Lessons in nature: our student partners

Sunday 21 June, 2015

From kangaroos at Nardoo Hills, to snails in the springs of Edgbaston, university students from across Australia are doing research on Bush Heritage reserves.

Snacking on a sandwich in Alice Springs was how I first met Renee Rossini and Tim Doherty. We were all at morning tea at the 2014 Ecological Society of Australia conference, presenting our research to
scientists from Australia and abroad.

Like me, Renee and Tim have chosen to collaborate with Bush Heritage Australia for their postgraduate research, and it turns out that there’s a whole herd of us, spread out across Australia!

Collectively, we’re helping improve the ecological knowledge of Bush Heritage reserves and, in turn, we have access to historical data, awe-inspiring properties, and the professional mentorship of Bush Heritage staff. Here’s a brief introduction to some of the students working on Bush Heritage reserves.

Emma Burgess

Emma Burgess (PhD, University of Queensland) is investigating the effect of fire on the subtropical woodlands of beautiful Carnarvon Reserve, central Queensland. Her research is looking at how the reserve’s open eucalypt woodlands – and the bird populations they support – respond to mosaic burning at different spatial scales.


Brett Howland (PhD, Australian National University) is examining the optimal density of kangaroos and wallabies for preserving biodiversity in grasslands and grassy woodlands, including Nardoo Hills and Scottsdale reserves.


Tim Doherty (PhD, Edith Cowan University) is studying the ecology (habitat use, diet and movements) and impact of feral cats on Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia, with a focus on evaluating our feral predator management.

You can read more on Tim’s research at his website (www.tim-doherty.com) and listen to his program on the ABC’s Science Show.

Sarah Comer (PhD, University of Western Australia) is looking at the diet, resource use and impacts on native fauna of feral cats in fragmented and intact landscapes in south‑west Western Australia.

Renee Rossini (PhD, University of Queensland) is studying the endemic invertebrates found in Great Artesian Basin springs – some of the best examples of which are protected at Edgbaston Reserve in Queensland (home to at least nine snails found nowhere else). You can read about Renee’s research and see the beautiful country of Edgbaston on her blog.

Justin McCann (PhD, University of New South Wales) is investigating the impacts of grazing, water diversion and climate change on the biodiversity of the floodplains of Naree Station.

Dana Vickers (PhD, University of New England) is also working at Naree, looking at the diversity and abundance of plants and animals in relation to ephemeral waters and top-order predators in an arid environment.

Prue McGuffie (PhD, University of Canberra) is studying the micro-habitat requirements, recruitment biology and influence of river flow on Macquarie perch in the Murrumbidgee River, adjacent to Scottsdale Reserve.

.Nathan Clough (Honours, University of Canberra) is looking at the breeding ecology of the invasive mosquito-fish at Edgbaston Reserve, which is the primary threat to the endangered red-finned blue‑eye.

Ruth Wishart (Undergraduate placement, Charles Sturt University) mapped tree health at Nardoo Hills and John Colahan Griffin reserves in Victoria, to see if health is associated with tree species, soil, slope or aspect.


Kate Cranney (Masters, University of Melbourne). I’m investigating how Bush Heritage monitors changes in vegetation, focusing on the cover of saltbush on Boolcoomatta, in remote South Australia (I’ve also set up vegetation monitoring on four surrounding properties). You can read all about saltbushes, pepper trees and four very friendly emus on my website: www.katecranney.com.

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