Simon Christopher Cropper - Profile

SUMMARY

Simon Christopher Cropper Simon Cropper is an experienced ecologist working primarily in south-eastern Australia with a strong background in conservation, photography and the use, development, maintenance and/or analysis of ecological data stored in relational databases or geospatial data libraries. Simon has a strong interest in new software and hardware technologies related to data capture, data mining, analysis and reporting; and making this available to the broadest possible audience.

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CURRENT WORK

Freelance Scientist

February 2014 – ongoing

I invite you to review the following overview of my career, publications and interests. If you are interested in employing me or having me assist in an already established project, please feel to contact me. I am always interested in new challenges.

PREVIOUS WORK

Director / Principal Consultant for Botanicus Australia Pty Ltd

August 1994 – January 2014 (20 years)
Botanicus Australia Logo

Botanicus Australia Pty Ltd is a Natural Resource Consultancy with an emphasis on using technology to supply high quality scientific advice to land managers, land developers, local government agencies, state/territory governments and federal government.

Simon has personally carried out hundreds of contracts for a wide variety of clients in the area of scientific services (flora, fauna, ecology), programming (Visual Foxpro, Excel, dBase, Clipper, Visual Basic) and systems development (Systems Analyst). Work has been as a contractor or employee depending on the clients needs.

He has managed large teams of scientists -- particularly on projects like the flora and fauna work associated with the Eastern Freeway Extension near Ringwood. Strong customer relationships is the hallmark of the company with most clients returning over many years.

Select Public Projects

Flora & Fauna Survey of the Eastern Freeway Extension, Ringwood for VicRoads (1996 to 2001)

Flora and fauna assessment of the proposed route of the Eastern Freeway Extension between Springvale Road and Ringwood. Project spanned many years and the main report included 15 supplements and 25 separate reports all managed by Botanicus Australia Pty Ltd.

Scientific Team: Simon Christopher Cropper, Greg Horrocks, Tarmo Raadik, Paul A. Horne, E. G. McNabb, Peter Robinson, Brian Walters, Dr. Alan Yen, Dr. B.D. van Praagh, Simon Hinkley, Dr. Ian Thompson, Timothy Wills, Kirsten Long, Matt West and Sarah Way.

Regional Forest Agreements: Vascular Species Assessments (1997 to 2000)

Botanicus Australia Pty Ltd was contracted to conduct four separate Regional Forest Agreements: Vascular Species Assessments over several years. Each RFA was a significant data mining exercise, requiring biological, ecological, demographic and distributional data for all rare or threatened plant species (ROTPS) in the Central Highlands (67 ROTPS), North East Victoria (166 ROTPS), Gippsland (348 ROTPS) and West Victoria (519 ROTPS) Comprehensive Regional Assessment Regions (Cropper 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000) to be merged, analysed and interpreted.

Cropper, S.C., 1997. Section 5.2 - Life history and population parameters for priority flora species. In Central Highlands Comprehensive Regional Assessment Region - Biodiversity Assessment. East Melbourne: Joint Commonwealth and Victorian Regional Forest Agreement Steering Committee, pp. 42–59.

Cropper, S.C., 1998. Chapter 4. Vascular Flora Species Assessment. In North East Comprehensive Regional Assessment Region - Biodiversity Assessment. East Melbourne: Joint Commonwealth and Victorian Regional Forest Agreement Steering Committee, pp. 44–58.

Cropper, S.C., 1999. Chapter 4. Vascular Flora Assessment. In Gippsland Comprehensive Regional Assessment Region - Biodiversity Assessment. East Melbourne: Joint Commonwealth and Victorian Regional Forest Agreement Steering Committee, pp. 36–56.

Cropper, S.C., 2000. Chapter 4. Vascular Flora Assessment. In West Victoria Comprehensive Regional Assessment Region - Biodiversity Assessment. East Melbourne: Joint Commonwealth and Victorian Regional Forest Agreement Steering Committee, pp. 32–46.

Software

Taxon Information Storage System Taxon Information Storage System (2005 to 2013)

A package to store, import, convert, export and analyse taxonomic, ecological and distributional data on flora and fauna. The central module is a data entry system for the collection and analysis of flora and fauna data for use on a J3400 tablet.
Taxon Priority Management Targeted Priority Management Module (2001 to 2009)

A module forming part of the Taxon Information Storage System used to automatically create detailed management plans from quadrat data collected from vegetation patches by using known biological information on the species present in conjunction with the relative position of similar quality patches, weeds and pests. The output is a detailed list of site-specific actions for each season. Background on the methodology employed is discussed in Issue 6 of EcoRamblings.

The geospatial relationships between assets and threats were analysed using GIS technology (ArcView or gvSIG) and the 'expert system' used to define the appropriate management action created in Visual FoxPro using current biological knowledge and industry best-practice management techniques.
ConStat98 ConStat98 (1998)

An expert system for establishing the IUCN and RARE conservation status of plants using a set of generic questions and its application to data collected from various Comprehensive Regional Assessment Regions.

