Kate Brandis

Dr Kate Brandis

Role: Research Fellow
I am a joint research fellow with the Centre for Ecosystem Science, and the Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation (ANSTO). I am the project leader for the Feather Map of Australia which uses elemental and stable isotope techniques to track the movements of waterbirds between wetlands in Australia (www.ansto.gov.au/feathermap).
I also work on a range of projects including monitoring the reproductive success of colonially breeding waterbirds in response to environmental flows, assessing the impacts of water resource development on colonial waterbird breeding in the Murray Darling Basin, determining water requirements for colonial waterbirds, waterbird diets, and the application of elemental and stable isotope analysis to a wide range of ecological and biological problems.

Fields of Research: Colonial waterbird breeding, wetland ecology, environmental flow management for ecological outcomes, stable isotope ecology, waterbirds at a landscape scale.

Contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9385 2812
Email: Kate.Brandis@unsw.edu.au
Office: Level 5, E26 Biosciences Building, UNSW, Kensington 2052

Current projects:
Feather Map of Australia
Waterbird diets and stable isotopes
Eastern Australia Waterbird Survey
National Waterbird Survey
Captive or Wild?
LTIM Murrumbidgee and Lachlan
EWKR Waterbirds

Claire Sives - PhD - Impacts of climate change on rainfall filled wetlands in arid Australia
Roxane Francis - PhD - Interactions between colonial waterbirds and large herbivores in the Okavango Delta, Bostwana
Kaytlyn Davis - Masters - Genetics of Australian white ibis


Author Date Title Link PDF
Lyons et al. 2018 Bird interactions with drones, from individuals to large colonies


Drones are rapidly becoming a key part of the toolkit for a range of scientific disciplines, as well as a range of management and commercial applications. This presents challenges in the context of how drone use might impact on nearby wildlife, especially birds as they might share the airspace. This paper presents observations (from 97 flight hours) and offers preliminary guidance for drone-monitoring exercises and future research to develop guidelines for safe and effective monitoring with drones. Our study sites spanned a range of arid, semi-arid, dunefield, floodplain, wetland, woodland, forest, coastal heath and urban environments in south-eastern and central Australia. They included a nesting colony of >200 000 Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis, the largest drone-based bird-monitoring exercise to date. We particularly focused on behavioural changes towards drones during the breeding season, interactions with raptors, and effects on birds nesting in large colonies—three areas yet to be explored in published literature. Some aggressive behaviour was encountered from solitary breeding birds, but several large breeding bird colonies were surveyed without such issues. With multi-rotor drones, we observed no incidents that posed a threat to birds, but one raptor attacked and took down a fixed-wing drone. In addition to providing observations of interactions with specific bird species, we detail our procedures for flight planning, safe flying and avoidance of birds, and highlight the need for more research into bird– drone interactions, most notably with respect to territorial breeding birds, safety around large raptors, and the effects of drones on the behaviour of birds in large breeding colonies.

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Brandis et al. 2018 Decline in colonial waterbird breeding highlights loss of Ramsar wetland function


Water resource development on rivers significantly affects life cycles of species reliant on wetlands. However, assessing ecological impacts is often difficult because they are realised over long-time periods and large spatial scales, particularly on highly variable dryland rivers. Thirty percent of all Ramsar wetlands are in drylands. We examined the effects of diversions of water upstream on colonial waterbird breeding at the Narran Lakes, supplied by a highly variable dryland river. Narran Lakes is an important Ramsar-listed wetland in Australia for its provision of habitat for wetland fauna during key life history stages, including colonially breeding waterbirds. We use historical ibis breeding data over five decades (1970–2016) to determine the flow requirements for colonial waterbird breeding and modelled the impacts of water resource management options (current and restoration) on breeding. We identified thresholds (> 154,000 ML in 90 days with a secondary threshold of > 20,000 ML in the first 10 days) of river flow volume necessary to stimulate breeding. Water resource development reduced the frequency of large flows resulting in ibis breeding by 170%, from 1 in 4.2 years to 1 in 11.4 years. Restoration efforts by government to recover water for the environment was predicted to improve colonial waterbird breeding frequency associated with large flow events to 1 in 6.71 years, representing a 59% reduction from pre-development periods. Our framework has global application as a method for identifying long-term impacts of water resource development on key Ramsar wetland areas. This is important, as few mechanisms exist for assessing impacts and identifying restoration options on the listed criteria for many Ramsar wetlands.

Link to paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718301496#!

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Callaghan et al. 2018 A comment on the limitations of UAVS in wildlife research - the example of colonial nesting waterbirds
Brandis et al 2014 Assessing the use of camera traps to measure reproductive success in Straw-necked Ibis breeding colonies

Summary. Nest monitoring may influence reproductive success and rates of predation. This study compared data from two methods of monitoring nests — repeated visits to nests by investigators and collection of data by camera traps — in Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis breeding colonies in the Murrumbidgee catchment in New South Wales. There was no significant difference in reproductive success between nests monitored by these two methods. These data show that (1) nest monitoring using camera traps is a valid survey method that reduces the need for investigators to engage in intensive and costly monitoring in the field, and (2) there was no detectable interference from repeated visits to nests by investigators on the reproductive success of ibis.

Kingsford et al. 2014 Birds of the Murray-Darling Basin

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Kingsford et al. 2013 Waterbird communities in the Murray-Darling Basin, 1983-2012 View PDF
Brandis et al. 2012 Pittwater waterbird habitat survey and mapping - report View PDF
Nairn et al. 2011 A case study of risks to flows and floodplain ecosystems posed by structures on the Macquarie Floodplain View PDF
Gawne et al. 2011 A Review of River Ecosystem Condition in the Murray-Darling Basin View PDF
Brandis et al. 2011 Lowbidgee 2010/2011 Colonial Waterbird Breeding View PDF
Brandis et al. 2011 Crisis water management and ibis breeding at Narran Lakes in arid Australia
Brandis, K. 2011 Colonial waterbird breeding View PDF
Brandis and Watson 2011 Estuarine Wetland and Migratory Bird Survey and Priority Habitat Mapping View PDF
Brandis, K. 2010 Colonial Waterbird Breeding in Australia: wetlands, water requirements and environmental flows View PDF
Kingsford et al. 2010 Measuring ecosystem responses to flow across organism scales. Northern Basin Southern Basin: Ecosystem Response Modelling in the Murray Darling Basin
Brandis et al. 2009 Environmental Watering for Waterbirds in The Living Murray Icon Sites View PDF
Jenkins et al. 2009 Waterbird diet, foraging and food analysis: Narran Lakes ibis breeding event 2008
Brandis et al. 2009 Preliminary assessment for the environmental water requirements of waterbird species in the Murray Darling Basin View PDF
Kingsford et al. 2008 Waterbrid response to flooding in the northern Murray-Darling Basin 2008 View PDF
Young et al. 2006 Modelling monthly streamflows in two Australian dryland rivers: Matching model complexity to spatial scale and data availability
Kingsford et al. 2004 Classifying landform at broad spatial scales: the distribution and conservation of wetlands in New South Wales, Australia
Brandis and Jacobson 2003 Estimation of vegetative fuel loads using LandsatTM imagery in New South Wales, Australia
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