I aim to discover the mechanistic insights that explain optimal decisions in ecology, health and biosecurity.

My research is at the forefront of linking ecological science with quantitative tools from the field of artificial intelligence (AI). I develop AI methods to provide guidance on how to make smart decisions under imperfect knowledge and resource constraints (1). During my PhD, I developed new methods to tackle complex optimisation problems for mobile robots using Markov decision processes (MDP). I discovered that MDP models can be an effective tool for improving decision-making in modern conservation science – teaching a robot to navigate utilizes the same mathematics as choosing the best conservation actions to save threatened species under uncertainty (2). Eager to contribute to conservation science, I changed career and turned towards decisions in ecology (2006). Combining my expertise in AI with ecological and economic models, I solve complex applied conservation problems in the face of uncertainty. The solutions I provide are optimal decisions that save money and allocate resources more efficiently. My work is in demand in applied pest management, health and conservation. For example, I have provided solutions to efficiently eradicate invasive weeds, control mosquito-borne diseases and protect threatened species from extinction (3-5).

I am the team leader of the Conservation Decisions team (CSIRO, Land and Water) a multi-disciplinary group with expertise in ecology, systematic conservation planning, priority threat management, artificial intelligence, and decision theory. Our motivation is to solve pressing global conservation problems. We do this by connecting ecological data with decision science to determine what actions to take, when and where to get the best outcomes for biodiversity conservation, while taking into account the many other competing needs of society. We are members of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and collaborators of the NSF expedition CompSustNet research network.

  1.  MacKenzie, D. I. Getting the biggest bang for our conservation buck. Trends Ecol. Evol. 24, 175-177 (2009).
  2.  Chadès, I. What’s the connection between mobile robots, endangered cryptic animals and invasive species? Decision Point 29, 5 (2009).
  3. Chadès, I. et al. When to stop managing or surveying cryptic threatened species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 105, 13936 (2008).
  4. Chadès, I. et al. General rules for managing and surveying networks of pests, diseases, and endangered species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 108, 8323-8328 (2011).
  5. Chadès, I. al., Benefits of integrating complementarity into priority threat management. Cons. Biol., 2015


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