Scientific Officer at the National Parks Service, Victoria

1987 – 1993 (6 years)

Carried out field surveys in National Parks and provide advice to regional staff on appropriate management of natural resources in those parks.

Select Public Projects

Victorian Rare or Threatened Plant Database Victorian Rare or Threatened Plant Database for the National Parks Service

This program stores taxonomic, biological, population, monitoring and management data on all the rare or threatened plants in Victoria. Simon developed the system, published a manual so that the general public could contribute data (Cropper 1989), co-ordinated data entry and validation, and established the program in all the regional offices of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This system was programmed in Dbase IV ver. 1.5 and distributed with the RUNTIME module. This program operated in the DOS and the OS/2 environment.
Husky Hunter 16 Husky Hunter 16 System Data Entry System for the National Parks Service

A program developed for use on a portable hand held computer (Husky Hunter 16) that gave botanists access to the information stored on the National Parks Flora Database while in the field. This program was written in Basic 7.0 and data stored in an ISAM database in order to minimize its requirements for disk space. Conversion routines allowed information to be exchanged between the main database and the mobile device.

Selected Publications

Management of endangered plants Cropper, S.C., 1993. Management of endangered plants, East Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing.

Guide for rangers, planners, scientific officers, botanists and naturalists wanting to aid the survival of Australia's endangered flora. Provides information on the monitoring and management of rare and endangered species. Discusses reasons why plants become threatened, and conservation strategies. Includes many case studies, a list of useful contacts, a bibliography and an index. The author is a botanical consultant who has published widely on the management of threatened taxa.
The Resource Evaluation and Monitoring System Cropper, S.C., 1991. The Resource Evaluation and Monitoring System - A system for monitoring natural and cultural assets, Melbourne: Department of Conservation and Environment.

A guide to the collection and storage of ecological and cultural data and its use in on-going monitoring of these assets.
A census of Victorian bryophytes Cropper, S.C., Tonkinson, D.A. & Scott, G.A.M., 1991. A census of Victorian bryophytes, East Melbourne: The Department of Conservation and Environment.

A comprehensive list of all the published scientific names used for bryophytes in Victoria as of 1991. The base data was collated in a relational database and a program created to extract and format the data automatically for use by the printer (company not device).
Victorian Rare or Threatened Plant Database Cropper, S.C., 1989. Victorian Rare or Threatened Plant Database - Instructions for data collection, Melbourne: Research Section Parks Branch, National Parks and Wildlife Division, Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands.

Detailed guide to the collection of data suitable for inclusion in the Victorian Rare or Threatened Plant Database developed by Simon Cropper and maintained by the National Parks Service.

Research Assistant at the University of Melbourne

1985 – 1987 (3 years)

Conduct research into the terrestrial orchid genus Thelymitra, with particular emphasis on the Metallic Sun-orchid, T. epipactoides, an endangered species of southwest Victoria (supported by World Wildlife Fund Australia, Project 73).

Publications

Native bee in the genus Nomia with pollinia Cropper, S.C. & Calder, D.M., 1990. The floral biology of Thelymitra epipactoides (Orchidaceae), and the implications of pollination by deceit on the survival of this rare orchid. Plant Systematics and Evolution, 170, pp.11–27.

Thelymitra epipactoides has a highly variable visual display achieved through polychromatic flowers and variable inflorescence size, bearing between 7 and 31 flowers, which attract foraging polylectic bees. Only bees of the genus Nomia were observed carrying pollinia and successfully pollinating the orchid. The genus Nomia contains polylectic, pollen gathering species that store pollen in both the crop and scopa on the hind legs. The absence of a reward for the bees indicates the orchid is relying on deception to attract visitors. The relationship of deception to mimicry is discussed. Once on the flower, tactile, visual and possibly olfactory stimuli direct bees to the false anther formed by the voluminous column wings, where morphological adaptations of the flower ensure that the pollinarium is deposited on the gaster of the bee to effect pollination. — The lack of seed set observed on the Victorian coast appears to be due to the absence of pollinators from the heath and grassland communities in which the orchid grows. This may well be a consequence of the reduced number of plants flowering in the community (a result of the elimination of fire at these sites), thus not maintaining a floral community attractive to potential pollinator.
Metallic Sun-orchid, Thelymitra epipactoides Calder, D.M., Cropper, S.C. & Tonkinson, D., 1989. The ecology of Thelymitra epipactoides F. Muell. (Orchidaceae) in Victoria, Australia, and the implications for management of the species. Australian Journal of Botany, 37, pp.19–32.

The habitats of existing populations of Thelymitra epipactoides in Victoria, Australia, are described according to the physical and biotic environments. The orchid is confined to a range of heathland communities usually near the coast. The species seems to prefer the more open, previously disturbed sites within the community. Following a discussion of the particular habitat requirements of T. epipactoides, some guidelines for the conservation management of the species are outlined.
Coastal habitat for Thelymitra epipactoides Cropper, S.C., Calder, D.M. & Tonkinson, D., 1989. Thelymitra epipactoides F. Muell. (Orchidaceae): The morphology, biology and conservation of an endangered species. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 101, pp.89–101.

