Dr Ryan Witt

Dr Ryan Witt

Postdoctoral Researcher

School of Environmental and Life Sciences (Environmental Science and Management)

Career Summary

Biography

Ryan Witt is a wildlife conservation scientist specialising in marsupial reproduction and reproductive technologies, marsupial ecology, and emerging technologies for surveying for koalas. As a Novocastrian, Ryan has a passion and interest in developing local and regional conservation projects for at-risk marsupial populations in the Hunter Region. He aims to deliver grassroots conservation research of national and international benefit. 

            Ryan completed a Bachelor of Social Science (Recreation and Tourism) in 2008, a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management (1stClass Honours, Faculty Medal and University Medal) in 2013 and a PhD (Advances in oestrous synchronisation technology for assisted breeding in marsupials) in 2018 at the University of Newcastle. 

            Currently a Conjoint Lecturer and supervisor for a PhD student in the Conservation Biology Research Group at the University of Newcastle, Ryan is an early career FAUNA Research Alliance leader/member and also holds a University Colour for his longstanding contribution to University of Newcastle Tennis.

Research Interests and Expertise

Ryan is passionate about koala and marsupial rehabilitation and conservation (assisted reproduction/captive breeding and population monitoring using drones). Throughout his doctorate Ryan trained and developed expertise in applied conservation research. His main focus was on marsupial reproduction, developing new techniques to improve breed and release programs for the genetic management of threatened populations. His experience in the field as a research ecologist includes conducting surveys on eastern grey kangaroo (observation, immobilization, capture and veterinary procedures), as well as quantifying habitat and monitoring green and golden bell frogs on Ash Island. Ryan has considerable expertise surveying for possums, gliders and koalas on the Central Coast, Newcastle and Port Stephens.

Ryan’s PhD focus was central to a key problem in marsupial breeding programs – the inability to reliably and accurately time ovulation. This problem occurs in marsupials due to two factors (1) most marsupials ovulate spontaneously, and (2) the marsupial corpus luteum – the organ responsible supporting pregnancy – becomes independent of hypothalamic-pituitary support after formation, and thus eutherian based technologies of oestrous synchronisation designed to disrupt the life of the corpus-luteum have failed in marsupials. Ryan’s research progressed oestrous synchronisation technology in marsupials by using a GnRH agonist and exogenous FSH and LH hormones to regulate the oestrous cycle with the aim of predicting ovulation. By advancing this technology, Ryan’s research has paved the way for non-invasive trials to be conducted. His work is an essential component of assisted reproduction required to establish marsupial artificial insemination programs for conservation management.

            In January 2018, Ryan delivered a status update on marsupial assisted reproduction at the 2018 Companion Animals Non-Domestic and Endangered Species (CANDES) symposium, the annual premiere meeting in the area of assisted breeding for non-domestic animals held at the International Embryo Technology Society (IETS) Conference. This paper and conference presentation (Witt& Rodger 2018) addressed the international audience with up-to-date tools and technologies used to monitor and manipulate marsupial oestrous for conservation breeding (Witt and Rodger 2018).

            Ryan is dedicated to developing a conservation research project to ensure the regions key koala population remains functional. Ryan aims to ensure future generations will have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to see a koala in the wild throughout the Hunter region. Most recently, Ryan has collaborated with other University of Newcastle Researchers and NSW DPIE to develop a drone/thermal imaging method for detecting koalas in the wild. 

Teaching Expertise

Ryan is a connections and workshop expert and since 2013 has delivered workshops specialising in connecting leading environmental industry practitioners, and professional organisations positioned within the Hunter Region, with final semester Environmental Science and Management students. In 2019, Ryan developed the new blended learning modules and flipped class room model for the capstone course ENVS3002 – Environmental Management perspectives [formerly Applied Environmental Science]. This course seeks to prepare the students for the all-important next step post-graduation– becoming an effective environmental professional. 

