Dr Peter Baxter

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Research Fellow at Queensland University of Technology

PhD (University of California)

Peter is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology, working with Dr Grant Hamilton on the Plant Biosecurity CRC (PBCRC) project, “Decision making for eradication and quarantine zones”.

Peter’s background is in mathematical modelling for applied ecology. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin (B.A. Mod. in Environmental Sciences) and the University of California-Berkeley (Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management), as well as the Institute of Actuaries (Dip. Act. Tech.). He has previously been a postdoctoral researcher at the universities of Melbourne and Queensland, and a lecturer with UQ’s Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics.

Peter’s research links ecological models with decision theory, using simulation and optimisation to explore efficient ways of managing populations and species of concern. This typically incorporates uncertainty in detection and prediction, and management constraints in reducing uncertainty via surveillance, and of implementing control.

His research with QUT and PBCRC uses these skills to produce regional-scale models of pest spread and control, that predict and contrast the performance of alternative combinations of quarantine restrictions and surveillance prioritisation. We are currently applying our modelling to the incursion in Queensland of Panama Disease Tropical Race 4, a fungal pathogen posing a serious threat to the banana industry in Australia. The models include pest growth and spread at the property level and multiple layers of connectivity that enable spread of the organism by anthropogenic and environmental means. Model results are revealing the necessity of balancing local focus around infected properties against wider surveillance measures or restrictions.

This research will lead to recommendations for optimal placement and management of quarantine zones in response to new incursions, and associated search-and-control strategies for eradicating pests, leading to a software interface to assist with incursion management decisions.