About

Biography

My introduction to ecology and conservation came as a study abroad experience in Queensland's rainforests, after which I found that plans for medical school paled in comparison to an environmentally-oriented career. I earned a Masters in Public Health degree in Environmental Health at the University of California-Berkeley and consulted for a non-profit environmental organization for three years.  I interned at a field study school in Kenya for a year, then traveled around the world before settling down to earn my Ph.D. at Cornell University. While there, I became interested in biological invasions as a conservation issue, particularly invasions by easily overlooked creatures. Upon completing my Ph.D., I went to Mauritius on an NSF fellowship to research ant invasions in a restoration context. An ARC-Discovery grant on biological invasions and conservation in an urban context brought me to Western Australia in 2005.

I started at JCU in 2013, first as a DECRA recipient researching ecological effects of bee disease. I have since contributed to various projects that apply ecological theory to addressing real-world challenges.

Current Research Projects (see also Current Funding tab)

  • Scientific support and research for the Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program run by the Wet Tropics Management Authority (monitoring effects on non-target species, permit compliance, improving and testing detection methods, general scientific advice)
  • Developing environmental DNA (eDNA) for the detection of invasive ants
  • Environmental Impact Categorization for Alien Taxa
  • Environmental stressors on native bees
  • Effects of drought on herbivory

Post-graduate and Honours inquiries

I currently supervise 3 PhD candidates, a Masters student, and an Honours student. See the Supervision tab for further details.

If you are interested in applying to be part of my lab as an MPhil or PhD student, please visit the Graduate Research School website to familiarize yourself with entry requirements and applications and scholarship deadlines. Please email me with a statement of your research interests, your CV, and your motivation for pursuing a degree.

If you are interested in studying for an Honours, Masters, or PhD degree with me, I specialize in the following areas:

  • effects of biological invasions, particularly insects
  • plant-insect interactions, especially as they affect conservation or agriculture
  • ant ecology
  • ecological effects of bee stressors

 Most recent media coverage/interviews 

Teaching
  • BZ3235: Biological Invasions (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ3745: Tropical Entomology (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ5235: Biological Invasions (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ5745: Tropical Entomology (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ5930: Conservation in a Changing World: Issues and Solutions (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC3008: Professional Placement (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
Interests
Research
  • I am interested in how human-induced environmental changes affect interactions among species, particularly those between plants and insects. These relationships fascinate me because they drive many of the ecological processes in the world around us, and yet are often overlooked. Much of my research has investigated invasive social insects and how their interactions differ from native species, in particular, how they enter into new, or disrupt existing, mutualistic interactions with other insects or plants. Answering these questions not only advances our understanding of biological invasions and potential to mitigate their effects, but adds to our knowledge of community and trophic ecology and the ecology and evolution of mutualisms. I primarily use field-based experimental approaches to answer questions that are relevant to conservation and restoration.
Experience
  • 2023 to present - Deputy Director, ARC Plant Biosecurity Training Centre, James Cook University (Cairns, Queensland)
  • 2021 to present - Director of Work Integrated Learning, James Cook University, College of Science and Engineering (Cairns, Queensland)
  • 2019 to present - Associate Professor, James Cook University (Cairns, Queensland)
  • 2016 to 2018 - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University (Cairns, Queensland)
  • 2013 to 2016 - Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA), James Cook University (Cairns, Queensland)
  • 2009 to 2013 - Assistant Professor, University of Western Australia (Perth)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 2022 - Ian Mackerras Medal: First female recipient of the Australian Entomological Society’s award for excellence in to a mid-career entomologist who has demonstrated excellence in entomology over many years.
  • 2018 - TropEco Award, Research Category Highly Commended for outstanding research activities that contribute to a more sustainable society and environment.
  • 2018 - Peer Review Award on Publons for being in the top 1% of reviewers who performed verified pre-publications reviews in the Ecology/Environment field.
  • 2015 - Invasive Species Council, Froggatt Award, Communication category: For exceptional efforts in raising awareness about the threat of yellow crazy ant and mobilising action to help eradicate the ant from the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area
Fellowships
  • 2013 to 2016 - ARC DECRA Fellowship
Memberships
  • 2021 - IUCN Species Survival Commission Ant Specialist Group founding steering committee member
Other
  • 2021 - Journal of Applied Ecology Associate Editor
  • 2018 - Queensland representative to the Australian Entomological Society Education Committee
  • 2018 - member of the National Exotic Invasive Ant Scientific Advisory Group
  • 2021 to 2023 - Biosecurity Commons Expert Panel https://www.biosecuritycommons.org.au/who-we-are/
  • 2016 to 2021 - Austral Entomology Subject Editor
  • 2013 to 2018 - Restoration Ecology Coordinating Editor
Publications

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
More

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 52+ research outputs authored by Prof Lori Lach from 2000 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Entomological Society of Queensland - Small grants scheme

Investigating the pitfalls of bee hotels

Indicative Funding
$2,000 over 4 years
Summary
Concern for bees among the public has led to the augmentation of habitat for bees including the addition of bee hotels. Bee hotels are often claimed to increase bee diversity and abundance. However, they artificially aggregate nesting sites above densities naturally available for bees, which could lead to increased prevalence of pathogens, viruses and parasitism, and higher predation rates. Properly controlled experiments to investigate these threats are limited, and none have been conducted in the tropics. This project investigates whether the density of nesting spaces in bee hotels affects predation rates and pathogen and parasite prevalence in cavity nesting bees.
Investigators
Holly Farnan, Lori Lach and Peter Yeeles (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Bee hotel; pathogen; native bee; agriculture; threats; Trap nest

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Contract Research

Genomic tools for monitoring yellow crazy ants.

