Sonya Broughton joined the then Western Australian Department of Agriculture in 1989 as a technical officer working on the Queensland fruit fly eradication effort, in particular the mass rearing and sterilising of flies for use in the Sterile Insect Technique. Sonya then competed her PhD at the University of Queensland researching insects used for lantana biocontrol, and subsequently worked as the Eradication Entomologist on the papaya fruit fly outbreak in far north Queensland. After returning to WA and the Department of Agriculture and Food as it was by then, Sonya spent the next 16 years conducting research on Mediterranean fruit fly and other horticultural pests including thrips, aphids and mites. She led projects to screen and trial agrichemicals for use in bait and cover sprays, trap trials, evaluation of mass trapping as a control technique, and implementation of area wide management. She has also been involved in implementing integrated pest control programs for several horticultural crops in Western Australia. During the last six years, Sonya has played key roles in several pest and disease incident responses in Western Australia including Queensland fruit fly in the Perth metropolitan area, Mediterranean fruit fly in the Ord River Irrigation Area, citrus canker, tomato potato psyllid, browsing ant, and cucumber green mottle mosaic virus. She has also contributed to nationally significant plant pest incident responses in other states and territories.
This extensive experience with plant pests and diseases culminated in 2019 with Sonya rising to the role of Chief Plant Biosecurity Officer for Western Australia, in the freshly renamed Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. In this role, Sonya is responsible for the biosecurity and protection of plants and plant industries in across Western Australia. The Plant Biosecurity team that she leads manage the risks posed by plant pests and diseases, minimising their impact and leading emergency responses in the event of pest or disease outbreaks. Sonya represents WA at national biosecurity forums, advising government and industry on strategy, policy, and practical reforms in plant health. She is a member of several national committees including Australia’s Plant Health Committee – the peak government plant biosecurity policy and decision-making forum in Australia, chair of the Australian Fruit Fly Technical Advisory Committee, and a member of Australia’s National Fruit Fly Council. Her experience, and current role as Chief Plant Biosecurity Officer for WA, have given her a relatively unique overview of the long-term trends of invasive insects across Australia.
Dr William (Bill) Humphreys, Adjunct Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia; Associate, Western Australian Museum.
Bill is an Associate of the Western Australian Museum and an Adjunct Professor at The University of Western Australia. Immediately after graduating from University of Wales he worked on the Royal Society Expedition to Aldabra Atoll (now part of the Seychelles) and subsequently on the Kenyan fringing reef focussing on echinoderms. He completed his PhD at the Australian National University on the ecology and physiology of wolf spiders (Lycosidae) and subsequently worked on possum and small mammal ecology in Victoria and northern New South Wales based at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He continued wolf spider work from Bath University, UK, conducting field work in Greece and Croatia (then Yugoslavia). He moved to the Western Australian Museum in 1988 where he was involved in biological survey work of the Eastern Goldfields and mesomammals of the Mitchell Plateau (Ngauwudu), Kimberley. Eventually, he was lured into caves by the presence, in the unlikely desert setting, of an arachnid (Schizomida) and expanded the taxonomic coverage by sampling the water table. He eventually specialised in subterranean biology, initially in the caves of Cape Range and Barrow Island and then the Kimberley before starting to examine the groundwater fauna accessible only down boreholes. This work spread throughout the Yilgarn and Pilbara facilitated by, even enabled from, the presence of mineral exploration boreholes in a landscape otherwise lacking caves. The Yilgarn proved particularly interesting owing to the presence of hundreds of isolated groundwater calcrete aquifers found within the extensive palaeodrainage system. Working with colleagues from the University of Adelaide, he has described three sympatric genera of amphipods and more than 100 species of flightless, eyeless subterranean diving beetles (Dytiscidae), by far the most diverse such fauna globally and these have become the focus of diverse physiological, behavioural, ecological and evolutionary studies by numerous authors.
The diversity and notable biogeographical relations of these faunas led to interaction with the EPA and eventually to subterranean fauna becoming an integral part of any environmental Impact assessments in Western Australia. As a result, in this highly mineraliferous State, he has revealed a remarkable diversity of subterranean fauna in this now arid region, largely of species from lineages derived from humid temperate and tropical forests.
He has published about 235 papers, 5 edited books and 37 book chapters.
Dr Cathy Byrne
Dr Cathy Byrne is the senior Curator of Zoology at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, where she manages a small team of curators and technicians who manage the large collection of Tasmanian animal specimens (over 500,000 specimens) and conduct zoological research. Zoology also participates in many educational public programs promoting Tasmania’s unique biodiversity. Cathy is a lepidopterist by trade, and describing and classifying new species of native moths constitutes most of her research at the museum. The national Bush Blitz project has been a pivotal part of the collection of Lepidoptera species for Dr Byrne’s curation of the Tasmanian collection, understanding the Tasmanian fauna and taxonomic research.
Cathy has worked on Australian Lepidoptera for almost twenty years and is the only lepidopterist in a paid position in Australia. There is never any shortage of work as there are approximately 21,000 species of moths in Australia with around half of this number undescribed. Her early work on the family Geometridae revolutionised the higher classification of the family and revised the taxonomy of a large proportion of the Australian geometrid fauna. Currently, she is describing new species from a genus of beautiful geometrid moths called satin moths from the genus Thalaina and has published many papers on Lepdioptera taxonomy and ecology during her career. She also recently produced an interactive key for the identification of the caterpillars of Australian moths and butterflies. Currently Cathy is the chair of the Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections and represents this peak body on many national fora relevant to the support of the nationally distributed faunal collections, taxonomic research and publishing zoological data online.