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Martin Westgate

Research Fellow
Fenner School of Environment & Society
Australian National University


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I am a Research Fellow in ecology at the Australian National University, with a strong focus on software development and open science. I study how scientific information can be used to understand and mitigate human impacts on the environment, research for which I was awarded the ESA/Wiley Next Generation Ecologist Award in 2017. I have a particular interest in ways to conserve biodiversity, and to make science more accessible outside of academia, using methods from two research fields:

Evidence synthesis

Evidence synthesis (ES) is the process of summarizing scientific information so that it can be used to solve real problems. Unfortunately, there is now so much science being published - an estimated 2 million new articles a year - that summarizing it is a serious challenge. To help deal with this problem, I have built new software to locate, interpret and synthesize scientific information, using methods from natural language processing and machine learning. The resulting R package revtools is listed on CRAN, and is under active development. With my colleague Dr Neal Haddaway, I also led the recent Evidence Synthesis Hackathon to develop new software tools for this important field.

Applied ecology

I use data from field studies of plants, birds and frogs to study how biodiversity is affected by disturbances such as fire, or by changes in habitat quality or availability. My PhD investigated the effects of fire on frogs in Booderee National Park (NSW, Australia). More recently, I have studied ways to improve biodiversity monitoring and assessment, with the aim of making better recommendations for conservation.