Indicative Funding
$16,295 over 2 years
Summary
This project will establish protocols and baseline data for ddRAD-seq based sequencing of yellow crazy ants. In this phase of the project, we will sequence 200 individuals from historical infestations and develop tools to assess genetic relatedness among infestations. Baseline data established in this project will be used to help trace the origin of future infestations as well as improve our understanding of genetic diversity and gene flow in yellow crazy ants in Queensland.
Investigators
Matt Field, Megan Higgie, Ira Cooke and Lori Lach (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Yellow Crazy Ants; Invasive Species Monitoring; Anoplolepis gracilipes; Genomics; Genetic relatedness; biosecurity

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Plant-animal interactions of passion flowers in the Australian Wet Tropics.

Indicative Funding
$4,984 over 3 years
Summary
My project will investigate the plant-animal interactions of native and invasive passion flowers in the Wet Tropics. Specifically, I aim to determine and compare the pollinators, herbivores and ant defenders of native and invasive Passiflora species. My research will have important implications for the conservation of native species, and for the control of invasive weeds that threaten native ecosystems. It may reveal native species at risk due to the spread of invasive weeds and/or a newly introduced butterfly species. The project will also provide new knowledge to inform the current biological control program for the weed, stinking passionflower.
Investigators
Christine Goosem, Lori Lach and Daniel Montesinos Torres (College of Science & Engineering and Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Keywords
Pollination; Ant-plant interactions; Plant defence; Passiflora; Invasive species; Congeneric species

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Advancing Pest Animal and Weed Control Solutions Competitive Grant Round

Applying environmental DNA (eDNA) methods for Yellow crazy ant detection, a sensitive and less labour-intensive approach to invasive ant detection.

Indicative Funding
$629,505 over 4 years
Summary
Invasive invertebrates in Australia are estimated to impact agricultural production losses by $4.7 billion annually and cost up to $8 billion annually considering all impacts and expenses. More specifically, invasive ants are a significant threat to agricultural production, biodiversity, tourism, personal property, and local business and industry. Current methods for invasive ant detection (i.e. baited traps or cards, pitfall traps, and detection dogs) rely on trapping, smelling, or sighting active individuals and are therefore labour-intensive, costly, and highly reliant on weather conditions. The proposed project will apply environmental DNA methods for yellow crazy ant (YCA) detection. YCA has been listed as a high priority species under the National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan 2018-2028, and will be used as a case study. The proposed methodology could be applied to the existing infestations and taken up by farmers, as well as being applied to other terrestrial pests.
Investigators
Cecilia Villacorta Rath and Lori Lach (TropWater and College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Early detection; yellow crazy ant; DNA; Invasive Species; Monitoring

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Contract Research

Research to inform yellow crazy ant management in the Wet Tropics

Indicative Funding
$2,207,607 over 5 years
Summary
Continuation and consolidation of four years of scientific activities to support yellow crazy ant eradication in the Wet Tropics (data analysis, monitoring non-target effects of baiting, probability of detection).
Investigators
Lori Lach, Sourav Das, Peter Yeeles and Angela Strain (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Yellow Crazy Ants (Formicidae); Detection; Baiting; Population Dynamics; Wet Tropics World Heritage Area; Non-target effects

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Near-infrared spectroscopy to improve detection of the invasive yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes.

Indicative Funding
$4,524 over 1 year
Summary
This project aims to develop a proof-of-concept device capable of distinguishing the invasive yellow crazy ant from native ants in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area using a miniaturised near infrared (NIR) spectroscopic sensor. I will conduct an initial study into the variability of the yellow crazy ant NIR spectra then build a classification model to distinguish yellow crazy ants from common native ants using NIR spectra. These studies will be used to inform the prototype development. Prototype development will consist of the design and manufacture of a printed circuit board containing the NIR sensor and its support electronics. This prototype will be then validated using the same classification experiment of YCA against native ants.
Investigators
Russell Withers, Bronson Philippa, Lori Lach and Eric Wang (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Yellow crazy ant; Anoplolepis gracilipes; Formicidae; Near-infrared spectroscopy; Passive identification

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Investigating the effects of insecticide exposure, pathogens, and heat stress on bee diversity, abundance, and health

