Member Spotlight: Lily Van Eeden

Our member in the spotlight this week is Lily Van Eeden, a PhD student at the University of Sydney. Lily won the SCBO 2018 best student paper award for her paper: Managing conflict between large carnivores and livestock published in Conservation Biology (and it’s Open Access!).

What first motivated you to pursue a career in conservation?
It kind of happened by accident! I grew up in the Australian bush riding horses around dirt tracks and perhaps took my childhood outdoors for granted. After high school, I started a Science degree (hoping to become a vet) and it was a fortunate chance that I took up some conservation subjects as electives. I quickly realised I knew more about native plants and animals than my fellow students and thrived in the field biology subjects. I put aside my interest in vet science to pursue a career in conservation and I’ve never looked back.

Your winning paper reviews global approaches to managing conflict between large carnivores and livestock. What’s the most innovative solution to human-wildlife conflict that you’ve come across?
A lot of innovative technologies have been developed (light and sound deterrents, taste aversion, etc.) but my favourites are the traditional methods that have been used for centuries. My review showed that livestock guardian dogs can be highly effective at reducing stock loss. My PhD focuses on management of dingoes (often referred to as wild dogs) in Australia to protect sheep, and as a dog lover, I love the idea that the solution to a dog problem is more dogs.

What do you think can Australia learn from other countries about how to manage conflict between human communities and wildlife?
Australia (along with New Zealand) is pretty unique when it comes to wildlife (particularly predator) management. While poison use is illegal in wildlife management in most countries, poison is the Number #1 way we manage dingoes in Australia. I think most Australians don’t know this, and ignoring public opinion on how we manage wildlife is like sitting on a time bomb. We should be engaging in human dimensions research to ensure we design management strategies that have public support.

Lily’s PhD focuses on management of dingoes in Australia
What has been the most interesting thing that you have learned from your research so far?
Learning about social science and the philosophical underpinnings of how we do conservation research has taken me on a bit of a journey of self discovery. It’s caused me to challenge my own perceptions of what we’re trying to achieve as conservationists and how we get there, and see that nothing is black and white: two people can argue black-and-blue about what a dingo is (e.g. native Australian apex predator vs introduced pest) and never see eye-to-eye because either perspective can be interpreted as correct.

You’re also a board member of the SCB Sydney Chapter. How did you first hear about the Society for Conservation Biology, and what motivated you to get involved with SCBO?
When I moved to Sydney to start my PhD I didn’t know anyone in the city so I joined the Sydney chapter to meet like-minded people. I really enjoyed getting involved in the chapter activities which typically combine art with science. This initial introduction to the local chapter led me to becoming involved in SCB more broadly, and I increasingly realise what a great fit the society is for my interdisciplinary research interests as well as being a friendly community of researchers.

What was your favourite thing about SCBO 2018 in Wellington?
Aside from seeing a lot of great presentations, I loved the social science workshop before the conference which was run by Katie Moon and Deborah Blackman. It was very thought provoking and a great overview of social science theory and philosophy that I am already using to apply changes to my own research.
Finally, what are your plans post-PhD? What’s your dream job?
Wherever I end up, I want my work to be applied. Before starting a PhD, I worked as a consultant and in environmental research and management for about eight years so I’ve had a pretty good exposure to how policy and management plans lead(or don’t) to on-ground implementation. I intend to keep working in the human-wildlife conflict space to find ways to link science and implementation.

Lily’s award-winning paper:

Eeden, Lily M., Crowther, Mathew S., Dickman, Chris R., Macdonald, David W., Ripple, William J., Ritchie, Euan G., Newsome, Thomas M., Van Eeden, Lily M., Lily M. van Eeden, Mathew S. Crowther, Chris R. Dickman, David W. Macdonald, William J. Ripple, Euan G. Ritchie, & Thomas M. Newsome. 2017. Managing conflict between large carnivores and livestock. Conservation Biology, Volume 32, No. 1, 26–34 DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12959.