Michael Renton

Associate Professor

  • The University of Western Australia (M090), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Michael completed his Honours program at UWA in Applied Maths, looking at control in chaotic systems, and his PhD at the University of Queensland in the Centre for Plant Architecture Informatics, looking at new approaches to modelling the interactions between plant form, function and environment with functional-structural plant models (FSPMs). His post-doc in Montpellier, France, married stochastic models with structural models to create virtual apple trees and he then returned to Perth to teach applied maths at UWA, before spending a couple of years creating the Weed Seed Wizard (a model of seedbank dynamics) at the Department of Agriculture and Food (DPIRD). He started as an Assistant Professor in computational agro-ecology in the School of Plant Biology at UWA in a joint appointment with CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences in July 2007, and reverted to full time with UWA in 2012. He teaches applied statistics and modelling for ecology, agriculture and environment in a variety of units. His research involves modelling the ecology and evolution of organisms in interaction with their environments, at scales including landscapes, communities, populations, and individuals. He applies his interests and skills in ecological and evolutionary modelling to a wide range of ecological and agricultural applications, including evolution of resistance to herbicides and pesticides; crop protection from weeds, pests and pathogens; biosecurity and dispersal of invasive biological organisms; conservation; restoration; optimal land use in agricultural systems and mixed-use landscapes; and theoretical ecology and evolution. 

Roles and responsibilities

Michael has a teaching and research position with UWA Plant Biology. His role involves leading and contributing to research projects, supervising postgraduate and Honours research students and teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in biostatistics, simulation modelling, ecology and agriculture. 

Future research

For more information on research or potential student projects, please go to http://www.michaelrenton.info or contact me at michael.renton@uwa.edu.au

Funding overview

Michael has received funding from a wide range of funding bodies. For more details, see his list of grants. 

Previous positions

2005-2007 Dept. of Agriculture and Food, WA Perth, Australia
Research Officer

2005 University of Western Australia Perth, Australia
Applied Mathematics Lecturer

2005 Murdoch University Perth, Australia
Applied Mathematics Tutor

2004 – 2005 National Institute of Agronomic Research Montpellier, France
Post-doctoral Researcher, Plant Architecture Modelling Trainer

2000 – 2003 University of Queensland Brisbane, Australia
Mathematics Tutor, Plant Architecture Modelling Trainer

1999 University of Western Australia Perth, Australia
English Teacher (ESL)

1998 ELS Language School Padang, Indonesia
English Teacher (ESL)

Current projects

For more information on current research or potential student projects, please go to http://www.michaelrenton.info or contact me at michael.renton@uwa.edu.au

Industrial relevance

Agriculture - including cropping and pastures, and especially crop protection
Restoration, ecology and conservation biology

Teaching overview

I currently coordinate and/or teach in the following units:

- SCIE4402 Data Management and Analysis in the Natural Sciences (Sem 1 & Sem 2)

- SCIE5500 Modelling Natural Systems (previously Scientific Modelling)

- PLNT3306 Australian Vegetation

- AGRI2201 Pasture and Livestock Systems

- SCIE3314 Agricultural Systems

- AGRI4401 Advanced Crop Production Science

- SCIE4403 The Conduct, Ethics and Communication of Science


Computational simulation modelling of plants in complex biological, agricultural and ecological systems, including areas such as:
• evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds in agricultural systems and the effect of different genetics and management strategies on the rate of this evolution
• competition between species, individual plants, and parts of plants and the effect of spatial patterns on this competition
• weed seed bank population dynamics and the effects of different seed biology and management strategies
• seed dormancy, germination and persistence, and the influence of environmental factors and management options
• the way that plant structure emerges over time in relationship with physiology and environment
• the optimisation of land use sequencing and analysis of tactical and strategic decisions in agricultural systems, taking into account the effects of factors such as weeds, disease, plant nutrients, yields, economics and climate variability
• water use, root architecture, drought and climate change, in relation to applications such as the prediction and management of the establishment and survival of annual and perennial crop and pasture plants in drought-susceptible environments, or the long-term health of natural ecosystems in the face of climate change
• the spread of invasive biological organisms such as weeds, insects and plant diseases
• predicting the fate of plant species under climate change, accounting for landscape characteristics, population dynamics and dispersal
• constructing useful decision support systems for managing agricultural and natural ecosystems


The modelling approaches in which Michael has interest and experience include:
• individual-based models and simulation (IBMs)
• L-systems and functional-structural plant models (FSPMs) for modelling dynamic plant architecture
• computational simulation of evolutionary dynamics and evolutionary optimisation
• numerical/computational simulation of the movement and spread of biological substances or organisms
• constructing statistical 'summary models' to represent more complex bio-physical simulation models
• continuous and discrete dynamical systems, including chaotic systems and S-systems
• applied statistical modelling of biological data, including linear and non-linear modelling, multivariate analysis, Bayesian analysis, and mixed-effect models



English (native)
Indonesian (good)
French (good)
Spanish (fair)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Research expertise keywords

  • Ecological and agricultural modelling
  • Functional–structural plant modelling (FSPM)
  • Evolution of resistance to herbicide and pesticides
  • Biosecurity and biological invasion
  • Individual-based modelling
  • Statistical modelling and analysis
  • Complex biological systems
  • Computational simulation
  • Cropping and pasture systems
  • Prediction and management of weeds, pests and diseases


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