James Vandersteen

James Vandersteen

PhD Student
Centre for Ecosystem Science & Evolution and Ecology Research Centre
Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences

James is a PhD candidate investigating the role of dingoes as apex predators in the Australian Alps. His research is an investigation into the effects that lethal dingo control has on ecosystem structure and functioning in alpine environments. His findings will directly inform best practice evidence-based dingo management in the ACT. James has previously studied and worked on a range of ecological and conservation-based research including projects on scavenging dynamics in the Australian Alps, light pollution impacts on sea turtles, and planning recovery of a critically endangered species.

Master of Philosophy (Ecology)
The University of Sydney (2019 – 2022)

The University of Queensland (2018)

Bachelor of Environmental Science
Monash University (2014 – 2017)

Project: The role of dingoes as apex predators in the Australian Alps

Supervised by: Mike Letnic & Neil Jordan

Project Description: How to manage Australia’s top terrestrial predator, the dingo, is a controversial and complex issue.
Dingoes beneficially regulate and promote biodiversity within ecosystems but are a pest because they kill livestock. Consequently, dingo extermination programs are conducted throughout Australia. There is, however, concern that dingo eradication may trigger detrimental ecosystem wide trophic cascades. Understanding the flow-on effects of this is crucial to understanding how human intervention impacts biodiversity.

His research seeks to understand how dingoes perform the role of apex predator, how lethal dingo control affects their capacity to do so, and what flow-on effects this has on the structure and function of Australian alpine ecosystems. Field work will be undertaken in the ACT's Namadgi National Park where I will monitor and compare dingo population metrics at sites where dingoes are lethally controlled with those where they are not. This will subsequently allow me to determine the dingo’s ability, as determined by lethal control, to supress invasive mesopredators, regulate large native herbivores, limit grazing pressure, and facilitate small mammal populations.

This research will be undertaken in collaboration with the ACT Government’s Parks and Conservation Team. therefore, findings will directly inform best practice evidence-based dingo management, facilitating tangible on-the-ground conservation actions. Such outcomes will be especially important as the Australian Alps is one of the smallest and most unique bioregions in Australia, where the ecosystem impacts of lethal dingo control are rarely considered in the face of agricultural, social, and political benefit.

Contact Details


0423 701 622

• Vandersteen J, Fust C, Crowther MS, Smith M, Viola B, Barton P, Newsome TM (2023). Carcass use
by mesoscavengers drives seasonal shifts in Australian alpine scavenging dynamics. Wildlife
Research https://doi.org/10.1071/WR22100

• Cairncross RJ, Barton PS, Bonat S, Crowther MS, Dickman CR, Vandersteen J, Newsome TM
(2022). The predatory impacts of invasive European wasps on flies are facilitated by carcasses
with open wounds. Food Webs https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fooweb.2022.e00227

• Vandersteen J, Kark S, Sorrell K, Levin N (2020). Quantifying the impact of light pollution on sea
turtle nesting using ground-based imagery. Remote Sensing https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12111785

• Canessa S, Taylor G, Clarke RH, Ingwersen D, Vandersteen J, Ewen JG (2020). Risk aversion and
uncertainty create a conundrum for planning recovery of a critically endangered species.
Conservation Science and Practice https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.138