Mosaic of heathlands, shrublands and mountain pastures in Babia, the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain.
Mosaic of heathlands, shrublands and mountain pastures in Babia, the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain.

I graduated from my PhD in 2012 at the University of León (Spain) where I was supervised by Dr. Leonor Calvo, Dr. Susana Suárez Seoane and Dr. Estanislao de Luis Calabuig. My doctoral work focused on the study of land use and land cover changes in a mountain system (the Cantabrian Mountains in NW Spain), at different spatio-temporal scales, identifying the main biophysical and socio-economic factors driving the observed changes. I paid particular attention to the study of the distribution patterns of European heathlands in this mountain system and to the ecosystem services they provide at different institutional scales (from local to international). The final aim of my thesis was to raise awareness of the conservation values of these cultural landscapes among the public, stakeholders and managers.

During my PhD I benefited from visiting other research centres where I could broad my research experience and meet very nice people. In 2008 I visited ALTERRA – Research institute for the Green World-Landscape Center – in Wageningen, The Netherlands, where I was mentored by Dr. Rob J.F. Bugter and Dr. Rob H.G. Jongman in the study and assessment of ecosystem services delivered by cultural landscapes, in particular, those provided by heathland landscapes, which were the main case study of my PhD thesis. While in Wageningen I had the opportunity of attending a MSc´s course on Remote Sensing taught by Dr. Jan Clevers that proved very useful in my PhD: I learned a lot about the application of remote sensing data and techniques in landscape monitoring and analyses. In 2009, I also visited ACERA- Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis in Melbourne, Australia, where I was tutored by Dr. Jane Elith and gained insights in ecological modelling techniques.

Heathlands in the De Hoge Velowe National Park, The Netherlands.
Heathlands in the De Hoge Velowe National Park, The Netherlands.

My experience as a visiting researcher in Australia stimulated my interest in Australian ecology and therefore, I after finishing my PhD I moved to Australia, where I worked first at Monash University and then, at the University of Melbourne.

At Monash I was involved in a project aimed at understanding how the interactions between landscape configuration, species dispersal traits and disturbance determine local biodiversity patterns. This study was framed within the NCCARF project “Building the climate resilience of arid zone freshwater biota: identifying and prioritising processes and scales for management” lead by Dr. Jenny Davis. Here you can see some pictures of the beautiful arid landscapes I had the privilege to work with.

At the University of Melbourne I had the honour of working with Dr. Brendan Wintle and Dr. Jane Elith and other colleagues from the Quantitative & Applied Ecology group and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, in variuos projects focused on the use of quantitative analytical tools to inform biodiversity conservation decisions.

Visiting the Wilsons Promontory National Park (Victoria, Australia) with a group of Qaecologists (and good friends!). From left to right: myself, Stefano Canessa, Gurutzeta Guillera-Arroita, José J. Lahoz-MonfortEsti Palma & Luís Mata.