David A. Westcott's research while affiliated with The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other places

Publications (134)

Article
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Bats have been implicated as the reservoir hosts of filoviruses in Africa, with serological evidence of filoviruses in various bat species identified in other countries. Here, serum samples from 190 bats, comprising 12 different species, collected in Australia were evaluated for filovirus antibodies. An in-house indirect microsphere assay to detect...
Article
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If the primary function of avian-dispersed fruit coloration were the maximization of detectability, then the commonest avian-dispersed fruit colors should be the ones most detectable to birds. We tested this prediction by photographing 63 fruit species primarily dispersed by birds, in situ in Sweden and Australia, with a multispectral camera closel...
Article
Urban-living wildlife can be exposed to metal contaminants dispersed into the environment through industrial, residential, and agricultural applications. Metal exposure carries lethal and sublethal consequences for animals; in particular, heavy metals (e.g. arsenic, lead, mercury) can damage organs and act as carcinogens. Many bat species reside an...
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A bstract Background Animals are important vectors for the dispersal of a wide variety of plant species, and thus play a key role in maintaining the health and biodiversity of natural ecosystems. On oceanic islands, flying-foxes are often the only seed dispersers or pollinators. However, many flying-fox populations are currently in decline, partic...
Article
The little red flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus, Pteropodidae) is the most widely distributed of the four Australian mainland flying-fox (Pteropus) species. They move very large distances following foraging resources and congregate in large numbers which often causes human-animal conflict. To better understand the resources that drive these movement...
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On the iconic Great Barrier Reef (GBR), the cumulative impacts of tropical cyclones, marine heatwaves and regular outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) have severely depleted coral cover. Climate change will further exacerbate this situation over the coming decades unless effective interventions are implemented. Evaluating the e...
Technical Report
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The NESP COTS Regional Scale Modelling work aimed to build on two existing advanced coral-COTS community models (CoCoNet and ReefMod-GBR) which have been widely tested and used on the GBR. The goal of this work was to incorporate descriptions of the management processes implemented in the Expanded COTS Control Program, and to assess the performance...
Article
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Flying foxes provide ecologically and economically important ecosystem services but extensive clearing and modification of habitat and drought combined with the planting of commercial and non-commercial trees across various landscapes, has meant flying foxes in Australia are increasingly seeking foraging resources in new areas. In 2011, grey-headed...
Article
Determining the diet of flying-foxes can increase understanding of how they function as pollinators and seed dispersers, as well as managing any negative impacts of large roosts. Traditional methods for diet analysis are time consuming, and not feasible to conduct for hundreds of animals. In this study, we optimised a method for diet analysis, base...
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Conservation relies upon a primary understanding of changes in a species’ population size, distribution, and habitat use. Bats represent about one in five mammal species in the world, but understanding for most species is poor. For flying-foxes, specifically the 66 Pteropus species globally, 31 are classified as threatened (Vulnerable, Endangered,...
Article
Urban flying-fox camps are a major source of human–wildlife conflict, producing noise, odour, vegetation damage, property damage, and concerns about disease. Although there is a significant demand in many communities for bat camps to be dispersed, there is limited information on how such dispersal can be conducted effectively. Determining the habit...
Article
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Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) outbreaks are a globally significant driver of coral mortality in the Indo-Pacific and work synergistically with other disturbances. We argue that our improved understanding of COTS ecology and ability to monitor their populations, combined with new efficiencies in COTS control technologies, provides a sound basis fo...
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Population outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS; Acanthaster spp.) are a major contributor to loss of hard coral throughout the Indo-Pacific. On Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR), management interventions have evolved over four COTS outbreaks to include: (1) manual COTS control, (2) Marine Protected Area (MPA) zoning, and, (3) water quali...
Article
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The corallivorous Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (CoTS, Acanthaster spp.) has been linked with the widespread loss of scleractinian coral cover on Indo-Pacific reefs during periodic population outbreaks. Here, we re-examine CoTS consumption by coral reef fish species by using new DNA technologies to detect Pacific Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster cf...
Technical Report
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This report outlines an ecologically-informed framework for the management of day-to-day operations of the Expanded Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris, hereafter COTS) Control Program on the Great Barrier Reef. This framework links COTS ecology to Control Program decisions by providing a structured decision process within and amongst...