Ryan’s teaching duties have included the preparation and delivery of lectures, tutorials, running practical classes such as laboratories, field trips and workshops, and course coordination roles. Ryan excels in teaching workshops and flipped format courses and engaging external practitioners with student learning outcomes. Ryan has also assisted in teaching a range of courses across all year levels in the Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management and the Bachelor of Science Program. These include: BIOL1003 – Professional Skills for the Biological Sciences; ENVS1000 – Environmental Sustainability Explained; SCIE1001 – Professional Scientific Thinking; ENVS2005 –Management of Australian Flora; SRMT3060 – Restoration Ecology; ENVS3001 – Integrated Impact Assessment; and, ENVS3002 – Environmental Management Perspectives (Formerly Applied Environmental Science). 

Contribution to University of Newcastle Sport

Ryan was awarded a University Colour in the Sport of Tennis for his administrative contribution to the development and maintenance of the University of Newcastle Tennis Club (http://uontennisclub.org.au) between 2011 and 2018. 

Colours are awarded to those that have made an outstanding contribution to the organisation and administration of University sport over a period of not less than three full years. This is a highly prized award which recognises protracted contribution to University sport above and beyond the diligent completion of administrative responsibilities of elected or appointed office.


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Social Science (Recreation & Tourism), University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management (Honours), University of Newcastle

Keywords

  • Applied Conservation
  • Drone
  • Koala
  • Marsupials
  • RPAS
  • Reproduction
  • Thermal Imaging
  • Wildlife Ecology
  • Wildlife Management
  • Wildlife Monitoring

Languages

  • English (Mother)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
410401 Conservation and biodiversity 30
410407 Wildlife and habitat management 30
310903 Animal developmental and reproductive biology 40

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Postdoctoral Researcher University of Newcastle
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Australia
Casual Academic University of Newcastle
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Australia
Casual ISSP Tutor Wollotuka University of Newcastle
Indigenous Education and Research
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
29/1/2019 -  Conjoint Lecturer School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle
Australia

Awards

Award

Year Award
2020 Collaboration Excellence Award
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle
2017 University Colour (Tennis)
NUSport Board
2014 Faculty Medal 2013
Faculty of Science and IT, University of Newcastle
2014 University Medal in Environmental Science & Management 2013
Faculty of Science and IT, University of Newcastle

Teaching Award

Year Award
2019 Collaboration Excellence Team Award: in the implementation and delivery of SCIE1001 and SCIE1002
The University of Newcastle

Teaching

Code Course Role Duration
ENVS3001 Integrated Impact Assessment
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The university of Newcastle, Australia
Tutor 27/2/2017 - 2/6/2017
ENVS1000 Environmental Sustainability Explained
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The university of Newcastle, Australia
Online Tutor 25/2/2019 - 7/6/2019
BIOL1003 Professional Skills for the Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science | University of Newcastle
Laboratory Demonstrator 30/7/2018 - 9/11/2018
SCIE1001 Professional Scientific Thinking
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle
Workshop Demonstrator (Flipped Classroom) 25/2/2019 - 13/11/2020
ENVS3002 Environmental Management Perspectives
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The university of Newcastle, Australia

