjustments to life after fire may find themselves more vulnerable to predation. These animals may continue to use the same areas they used before the fire or even venture deep into burn scars themselves in the search for food or shelter. Whilst there is mounting evidence that the processes of fire and invasive predators may interact and compound threats to native fauna, particularly in those first few weeks post-fire, there is much we don’t know about this interaction. To tackle this problem, researchers at the Conservation Ecology Centre and the University of Melbourne, working closely with local land managers and fire practitioners, have been intimately following invasive predators and native prey through GPS trackers and rolling out comprehensive camera trapping grids before and after fire within a biodiverse yet flammable ecosystem – the Heathy Woodlands of the Carlisle Heath. If we can describe and understand the factors that influence how predators and prey respond to fire, we may be able to harness this information to inform how we introduce fire into this landscape in the future and identify if supplementary management actions are required to improve the survival of native prey post fire. 

Striking a balance between Conservation and Bushfire risk in a Flammable System

Tamika Farley-Lehmer – Conservation Ecology Centre

Fire is a fundamental ecological process within the Australian landscape. Historically, planned burns have had two distinct and sometimes, mutually exclusive objectives: fuel hazard reduction and supporting ecological processes. Using the Fire Regime Operations Simulations Tool (FROST) we explore how different burn regimes might impact the risk and frequency of wildfire. Through varying the frequency at which blocks are burnt, and what proportion of available fuels are targeted we aim to identify a regime that manages both fuel hazard and conservation objectives.       

Fire, Fauna and Fighting Extinction: Influence of fire on Long-nosed Potoroos in the Carlisle Heath 

Stephanie Stylli – University of Melbourne

Long-nosed Potoroo populations in the Carlisle Heath experienced declines after prescribed burns in 2021. How does population density and survival change over time following fire?

Like moths to the flame?  Flying insects and fire in the Otway Ranges

Emma Window, Sandra Penman, Melissa Carew and Alan York – University of Melbourne

Insect populations world-wide face increasing pressures and are in decline, threatening the ecosystem services that they provide.  This project is investigating the impact of fire management on flying insects, a group that are both essential pollinators and food for a range of vertebrates.  Here we outline the scope of the project and present preliminary results for moth communities.

Tracking Australia’s largest owl

Nicholas Carter – Deakin University

Identifying areas where Powerful Owls (Ninox strenua) occur and resources territorial pairs depend on is extremely difficult due to their elusive and nocturnal behaviours, especially in large, forested spaces like the Otways. By GPS tracking individuals, we not only increase our understanding of the species ecology, but also enable more effective management of these threatened birds for conservation and impact mitigation purposes.