Article
Containment is a frequently advocated strategic objective for countering plant invasions. It is commonly perceived that it is the valid fall-back option when eradication has failed or is deemed impossible with the available resources. We reviewed management and research literature on containment. The lack of a clear, universally accepted definition...
Article
Phylogenetic inference of Hepatocystis, a haemosporidian parasite of diverse primate and bat hosts, revealed that the parasites from Australasian Pteropus bat species form a distinct clade to all other Hepatocystis parasites from Africa and Asia. Here, we investigate the phylogenetic placement of Hepatocystis in the Australian bat Pteropus poliocep...
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Knowledge of species’ population trends is crucial when planning for conservation and management; however, this information can be difficult to obtain for extremely mobile species such as flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.; Chiroptera, Pteropodidae). In mainland Australia, flying-foxes are of particular management concern due their involvement in human-wi...
Article
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Energy-efficient location tracking with battery-powered devices using energy harvesting necessitates duty-cycling of GPS to prolong the system lifetime. We propose an energy- and mobility-aware scheduling framework that adapts to real-world dynamics to achieve optimal long-term tracking performance. To forecast energy, the framework uses an exponen...
Article
Introduced species can cause major disruptions to ecosystems, particularly on islands. On Christmas Island, the invasive yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) has detrimental impacts on many animals ranging from the iconic red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis) to the Christmas Island Thrush (Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus). However, the full ext...
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Flying foxes (family Pteropodidae) have distinct life histories given their size, characterized by longevity, low reproductive output, and long gestation. However, they tend to decouple the age at which sexual maturity is reached from the age at which they reach adult dimensions. We examined growth, maturation, and reproduction in the Critically En...
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In the Australian subtropics, flying-foxes (family Pteropididae) play a fundamental ecological role as forest pollinators. Flying-foxes are also reservoirs of the fatal zoonosis, Hendra virus. Understanding flying fox foraging ecology, particularly in agricultural areas during winter, is critical to determine their role in transmitting Hendra virus...
Article
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Monitoring flying-foxes is challenging as their extreme mobility produces highly dynamic population processes, considerable logistic difficulty, and variability in estimated population size. We report on methods for inferring population trend for the population of the spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) in Australia. Monthly monitoring...
Article
Seed dispersers, like white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar), can display wide inter-group variability in response to distribution and abundance of resources in their habitat. In different home ranges, they can modify their movement patterns along with the shape and scale of seed shadow produced. However, the effect of inter-group variability on the...
Article
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The movement capacity of the crown-of-thorns starfishes (Acanthaster spp.) is a primary determinant of both their distribution and impact on coral assemblages. We quantified individual movement rates for the Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster solaris) ranging in size from 75–480 mm total diameter, across three different substrates (sand,...
Article
Context: Monitoring is a key component in managing wildlife populations and is critical for revealing long-term population trends of endangered species. Cryptic or highly mobile species that occur in low densities and in remote terrain require the development of specific monitoring methods. The southern cassowary is an Australian endangered species...
Article
In the past century, our understanding of the processes driving plant invasion and its consequences for natural and anthropogenic systems has increased considerably. However, the management of invasive plants remains a challenge despite ever more resources being allocated to their removal. Often invasive plants targeted for ‘eradication’ are well-e...
Article
Most catchments discharging into the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon have elevated loads of suspended sediment, nutrients, and pesticides, including photosystem II inhibiting herbicides, associated with upstream agricultural land use. To investigate potential impacts of declining water quality on fish physiology, RNASeq was used to characterize and...
Article
There is increasing reliance on ecological models to improve our understanding of how ecological systems work, to project likely outcomes under alternative global change scenarios and to help develop robust management strategies. Two common types of spatiotemporally explicit ecological models are those focussed on biodiversity composition and those...
Article
The high energy consumption of GPS modules has kept long-term outdoor localisation with battery-powered devices an unsolved challenge. While low- power sensors can trigger GPS sampling to reduce energy consumption, validat- ing the long-term reliability of these sensors in unconstrained environments is challenging due to sensor drifts and the lack...
Article
Hornbills, among the largest and most threatened tropical frugivores, provide important seed dispersal services. Hornbill nest site characteristics are known primarily from wet tropical forests. Nests of the Indian grey hornbill Ocyceros birostris and Oriental pied hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris were characterized in a tropical dry forest. Desp...
Article
AimBiodiversity outcomes under global change will be influenced by a range of ecological processes, and these processes are increasingly being considered in models of biodiversity change. However, the level of model complexity required to adequately account for important ecological processes often remains unclear. Here we assess how considering rea...