Formerly known as ENVS3002 - Applied Environmental Science

Various Duties: Blended Learning Developer; Flipped Workshop Developer/Facilitator; Co-ordinator (Shared); Industry Engagement and Field Trip Organiser; Tutor 1/7/2013 - 31/12/2020
SRMT3060 Restoration Ecology
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The university of Newcastle, Australia
Laboratory and Field Demonstrator 25/2/2019 - 7/6/2019
ENVS2005 Management of Australian Flora
School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The university of Newcastle, Australia
Laboratory Demonstrator 24/7/2017 - 31/12/2020
ENVS3003 Conservation Biology
University of Newcastle
Field Demonstrator 17/2/2020 - 27/3/2020
Indigenous Tutorial Program
Wollotuka Institute
Tutor 1/10/2020 - 31/12/2020
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Journal article (13 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2021 Howell LG, Frankham R, Rodger JC, Witt RR, Clulow S, Upton RMO, et al., 'Integrating biobanking could produce significant cost benefits and minimise inbreeding for Australian amphibian captive breeding programs', REPRODUCTION FERTILITY AND DEVELOPMENT, 33 573-587 (2021)
DOI 10.1071/RD21058
Citations Web of Science - 1
Co-authors John Rodger, Rose Upton Uon, Simon Clulow, John Clulow
2021 Beranek CT, Roff A, Denholm B, Howell LG, Witt RR, 'Trialling a real-time drone detection and validation protocol for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)', Australian Mammalogy, 43 260-260 (2021) [C1]
DOI 10.1071/am20043
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 3
Co-authors Chad Beranek
2021 Howell LG, Frankham R, Rodger JC, Witt RR, Clulow S, Upton RMO, Clulow J, 'Integrating biobanking minimises inbreeding and produces significant cost benefits for a threatened frog captive breeding programme', Conservation Letters, 14 (2021) [C1]
DOI 10.1111/conl.12776
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 3
Co-authors John Clulow, John Rodger, Rose Upton Uon, Simon Clulow
2020 Witt RR, Hinds LA, Rodger JC, 'Human chorionic gonadotrophin does not induce ovulation in the tammar wallaby', AUSTRALIAN MAMMALOGY, 43 354-358 (2020)
DOI 10.1071/AM20050
Co-authors John Rodger
2020 Witt RR, Hinds LA, Rodger JC, 'Induction of synchronous oestrus but not ovulation after pre-treatment with the GnRH agonist, Lucrin® Depot, in the tammar wallaby.', Theriogenology, 145 24-30 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2020.01.031
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
Co-authors John Rodger
2020 Callen A, Hayward MW, Klop-Toker K, Allen BL, Ballard G, Beranek CT, et al., 'Response to comments on "Compassionate Conservation deserves a morally serious rather than dismissive response - reply to Callen et al., 2020"', BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION, 244 (2020)
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108517
Citations Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2
Co-authors Simon Clulow, Matthew Hayward, Alex Callen, John Clulow, Kaya Klop-Toker, Chad Beranek, Rose Upton Uon
2020 Callen A, Hayward MW, Klop-Toker K, Allen BL, Ballard G, Broekhuis F, et al., 'Envisioning the future with compassionate conservation : An ominous projection for native wildlife and biodiversity', Biological Conservation, 241 (2020) [C1]

The ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ movement is gaining momentum through its promotion of ¿ethical¿ conservation practices based on self-proclaimed principles of ¿first-do-no-harm¿ a... [more]

The ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ movement is gaining momentum through its promotion of ¿ethical¿ conservation practices based on self-proclaimed principles of ¿first-do-no-harm¿ and ¿individuals matter¿. We argue that the tenets of ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ are ideological - that is, they are not scientifically proven to improve conservation outcomes, yet are critical of the current methods that do. In this paper we envision a future with ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ and predict how this might affect global biodiversity conservation. Taken literally, ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ will deny current conservation practices such as captive breeding, introduced species control, biocontrol, conservation fencing, translocation, contraception, disease control and genetic introgression. Five mainstream conservation practices are used to illustrate the far-reaching and dire consequences for global biodiversity if governed by ¿Compassionate Conservation¿. We acknowledge the important role of animal welfare science in conservation practices but argue that ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ aligns more closely with animal liberation principles protecting individuals over populations. Ultimately we fear that a world of ¿Compassionate Conservation¿ could stymie the global conservation efforts required to meet international biodiversity targets derived from evidenced based practice, such as the Aichi targets developed by the Convention on Biological Diversity and adopted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations.

DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108365
Citations Scopus - 16Web of Science - 17
Co-authors Ninon Meyer, Matthew Hayward, Kaya Klop-Toker, Alex Callen, John Clulow, Simon Clulow, Rose Upton Uon, Chad Beranek
2020 Witt RR, Beranek CT, Howell LG, Ryan SA, Clulow J, Jordan NR, et al., 'Real-time drone derived thermal imagery outperforms traditional survey methods for an arboreal forest mammal', PLOS ONE, 15 (2020) [C1]
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0242204
Citations Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Chad Beranek, John Clulow
2019 Hayward MW, Callen A, Allen BL, Ballard G, Broekhuis F, Bugir C, et al., 'Deconstructing compassionate conservation', Conservation Biology, 33 760-768 (2019) [C1]

Compassionate conservation focuses on 4 tenets: first, do no harm; individuals matter; inclusivity of individual animals; and peaceful coexistence between humans and animals. Rece... [more]

