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Mr Peter Caley

Research Team Leader


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GPO BOX 1700


Peter is a principal research scientist with CSIRO Data61 who deploys across multiple business units. He applies quantitative methods for addressing contemporary problems in the environmental, agricultural and health sciences. Before joining CSIRO, Peter undertook research into the effect of climate change on the distribution of vertebrate pests, researched infectious human disease transmission and control with the Australian National University, improved plant biosecurity and invasive screening models with CSIRO Entomology, and undertook research into wildlife epidemiology and vertebrate pest management with government agencies in the Northern Territory and New Zealand. He has taught at Charles Darwin University (mathematics, statistics and biological modelling), Australian National University (epidemiology) and the University of Canberra (statistical & biological modelling).

Current Role

In his current CSIRO role from 2011 to the present he has undertaken quantitative research to underpin the effective management of environmental resources, including the development and application of statistical methods to generate quantitative inference where previously, qualitative assessments dominated.
* Successfully managed a small team of scientists.
* Developed methods for the rigorous analysis of long-term trends in waterbird abundance (Caley et al. 2021).
* Contributed to the long-term monitoring of trends in the abundance of bogong moths (Green, Caley et al 2021, Caley and Welvaert 2018).
* Developed and illustrated methods for estimating citizen surveillance reporting sensitivity as a function of species abundance and physical characteristics (Caley et al. 2020).
* Contributed to the development of novel data-based methods for updating invasion risks (Heersink, Caley et al 2020).
* Developed and applied new analytical techniques for assessing trends in the abundance of flying foxes (Westcott, Caley et al. 2018).
* Analysed citizen science counts to infer trends in populations of Carnaby's cockatoos (Caley et al. 2018).
* Led projects in the field of Biosecurity risk for industry, including a risk assessment of ports for bee pests and pest bees (Caley et al. 2013), and optimization of surveillance (Caley et al. 2016 — Client-in-confidence) with direct uptake by Biosecurity agencies.
* Applied novel methods for monitoring trends in environmental indicators of ecosystem health in the Murray Darling Basin (Colloff, Caley et al. 2015). Led a review of the East Australian Waterbird Survey for the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage (Caley & Barry 2013 – Client-in-Confidence).
* Led research into the use of novel (e.g. airport runway strikes) and citizen science type data (e.g. road kills) to make inference on the distribution and abundance of foxes in Tasmania ([Caley et al. 2015].(, Caley et al. 2017). This work was instrumental in demonstrating to management agencies (DPIPWE) that the distribution of foxes in Tasmania was much smaller than previously reported.
* Led research into the development and testing of methods for inferring extinction of rare species or invasive species subject to eradication campaigns (see Caley & Barry 2014).
* Continued to be sought after for expert knowledge in epidemiology. For example, undertaking a review of science underpinning eradication of bovine TB from New Zealand (Caley 2015).
* Developed and applied quantitative models to explore ecological relationships, such as the response of dingo populations to invading deer populations (Forsyth, Caley et al 2018).

Previous roles

Bureau of Rural Sciences & ABARES

Research Scientist, 2008 to 2011

Undertook quantitative research to underpin policy development in the rural sciences. Emphasis on predicting the distribution and abundance of invasive vertebrate species, and quantifying incursion risks associated with commodity importation.
* Led project on predicting the effects of climate change on the distribution of vertebrate pests in NSW under climate change (see Caley et al. 2011).
* Applied robust quantitative methods of expert elicitation to inform decision making in the advent of significant range extensions by marine pests (Darbyshire & Caley 2009).

Australian National University National Center for Epidemiology & Population Health

Research Fellow, 2005 to 2008

As part of a capacity building grant, I undertook research using mathematical modelling to aid the understanding of and provide policy support for the control of infectious diseases, particularly pandemic influenza. I also taught biostatistics course to Masters of Applied Epidemiology students.

* Illustrated the limitations of border screening of passengers in managing the delay in the importation of pandemic influenza (see Caley et al. 2007). This work directly influenced Department of Health policy.
* Demonstrated the major contribution that non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. social distancing) would achieve in mitigating epidemics, with emphasis on pandemic influenza (see Caley et al. 2008). This was one of the first research papers worldwide to highlight the major role that social distancing could play in epidemic mitigation.
* Worked as part of larger team that undertook a major project using mathematical models to assess response to an outbreak of an emerged viral respiratory disease (see Becker et al. 2006).

CSIRO Division of Entomology

Postdoctoral fellow, 2003 to 2005

This postdoctoral project aimed to provide the theoretical basis for more effective and scientifically defendable plant & insect biosecurity risk analyses and to quantify the relative risks posed to plant biosecurity by different import sectors.

* Quantitatively evaluated the performance of Australia’s weed risk assessment system (Caley et al. 2006) and developed alternatives (Caley & Kuhnert 2006).
* Developed and applied methods for estimating the proportion of introduced plants that will naturalize (Caley et al. 2008).
* Evaluated the information content of data collected at the quarantine border for estimating the incursion risk of insects (see Caley et al. 2014).
* Undertook a timely revision of the role of modelling in making inference on Mycobacterium bovis infection in brushtail possums (Caley 2006).
* Reviewed the evidence of irruptive dynamics in introduced herbivores (Forsyth & Caley 2006).


Wildlife Ecology, 1994 to 2001

In this position I undertook research into the epidemiology and management of bovine tuberculosis (Tb) infection in New Zealand wildlife, including brushtail possums, feral pigs, feral ferrets, feral cats and wild deer. Research has included the use of observations, field experiments, mathematical and statistical modelling to make inferences on key questions such as intra- and inter-specific disease transmission pathways, disease host status, and rates of transmission to livestock.
* Undertook the original research into quantifying the transmission of bovine tuberculosis from wildlife to domestic livestock (e.g. Caley et al. 1999)
* Led research to estimate disease transmission rates within species (e.g. Caley & Hone 2002), between species (e.g. Caley & Hone 2004), and make inference on host status (e.g. Caley & Hone 2005).

Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries

Research Scientist

In this position I undertook research into the role of feral pigs as hosts of bovine tuberculosis in the flood plain habitats of the Northern Territory. I developed (programmed) and implemented a computerised database for monitoring radio-collared “Judas” buffalo and cattle in the Northern Territory, and to train livestock officers in its use.
* Landmark paper demonstrating that wild pigs in Northern Australia were spillover hosts for bovine tuberculosis (McInerney, Small & Caley 1995)


Wildlife ecology & Management, 1989—1992

Research into the ecology and movements of feral pigs in woodland/riverine habitats of the Northern Territory. The primary aim of the project was to obtain field data to predictively model the temporal and spatial dynamics of a potential foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in feral pigs.
* Undertook original research into the population dynamics (Caley 1993) and movements (Caley 1997) of wild pigs in the Northern Territory.
* Evaluated both trapping (Caley 1994) and hunting (Caley & Ottley 1995) as methods for control of wild pigs.

Professional Experiences

  • 1994-2001

    Research scientist
    Landcare Research Ltd, New Zealand

  • 2002-2002

    Northern Territory University

  • 2005-2008

    Research Fellow (Mathematical modelling of infectious disease)
    Australian National University

  • 2003-2005

    Postdoctoral fellow (Risk analysis for biosecurity)
    CSIRO Entomology

  • 2008-2011

    Bureau of Rural Science/ABARES

  • 2011-Present

    Senior Research Scientist


We have publications by Mr Peter Caley