Dr Sam Nicol is a researcher at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and part of the Conservation Decisions Lab.
Dr Nicol is an ecological modeller and decision scientist who specialises in decision techniques to help managers allocate limited natural resources over time to achieve environmental goals. He uses techniques from a broad range of disciplines to help decision-makers structure and understand decisions and provide scientifically robust and defensible recommendations at the appropriate level of complexity for application. Sam combines decision-making techniques from mathematics, economics and artificial intelligence with skills in small-group facilitation and ecological modelling to generate practical solutions for managers. His research can be used to logically formulate decisions, highlight trade-offs and prioritise actions.
Dr Nicol has published more than 25 refereed journal papers, including articles in leading journals such as PNAS, Journal of Applied Ecology, and Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Sam has led or been a key project officer with a number of significant research projects including:
• Project member on the indicator selection and design for Stage 1 of the baseline biodiversity assessment for NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to support the new Biodiversity Conservation Act.
• Co-leading an evaluation of the value of different monitoring strategies for Moira grass restoration in Barmah forest in the Murray-Darling Basin.
• Co-leader of the technical team reponsible for designing a method to evaluate the ecological benefits of complementary measures in the Murray-Darling Basin.
• Developing a new adaptive management approach to manage uncertain sea level rise impacts and protect migratory shorebirds in the globally important East Asia-Australasia flyway.
• Developing an optimal approach to the protection of a critically endangered Australian fish, the red-finned blue-eye, as part of the Invasive Animals CRC.
• Developing a risk-based approach to environmental compliance and monitoring in collaboration with the Department of Environment.
• Developing an optimal water control strategy for breeding waterfowl on USA National Wildlife Refuges, North and South Dakota, USA.
• Pioneering new artificial intelligence techniques to find optimal management strategies for ecological decision problems with large state spaces.
• Data analyst and facilitator on Pilbara priority threat management for species of conservation significance, the Lake Eyre Basin invasive animal prioritisation project, and the Priority threat management for imperilled species of the Queensland Brigalow Belt.
• Completed CEED Conservation Leadership program to train young leaders in ecology and conservation.
Fields of Research
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The University of Queensland
Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Engineering (Hons 1st Class)
The University of Western Australia
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Alaska Fairbanks
CSIRO Land and Water
Achievements and Awards
Outstanding paper award in Computational Sustainability
Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-12)
National Institute for Mathematical Biology and Synthesis (NIMBioS) Working Group “Area contributions of habitat for migratory species" (Knoxville TN)