Compassionate conservation focuses on 4 tenets: first, do no harm; individuals matter; inclusivity of individual animals; and peaceful coexistence between humans and animals. Recently, compassionate conservation has been promoted as an alternative to conventional conservation philosophy. We believe examples presented by compassionate conservationists are deliberately or arbitrarily chosen to focus on mammals; inherently not compassionate; and offer ineffective conservation solutions. Compassionate conservation arbitrarily focuses on charismatic species, notably large predators and megaherbivores. The philosophy is not compassionate when it leaves invasive predators in the environment to cause harm to vastly more individuals of native species or uses the fear of harm by apex predators to terrorize mesopredators. Hindering the control of exotic species (megafauna, predators) in situ will not improve the conservation condition of the majority of biodiversity. The positions taken by so-called compassionate conservationists on particular species and on conservation actions could be extended to hinder other forms of conservation, including translocations, conservation fencing, and fertility control. Animal welfare is incredibly important to conservation, but ironically compassionate conservation does not offer the best welfare outcomes to animals and is often ineffective in achieving conservation goals. Consequently, compassionate conservation may threaten public and governmental support for conservation because of the limited understanding of conservation problems by the general public.

DOI 10.1111/cobi.13366
Citations Scopus - 30Web of Science - 31
Co-authors Ninon Meyer, Simon Clulow, John Clulow, Andrea Griffin, Kaya Klop-Toker, Alex Callen, Rose Upton Uon, Matthew Hayward
2018 Witt RR, Hinds LA, Rodger JC, 'Delayed return to estrus following treatment with the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist, Lucrin® Depot, in the tammar wallaby.', Theriogenology, 115 108-116 (2018) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2018.04.029
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 4
Co-authors John Rodger
2018 Witt RR, Rodger JJ, Rodger JC, 'Breeding in the fat-tailed dunnart following ovarian suppression with the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist Lucrin® Depot', Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 30 507-518 (2018) [C1]
DOI 10.1071/RD16518
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 6
Co-authors John Rodger
2018 Witt RR, Rodger JC, 'Recent advances in tools and technologies for monitoring and controlling ovarian activity in marsupials', Theriogenology, 109 58-69 (2018) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2017.12.006
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 5
Co-authors John Rodger
2016 Witt RR, Forbes IR, Mcbain J, Rodger JC, 'Ovarian suppression in a marsupial following single treatment with a gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist in microspheres', Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 28 1964-1973 (2016) [C1]

The effect of treatment with Lucrin Depot (1 month), a microsphere gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist preparation, was investigated in the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis cra... [more]

The effect of treatment with Lucrin Depot (1 month), a microsphere gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist preparation, was investigated in the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata) as a potential strategy to synchronise cycling. The status of the ovaries (ovarian size, number and size of Graafian follicles and corpora lutea) and reproductive tract (weight, vascularity and muscularity) in twelve untreated females were assessed to establish the activity parameters for randomly selected cycling animals. Thirty-six females were treated with 1mgkg-1 (n=12), 10mgkg-1 (n=12) or 20mgkg-1 (n=12) Lucrin Depot. At 4, 6 and 8 weeks the reproductive tracts were assessed using the criteria developed in the untreated females. All of the females treated with 10mgkg-1 showed suppression at 4 weeks and 25% showed return of reproductive activity at 8 weeks. A dose of 1mgkg-1 did not appear to suppress reproductive activity and 20mgkg-1 gave equivocal results, with evidence of both suppression and activity. The results indicate that Lucrin Depot appears to be a promising agent to regulate and potentially synchronise breeding activity in the fat-tailed dunnart.

DOI 10.1071/RD14423
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 6
Co-authors John Rodger
Show 10 more journal articles
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 6
Total funding $294,314

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20212 grants / $261,014

Drone monitoring of priority koala populations in fire-prone landscapes$247,951

Funding body: WWF-Australia

Funding body WWF-Australia
Project Team

Doctor Ryan Witt, Associate Professor John Clulow, Doctor Neil Jordan, Shelby Ryan, Chad Beranek

Scheme Bushfire Regeneration Challenge
Role Lead
Funding Start 2021
Funding Finish 2023
GNo
Type Of Funding C3200 – Aust Not-for Profit
Category 3200
UON N

