top of page

Organising committee

The Victorian Biodiversity Conference is organised by postgraduate students, early-career researchers and professionals from a diverse range of Victorian institutions. If you're interested in joining the team to help with future conferences, feel free to contact us.


The committee for the Victorian Biodiversity Conference 2023 includes:


Rachael Miller (she/her)

University of Melbourne

Hi there! I'm Rachael, VicBioCon's Co-Chair for the 2023 Conference. I completed my undergraduate science degree at Unimelb majoring in Forest Science in 2017 and graduated my Master of Environment at Unimelb specialising in Forestry & Climate Change in 2021. I have also worked casually for the University in the sustainability space since 2018 which was also the first year I attended VicBioCon and I absolutely loved it! I have attended the conference every year since and was a presenter in 2021 and 2022.


In June 2021, Unimelb offered me a full-time position as a Biodiversity Officer. This involves protecting and enhancing flora, fungi & fauna habitat across the university's 7 campuses. Now that I have secure employment, I thought it was about time, I started pulling my weight for an event that has been so valuable to me in my early career and will continue to educate and guide me in my current role to protect and enhance the Victorian Biodiversity that call our campuses home. 


I hope you all enjoy the 2023 conference! 

Madeline Taylor.jpg

Madeline Taylor (she/her)

University of Melbourne

Hi I’m Maddy, VicBioCon’s co-chair for the 2023 conference. I’m currently studying a Master of Environment, specialising in conservation and restoration at the University of Melbourne and working in the University’s Sustainability Team as a Biodiversity Engagement Officer. As part of my masters I am completing a research project, analysing BioBlitz data to find out what conservation outcomes can be drawn from these events. Biodiversity conservation is my passion (if you haven’t already guessed!) so I am thrilled to be part of the VicBioCon committee this year and help with the running of such a fantastic event!


Justin Maire (he/him)

University of Melbourne

Justin is an early-career researcher at the University of Melbourne and studies interactions between corals and their microbial symbionts. The goal of his research is to find ways to manipulate the coral microbiome in order to increase their resistance to coral bleaching. This project is part of the important effort to enhance coral’s climate resilience through assisted evolution, and ensure coral reef ecosystems can survive the devastating effects of the climate crisis. His PhD research previously focused on immune and developmental interactions between the cereal weevil and its symbiotic bacteria.

Rach McIntosh.jpg

Rachel McIntosh (she/her)

La Trobe University

Rachel is a PhD candidate studying the effects of fire on semi-arid vegetation. She is investigating how annual rainfall and soil texture influence the recovery of plant communities after fire. 


Madison Cassie


Madison completed her honours in Wildlife Conservation at Deakin University in 2020 studying frogs. She now works closely with community organisations as a Coastcare Victoria Facilitator at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Ange Pestell.jpg

Ange Pestell (she/her)

Deakin University

Ange is a PhD candidate studying the interactions of fire and wildlife in a semi-arid landscape. She is investigating how fire history affects wildlife community composition using camera traps. This research will help fire managers plan for wildlife responses to fire in planned burn and bushfire scenarios.


Ryan Fisher

Jacobs Engineering

Ryan Fisher currently works at Jacobs as an Ecologist focused on native flora.He previously attended the University of Melbourne as a Masters of Environment student and completed his research on drought adaptation within eucalyptus species, of which he is now completing further research in order to publish this in the coming year. During his time at the University of Melbourne, he worked as a Biodiversity Assistant, to map all vegetation across their campuses, his favourite campus was Burnley, where he also completes his research.

Ryan is excited to participate in the organisation of this upcoming conference!


Ella Loeffler (she/her)


Ella completed her honours in Wildlife Conservation at Deakin University in 2018. She is now a Biodiversity Project Officer at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.


Ielyzaveta Ivanova

Monash University

Liza is a PhD candidate studying the relative contribution that private protected areas make to Australia’s reserve system, in terms of the biodiversity values protected.


Safieh Soleimannejad

University of Melbourne

Safi is a PhD candidate studying effects of novel endosymbionts on aphid- parasitoid interactions for more efficient pest control and implementation of improvements in sustainable agriculture.


Ashlea Ostwald

Monash University

Ashlea is a PhD student working on understanding governance across the land-sea interface, such as coastal ecosystems, under the supervision of Dr Carly Cook and Dr Benjamin Thompson from Monash University, and Dr Chris Cvitanovic of The Australian National University. Her research is focused on marine and terrestrial protected areas with a shared border, global trends in governance approaches for these sites, and the perspectives of various stakeholders on how these governance approaches function in practice.


Aviya Naccarella

Deakin University

Aviya is a PhD candidate researching interactions between fungus-feeding mammals, fungi and plants. She is examining what role fungus-feeding mammals play in maintaining ecosystem processes and functions, and how we can apply this knowledge to conservation projects.


Xenia Münger (she/her)

Monash University

Xenia is a PhD student studying the effectiveness of models in predicting the genetic outcome of endangered species translocations. Her research involves building individual-based models and evaluating previous conservation translocations. This research will help practitioners to implement evidence-based metapopulation management.


Stephanie Stylli (she/her)

University of Melbourne

Steph is studying a Master of Science (BioSciences) at the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with the Conservation Ecology Centre. She is exploring the impacts of prescribed fire on Long-nosed Potoroo populations in the Otways, looking at changes in population density and survival over time.


Kristova Indrataruna

University of Melbourne

Kristova is a Master of BioSciences student in the University of Melbourne. In his project, he is trying
to identify cyanobacteria inside the coral holobiont and their function. The goal of this project is to
better understand coral holobiont in effort to enhance coral resilient towards climate change.


Cristina Hernandez Santin

RMIT University

Cristina is a PhD student investigating strategies to translate ecological knowledge to support ‘place’ for both humans and non-humans to coexist. Specifically, she aspires to merge the idea of participatory design with ecology by incorporating the voice and needs of the non-humans and using this knowledge to increase the resilience of our urban areas. Cristina has a background in ecology from the University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico and a Master of Environment (Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions) from the University of Melbourne. Across the years since she first completed her bachelor’s degree, she has avidly worked to bring together ecology and design as well as creating partnerships between academy and industry.


Katherine Berthon (she/her)

RMIT University

Katie is a PhD candidate using a variety of methods to understand and predict the influence of green space design on plant-insect relationships, to better inform how green spaces can be designed to support biodiversity in cities.

bottom of page