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We present a simple model to study Lévy-flight foraging with a power-law step-size distribution [Formula: see text] in a finite landscape with countable targets. We find that different optimal foraging strategies characterized by a wide range of power-law exponent μopt, from ballistic motion (μopt → 1) to Lévy flight (1 < μopt < 3) to Brownian moti...
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The presence and movements of organisms both reflect and influence the distribution of ecological resources in space and time. The monitoring of animal movement by telemetry devices is being increasingly used to inform management of marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we brought together academics, and environmental managers to det...
Technical Report
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In 2013, the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area (WTWHA) was identified as the sixth most irreplaceable area on Earth for conservation of amphibian, bird and mammal species. It also ranked globally as the second most irreplaceable natural World Heritage site. These rankings were based on data of 173,000 terrestrial protected areas and ass...
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Viruses that originate in bats may be the most notorious emerging zoonoses that spill over from wildlife into domestic animals and humans. Understand-ing how these infections filter through ecological systems to cause disease in humans is of profound importance to public health. Transmission of viruses from bats to humans requires a hierarchy of en...
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Urbanisation of wildlife populations is a process with significant conservation and management implications. While urban areas can provide habitat for wildlife, some urbanised species eventually come into conflict with humans. Understanding the process and drivers of wildlife urbanisation is fundamental to developing effective management responses...
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Containment can be a viable strategy for managing invasive plants, but it is not always cheaper than eradication. In many cases, converting a failed eradication programme to a containment programme is not economically justified. Despite this, many contemporary invasive plant management strategies invoke containment as a fallback for failed eradicat...
Conference Paper
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Challenges of modelling vector-borne disease systems result from complexities and uncertainities inherent in the vector’s behavioural ecology and its interactions in a landscape context. Network models provide a number of approaches and measures to quantify spatially-explicit systems that are consistent with the ecological process of vector dispers...
Article
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We propose a new foraging model based on the framework of random search with cognition and memory. We consider foraging to be a cognitive process of exploration to find sparse and revisitable targets in a finite landscape and use an exploration-return mechanism to mimic the spatial memory and returning behaviours in foraging. We find that optimal L...
Article
The capacity of species to track shifting climates into the future will strongly influence outcomes for biodiversity under a rapidly changing climate. However, we know remarkably little about the dispersal abilities of most species and how these may be influenced by climate change. Here we show that climate change is projected to substantially redu...
Article
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Abstract Movement patterns of animals can vary dramatically as a function of their reproductive cycle or social structure; however, little is known about how changes in the social structure of dispersers affect patterns of seed dispersal. We examined the movement patterns of the forest-dwelling and cooperatively breeding Puff-throated Bulbul (Aloph...
Article
Seed persistence is the survival of seeds in the environment once they have reached maturity. Seed persistence allows a species, population or genotype to survive long after the death of parent plants, thus distributing genetic diversity through time. The ability to predict seed persistence accurately is critical to inform long-term weed management...
Technical Report
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Stream 2 of the Regional NRM Planning for Climate Change Fund supports the project “Knowledge to manage land and sea: A framework for the future” run by a consortium of scientists from James Cook University (JCU) and CSIRO. This report is the first major product of the consortium project. It is not an in-depth review of the literature that already...
Article
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The high concentration of the world's species in tropical forests endows these systems with particular importance for retaining global biodiversity, yet it also presents significant challenges for ecology and conservation science. The vast number of rare and yet to be discovered species restricts the applicability of species-level modelling for tro...
Conference Paper
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Flying-foxes (bats) are of scientific interest and management concern globally due to the amenity, crop and disease threat they pose. A management priority in Australia is the threat of Hendra virus transmission from flying-foxes to horses, subsequently putting humans at risk from this deadly virus. Simulation models can improve our capacity to pre...
Article
Dispersal of propagules makes invasions a fundamentally spatial phenomenon, and to be effective, management actions to control or eradicate invasive species must take this spatial structure into account. While there is a vibrant literature linking detailed dispersal measurements to the rate of invasive spread, and a separate literature focused on i...
Article
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In the tropical rainforests of northern Australia, we investigated the effects of habitat fragmentation and ecological parameters on the prevalence of blood-borne parasites (Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) in bird communities. Using mist-nets on forest edges and interiors, we sampled bird communities across six study sites: 3 large fragments (20-85 ha...