Dr C. E. Timothy Paine

Lecturer , Ecology - School of Environmental and Rural Science

C. E. Timothy Paine

Phone: +61 6773 4307

Email: timothy.paine@une.edu.au


I am a community ecologist who studies the structure and dynamics of plant communities in species-rich ecosystems. I am fascinated by diversity and the coexistence of species, from both conceptual and applied angles. Conceptually, the persistence of rare species remains a puzzle: why do they not go extinct? Practically, it is these rare species that are at greatest risk of extinction and that provide irreplaceable ecosystem functions. Beginning with my PhD research in the rain forests of Manu National Park, Peru, I have used observational studies and manipulative experiments to dissect the ecological interactions that maintain diversity in the  process of seedling recruitment, and later ontogenetic stages.

To gain broader insight into the mechanisms that generate community structure, I have also focused on adult trees, using the lenses of functional traits and phylogenetic history, beginning with my first post-doc at UMR EcoFoG in French Guiana, and continuing through a second post-doc at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and a lectureship at the University of Stirling, Scotland. Recently, I have shifted focus from examining current-day community structure to the prediction of community dynamics. Accurate mechanistic predictions of community dynamics is essential to forecast the consequences of anthropogenic and natural disturbances into the future. Making accurate mechanistic predictions of community dynamics requires integrating the vital rates of growth, survival, fecundity, and recruitment over the life cycle. In making this transition, I am excited to study the ecosystems of Australia!

Finally, I am fascinated by the process by which research is processed through the academic publishing system to become peer-reviewed articles. This “meta-research” is interesting, as all investigators interact with the publishing system, as authors, reviewers or editors, but rarely is broader insight into its patterns, processes, and biases made evident. Through data-mining and questionnaires, I have gained substantial insight into the effectiveness of journals as arbiters of scientific quality and the effects of article length on publications. Currently, and perhaps most interestingly, I’m investigating the geographical and gender-based biases in the academic publishing system.


BA 1999, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire USA
PhD 2007, University of Louisiana, Louisiana USA

Teaching Areas

Units currently teaching:

ECOL307/507: Ecology of Plant Populations

EM353/553: Conservation Biology

ECOL203/403: Ecology: Populations to Ecosystems

Primary Research Area/s

Community Ecology; Academic publishing; Plant Growth

Research Interests

Selected Competitive Grants:

2019:   NSW OEF Saving our Species: $350,000

2018:   Robine Enid Wilson Small Grants Scheme: $19,269

2015:   Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) IAPETUS DTP: £60,000

2014:   NERC/University of Stirling: £55,000


Selected Recent Publications:

Blyth M, Paine CWE, Paine CET (2019). The Decline in Nesting Success of Tachycineta bicolor ( Tree Swallow ) Over 38 Years on Hardwood Island , Maine. Northeast. Nat.

Fox CW & Paine CET (2019). Gender differences in peer review outcomes and manuscript impact at six journals of ecology and evolution. Ecol. Evol.

Paine CET & Fox CW (2018). The effectiveness of journals as arbiters of scientific impact. Ecol. Evol.

CET Paine, A Deasey, AB Duthie. 2018. Towards the general mechanistic prediction of community dynamics. Functional Ecology

Paine, CET, H Beck, J Terborgh. 2016. How mammalian predation contributes to tropical tree community structure. Ecology

Fox C, CET Paine, B Sauterey. 2016. Citations increase with manuscript length, author number and references cited in ecology journals. Ecology and Evolution

Fortunel C, CET Paine, PVA Fine, I Mesones, J-Y Goret, B Burban, J Cazal, C Baraloto. 2016. There’s no place like home: seedling mortality contributes to the habitat specialisation of tree species across Amazonia.Ecology Letters

Paine CET, C Baraloto, S Diaz. 2015. Optimal strategies for sampling functional traits in species-rich forests. Functional Ecology

Paine CET, et al. 2015. Globally, functional traits are weak predictors of juvenile tree growth, and we do not know why. Journal of Ecology Paine CET, N Norden, J Chave, P-M Forget, C Fortunel, KG Dexter, C Baraloto. 2012. Phylogenetic density dependence and environmental filtering predict seedling mortality in a tropical forest. Ecology Letters Paine CET, TR Marthews, DR Vogt, D Purves, M Rees, A Hector, LA Turnbull. 2012. How to fit nonlinear plant growth models and calculate growth rates: an update for ecologists. Methods in Ecology and EvolutionPaine CET, KE Harms, SA Schnitzer, WP Carson. 2008. Weak competition among tropical tree seedlings: implications for species coexistence. Biotropica


Ecological Society of America

Association for Tropical Biology & Conservation

British Ecological Society