Indicative Funding
$4,940 over 1 year
Summary
Bees are threatened by multiple stressors including insecticide exposure, disease, loss of habitat, and climate change. Studies investigating stressors facing Australian bees are becoming more common, but many knowledge gaps still exist and while some studies document the effects of stressors in isolation, they stop short of investigating the effects of stressors in combination. My project will investigate how the stressors of insecticide exposure, pathogens and heat stress affect native bee diversity, abundance, and health, as well as investigate whether bee hotels cause increased pathogen and parasitism prevalence, and predation rates in native bees.
Investigators
Holly Farnan, Lori Lach and Peter Yeeles (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
insecticide; pathogen; native bee; agriculture; threats; diversity

QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries - Tenders

Baseline invasive ant fauna and impact survey in the Torres Strait

Indicative Funding
$113,370 over 1 year
Summary
The project aims to collect a representative baseline sample of ant fauna on all inhabited Torres Strait islands and five communities in the northern peninsula area of Cape York. The focus is on invasive and non-native ant fauna.
Investigators
Peter Yeeles, Lori Lach and Chris Burwell (College of Science & Engineering and Queensland Museum)
Keywords
invasive ants; native ants; survey; Torres Strait Islands; biosecurity

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Advancing Pest Animal and Weed Control Solutions Competitive Grant Round

Invasion Alert?A Machine Learning-based Platform for Invasive Ant Detection and Recognition

Indicative Funding
$61,368 over 2 years (administered by Murdoch University)
Summary
For control/eradication measures to be effective, early detection of invasive ants is essential. Current conventional methods require taxonomic expertise and are time and labour intensive. This project will develop a vision-based platform that uses machine learning for the real-time detection and identification of established invasive ants in Australia. This will provide an automated, cost-effective monitoring tool that can speed up the detection and identification process, thus enable efficient and timely response to the potential spread of these species.
Investigators
Lori Lach, Melissa Thomas, Hamid Laga, Chris Burwell and Ben Hoffman (College of Science & Engineering, Murdoch University, Queensland Museum and Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation)
Keywords
Machine Learning; Pest Control; Detection; Invasive Ants; Artificial Intelligence; Biosecurity

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

The role of drought-stress and insect attack on rainforest plant health

Indicative Funding
$395,000 over 3 years
Summary
This project aims to examine the vulnerability of tropical plants to drought and insect attack in a large-scale field experiment. We will pioneer a new research approach that focuses on the causes and stages of decline in plant health prior to death, in order to identify the characteristics of plant species that make them more susceptible to drought and insect attack. Expected outcomes of this project include an improved capacity to predict the function and composition of future forests. This project will provide significant benefits to communities concerned with the direct and indirect effects of droughts in protected areas, forestry reserves and agriculture.
Investigators
Susan Laurance, Lori Lach and Nigel Stork (College of Science & Engineering and Griffith University)
Keywords
Drought-stressed plants; plant-insect interactions; Rainforest; inswect attack; bottom-up & top-down processes; Daintree

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Rainforest Protection Grant

Investigating combined stressors in bees: insecticides and thermal stress

Indicative Funding
$1,224 over 1 year
Summary
Insecticide use poses a risk to non-target insects including bees. The effects of these compounds is all the more worrying given that honey bees prefer nectar containing traces of the naturally derived insecticide class ? the neonicotinoids. This project will expand upon previous bodies of work to investigate the preference of stingless bee species Tetragonula hockingsi when provided with the choice between an insecticide laced food source and a sucrose solution. This project will also explore the combined effects of insecticide exposure and increasing temperature on bees.
Investigators
Holly Farnan, Lori Lach and Peter Yeeles (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Climate Change; insecticide; combined stressor; tetragonula hockingsi (Meliponini); Critical Thermal Maximum; fipronil

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Do functional traits predict composition of ant communities attracted to different bait types in a Wet Tropics rainforest?

Indicative Funding
$1,814 over 1 year (administered by Skyrail Rainforest Foundation)
Summary
Native ants are a diverse and crucial part of rainforest ecosystems. My project aims to determine which functional traits of ants may predict the composition of any communities attracted to various bait types used in invasive ant management. The project includes field and lab components and the SRF grant will assist in paying for vehicle hire costs and other associated project costs. The results of the project will assist land managers to choose invasive ant control methods that minimize impacts of bait application on native ant communities. The results have application in the Wet Tropics and in tropical rainforests elsewhere.
Investigators
Megan Kramer and Lori Lach (College of Science & Engineering)
Keywords
Community Ecology; Ants (Formicidae); Invasive Species; Wet Tropics; Functional Traits; Non-target impacts
Supervision

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

Current
  • Plant-animal interactions of invasive and native tropical Senna species. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy as a tool for the study and management of the invasive yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Investigating the effects of insecticide exposure, disease and heat stress on bee diversity, abundance and health (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Virus spillover and impacts of honey bee viruses on Australian stingless bee (tetragonula spp) (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Rearing methodology and Pesticide Toxicity study of the Mite Predator ladybird, Stethorus fenestralis (Coleoptera, Coccinellidae) (Masters , Primary Advisor)
Completed
Data

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit Research Data Australia.

Collaboration

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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Email
Phone
Location
  • E1.102F, Health & Sciences (Cairns campus)
Advisory Accreditation
Primary Advanced Advisor
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