Using thermal drone surveys to quantify koala abundance and density at Lake Innes Nature Reserve (Port Macquarie, NSW)$13,063

Funding body: Mid North Coast Joint Organisation

Funding body Mid North Coast Joint Organisation
Project Team Doctor Ryan Witt
Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2021
Funding Finish 2021
GNo G2101157
Type Of Funding C2400 – Aust StateTerritoryLocal – Other
Category 2400
UON Y

20191 grants / $15,000

Engaging with a cryptic local icon: the threatened koala$15,000

Funding body: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Funding body Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Project Team

Lachlan Howell, Shelby Ryan, Chad Beranek

Scheme Communities Environment Program
Role Lead
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - Commonwealth
Category 2OPC
UON N

20171 grants / $4,800

Development of an oestrous synchronisation method for assisted breeding and recovery of threatened rock-wallabies$4,800

Funding body: Equity Trustees Limited

Funding body Equity Trustees Limited
Project Team

John Rodger; Ryan Witt

Scheme Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo
Type Of Funding C3120 - Aust Philanthropy
Category 3120
UON N

20161 grants / $7,500

Developing artificial insemination technology for the recovery and genetic management of threatened and endangered rock wallabies$7,500

Funding body: Equity Trustees Limited

Funding body Equity Trustees Limited
Project Team

John Rodger; Ryan Witt

Scheme Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2016
GNo
Type Of Funding C3120 - Aust Philanthropy
Category 3120
UON N

20151 grants / $6,000

Developing artificial insemination technology for the recovery and genetic management of threatened and endangered rock wallabies$6,000

Funding body: Equity Trustees Limited

Funding body Equity Trustees Limited
Project Team

John Rodger; Ryan Witt

Scheme Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo
Type Of Funding C3120 - Aust Philanthropy
Category 3120
UON N
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current2

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2020 PhD Examining the 'Flagship Species' Concept Through a Case Study of the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) PhD (Environmental Sc), College of Engineering, Science and Environment, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2017 PhD Cost-benefit analyses of emerging technologies for more effective threatened species conservation PhD (Environmental Sc), College of Engineering, Science and Environment, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
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Research Opportunities

Securing koalas in the Hunter Region

The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into koala populations and their habitat has tabled the koala for extinction by 2050 without government intervention. We are searching for students interested in koala conservation research within the Hunter Region. Students must demonstrate a good work ethic and are willing to conduct many hours of field work. All koala conservation projects require liaising with multiple stakeholders, including the general community, local council, state government and koala caring organisations, and therefore strong communication skills and demonstration of community engagement experience are sought after. If you are interested and thinking about honours, we’d love to hear from you!

Honours

School of Environmental and Life Sciences

22/8/2019 - 31/12/2021

Contact

Doctor Ryan Witt
University of Newcastle
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
ryan.witt@newcastle.edu.au

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Research Collaborations

The map is a representation of a researchers co-authorship with collaborators across the globe. The map displays the number of publications against a country, where there is at least one co-author based in that country. Data is sourced from the University of Newcastle research publication management system (NURO) and may not fully represent the authors complete body of work.

Country Count of Publications
Australia 12
United States 3
United Kingdom 2
Mexico 2
Namibia 2
More...
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News

Researchers call on Port Stephens community to help save the koala

November 10, 2020

Port Stephens community members are working with scientists to collect information to help save koalas in the region.

Let’s fix Australia’s environment with any pandemic recovery aid – the Kiwis are doing it

June 26, 2020

New Zealand is pumping millions of dollars into environment projects as part of its COVID-19 recovery. Researchers from the Faculty of Science say Australia's recovery plan seems more destructive than reconstructive.

Dr Ryan Witt

Positions

Postdoctoral Researcher
Conservation Biology Research Group
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
College of Engineering, Science and Environment

Casual Academic
Conservation Biology Research Group
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
College of Engineering, Science and Environment

Casual ISSP Tutor Wollotuka
Conservation Biology Research Group
Indigenous Education and Research
Academic Division

Focus area

Environmental Science and Management

Contact Details

Email ryan.witt@newcastle.edu.au
Mobile +61421606222
Links Research Networks
Personal webpage

Office

Room BLG10
Building Biology Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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