Thelymitra epipactoides F. Muell. (Metallic Sun-orchid) was once widespread in coastal regions of south-eastern Australia but extensive clearing of habitat and collection by orchid enthusiasts has resulted in a significant reduction in its distribution. At present seven small populations (2-250 adult plants) survive on public land. Before adequate management procedures can be developed a better understanding of the species and its biology is required.

Variation in floral and vegetative characters and the phenology of T. epipactoides are described. The population structure and major threats at three Victorian sites are considered; heavy grazing by chrysomelid beetle larvae, tortricid moth larvae and rabbits is recognised as a major threat to these populations. Evidence suggests that the lack of occasional summer-autumn fires is also contributing to the decline of the species. Fire apparently reduces competition with dominant shrubs and grasses, and increases seedling recruitment through the promotion of flowering, leading to increased seed set. Fires also create open sites suitable for seedling establishment. The lack of pollination and seed set at coastal sites in recent years is a long term threat to these populations.

CAPACITY STATEMENT

Conservation

Conservation of our planet, the habitats that it contains and the species that are dependent on these habitats has been the primary focus of Simon throughout his career. He has been involved in conducting primary scientific research through to the preparation of detailed management plans for species, ecosystems and regions. If you need help in conserving the environment and would like some scientific input into your project, contact Simon to discuss how he can help you acheive your goals.
Nature Photography

Need an image for the front cover of your report, for the banner of your website or to illustrate a point? Visit the Botanicus Australia Photo Library and see what is available or contract Simon Cropper to capture the images you need. What is that old adage? "a picture is worth a thousand words" Well even if you don't use a picture to replace text, a report with pictures looks more professional and is easier to read than a report consisting purely of text and tables.

More on Nature Photography
Geographical Information Systems

One of the first questions in biology is "what is it?"; the second "where is it?" GIS technology is all about using maps to answer the second question. Simon Cropper has been actively involved in use of Geographical Information Systems in Victoria since they first started to be used in the early 1990s. He has predominantly used ArcView over this time, although in recent years has been using a range of free and open source software (FOSS) alternatives like gvSIG, QGIS, OpenJump and SAGA. Simon has published a couple of papers on the suitability of using these FOSS Desktop GIS to view, edit, create, analyze and map geospatial data.

Sample Maps
Environmental Data Management

Simon Cropper has developed a wide range of relational databases and programmed the primary Graphical User Interface used to add, search, manage, analysis and report on data stored in these systems. Detailed training manuals have also been written for most of the packages.

Some of the environmental databases developed include...
Mobile technology to access ecological databases and geospatial data in the field

Having the ability to query and add data to environmental and geospatial data in the field greatly improves the ability of workers to do their work. Simon Cropper has developed two mobile systems for collection of environmental data -- National Parks Flora Database (NPFLORA) and the Taxon Information Storage System.

National Parks Flora Database (NPFLORA) was a program to store distributional data on plants occurring in Victorian National Parks. The central repository was a database containing information on all Victorian reserves managed under the Victorian National Parks Act. When visiting a reserve a worker was able to 'check out' data on a reserve and view, update and add to a dataset using a rugged computer called a Husky Hunter 16

Taxon Information Storage System (TISS) is a package to store, import, convert, export and analyse taxonomic, ecological and distributional data on flora and fauna. The central repository was a database containing all information stored on the Victorian Fauna Database, Victorian Flora Database as well as data collected by Botanicus Australia Pty Ltd. Project related work could be 'check out' at any stage and viewed, updated and add to a dataset using rugged tablet called a J3400 Motion Computing Tablet.

Although mobile Geographical Information Systems are available for a range of scaled down computers (e.g. PDAs), it was considered easier for users to utilise packages they are familiar with on their desktop computers while in the field. Hence a range of syncronisation programs were developed to 'check out' data for access while in the field and 'check them back in' when workers returned. This technique was used for accessing geospatial data (e.g. aerial photos, contours, cadastral data) with ArcView and gvSIG while in the field.

The development of all systems mentioned above were conducted by Simon Cropper. Where necessary field staff was instructed in the use of each system and detailed 'user friendly' manuals published. Although capable of working insync using WIFI technology (only really useful in urban areas); all programs were developed to accommodate workers operating in remote localities - hence the need to 'check out' datasets so they are not updated by more than one person at a time.

Further reading...

Other Publications

gvSIG logo Cropper, S.C., 2010. The use of gvSIG as the primary Geographic Information System for the analysis of spatial data and the production of maps in a small ecological consulting firm. OpenPlanet, 4, pp.20–29.
gvSIG logo Cropper, S.C., 2010. gvSIG is a viable robust alternative to commercially available GIS packages. OSGeo Journal, 6, pp.23–25.