This Blog is part of our “Get to Know Our Ambassadors” Series. Each week, we’ll highlight a new Ambassador to help students understand more about the diversity of people and research projects available to students.

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The world is in danger as we face the sixth mass extinction. Thousands of animals, plants, and fungi will vanish, negatively impacting the natural resources we rely on. Invasive alien species, introduced by humans either intentionally or accidentally, pose a significant threat to native wildlife.

One of the most notorious invasive alien species is the cane toad. Early in the 1900s, the cane toad was brought from America to different parts of the world to eat and control sugar cane pests. But what they thought would resolve the pest problem became a more devastating pest to the environment. Less than a century since its arrival in Australia, the cane toad has nearly invaded the northern half of Australia and affected millions of animals.

I’m a research scientist obsessed with understanding how to control invasive alien species. I am developing tools that can guide us in managing alien species invasions and preventing more alien species from arriving and invading.

A tool I developed is virToad. virToad allows scientists and environmental managers to simulate thousands of cane toads in a virtual management area. This allows them to understand better the cane toad’s behaviour and daily routine — what do they do (hide, eat, mate) and when, where, and how often do they do it? This knowledge then gives us an idea of what type of management strategy to use, and when and where to implement them. But more importantly, by using virToad, land managers can then virtually test different strategies to manage cane toad invasions before rolling them out in the real world.

Conversely, understanding animal behaviour is essential not only in defeating invasive alien species, but also in protecting native wildlife.

I’m excited to be paired with the Arludo game Inglorious Baskers. In this game, students explore how animals survive in nature and the various aspects animals need to manage – like finding food, staying away from predators, and even competing against rivals.

Students will learn all about how animals change their behaviour in response to different challenges that they face. By playing Inglorious Baskers with students, I hope to ignite students’ curiosity and make them wonder how to protect wildlife based on what they learned about animal behaviour. Because if there is something we need most right now is children of science with deep appreciation, passion, and determination to save wildlife.

Written by Arman Pili

Arman Pili is a research scientist studying invasive alien species. These are non-native animals, plants, fungi, and microbes brought by people from different parts of the world and to Australia. Invasive alien species are wreaking massive environmental havoc and costing governments heavy economic burdens, not just in Australia but worldwide.

Arman is developing tools that can predict who these invasive alien species are and where they will invade. Using his tools, environmental managers can have an idea of how to stop and manage future alien species invasions.

Book a virtual incursion with Arman!