Although biological invasions can have catastrophic ecological impacts, studies of invaders also can reveal new insights. During its 80-year march through Australia, the much-reviled Cane toad has caused ecological mayhem – but at the same time, has told us a great deal about how tropical ecosystems function, how we can best mitigate the impacts of an environmental disaster, and how evolution can occur so rapidly that it needs to be included in our conservation plans. Cane toads in Australia have even shown us a new evolutionary process, that assembles phenotypes through space rather than time. In this talk, I will review some of the things that we have learned from a decade of research on the toad invasion.
About the speaker
Rick Shine is an ARC Laureate Fellow at the University of Sydney, in the School of Biological Sciences. He has published extensively (more than 800 papers) on the ecology and evolution of reptiles and amphibians, especially snakes. The arrival of cane toads at his longterm study site in the Northern Territory in 2005 launched a new career as a toad biologist. Rick’s research has attracted many national and international awards, including the Macfarlane Burnet Award, the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award, and three Eureka Prizes.