My research program in freshwater ecology is focused on invertebrate prey in food webs and ecosystem processes at broad ecosystem scales. I am intrigued by the relationships between food webs and water regimes, particularly in arid zone rivers and wetlands where whole food webs miraculously colonise after flooding, despite being dry for many years.
My prey connections project is seeking evidence of connectivity between regulated creeks and floodplain wetlands during small and large environmental flow releases compared to dry periods with constant low flows. This project examines food webs using stable isotope analysis, gut contents of fish and composition of invertebrate communities. Most recently we have included insectivorous bats as well as fish predators.
A key feature of my research program is the strong collaborative links with stakeholders to adaptively manage systems. I lead a UNSW partnership on a Charles Sturt University led project monitoring the ecological responses to Commonwealth environmental water in the Murrumbidgee River. This large multidisciplinary team includes scientists and stakeholders from universities, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority, and NSW Department of Primary Industries. We are currently developing a five-year monitoring and evaluation plan to monitor outcomes of watering with Commonwealth water purchased through government water buyback.
My research program has identified sensitive indicators for assessing the success or failure of flow restoration in floodplain wetlands. We’ve demonstrated that loss of flooding impacts on biogeochemical processes, altering metabolic pathways, biodiversity and trophic interactions. As well as publishing findings in the scientific literature, I frequently participate in government workshops and have co-ordinated an expert panel. More recently, I reviewed the impacts of climate change in freshwater ecosystems and am undertaking collaborative research on projected temperature increases and flow reductions.