Dr Cecilia Villacorta Rath, Division of Tropical Environments and Societies, TropWATER, James Cook University
See Cecilia’s full research profile here.
What are your research interests as they relate to northern Australia?
My research interests involve using genetic tools to answer ecological questions that can aid making managerial decisions. I am passionate about species conservation and sustainable use of resources. There’s lots of threats to northern Australian biodiversity, ranging from climate change and habitat loss to introduction of exotic species. I am working on a non-invasive tool for species monitoring called environmental DNA (eDNA). Environmental DNA gives us the ability to detect species that are present at low densities without needing to sight them and to engage non-specialists in monitoring programs. Northern Australia is the perfect region to combine science with traditional knowledge and the general community in order to keep our ecosystems healthy.
What do you love about working in northern Australia?
I love the huge potential for research that northern Australia offers. It is a quite unique place in the world and in many cases very inaccessible. This means that there are lots of understudied species and ecosystems and huge opportunity for new methods of detection and monitoring. Mapping species distribution, detecting presence of a species that was thought to be extinct, or monitoring for aquatic and terrestrial pest species makes me want to keep working in northern Australia. My favorite place in northern Australia to do research is the wet tropics because of its huge level of biodiversity and endemism, which gives an extra level of importance to our research. The more I know about it, the more interested I become.