Humans of IFE - Rising stars: Oakes Holland

23rd August 2019

Field of expertise: Polar marine ecology

Position: PhD Candidate

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently assessing how vulnerable Australia's Antarctic marine ecosystems are to invasive species as a result of climate change. My project includes using machine learning to predict where invasive species could survive and when.

From there I will be creating the first species-based food web model of the benthic ecosystem adjacent to Casey Station, Antarctica. I will then take the species identified through the machine learning and use species interaction networks to establish what (if any) impact the addition of an invasive species could have in this increasingly vulnerable ecosystems.

I will then undertake an institutional analysis to determined if the current policies and regulations have the capacity to manage the threat of marine invasive species adequately.

Why is your work important?

As yet, the Antarctic continental shelf, as well as the waters around Australia's subantarctic islands are free of marine invasive species. If we can predict when and where invasions could occur then we can take measures to prevent incursions from occurring. The native ecosystems of Antarctica are already feeling the stress of climate change and are thus particularly vulnerable to additional threats.

What excites or inspires you about your field?

The marine life of the Antarctic is so different to what we are used to seeing, and my work will help ensure that these unique ecosystems are preserved into the future. The Antarctic research community is incredibly supportive and collaborative, and it's obvious that everyone is working towards a greater goal.

What are your hopes for the future?

I would like to go to Antarctica, to really understand the environment there. Being able to go underwater there would be amazing. I would like the type of research I am doing to be extended to the greater Antarctic continent and subantarctic so that we can ensure all Antarctic marine ecosystems are being adequately protected from marine invasive species. The overall goal of my project is to provide information and tools to best monitor and manage this growing threat in the Australian Antarctic region.

Find out more about Oakes Holland

Follow Oakes on Twitter: @EcoOakes ‏

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