Welcome (Wominjenka)

I work in Naarm, on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I acknowledge the Traditional owners as the original custodians and recognise their ongoing connection to the land and water which I study. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded; It always was and always will be, Aboriginal land.   

About Me:
Healthy streams support thriving individuals and liveable communities and cities; providing ecosystem services including clean drinking water, contaminant removal, fishery production and recreational opportunities. The health of our streams is being rapidly degraded by landuse change including agriculture and urbanisation. The ecosystem services provided by streams and the health of future generations is consequently at risk. My research aims to identify, understand and measure landuse impacts on streams, with the aim of finding new management approaches and policies which support the restoration and protection of streams into the future.

As a freshwater ecologist, I am particularly interested in the effects of urbanisation on organic matter dynamics and both ecosystem structure and function. I seek to undertake experimental and observational research that informs and guides both policy and ecosystem management.

Broad Research Interests:
Landuse impacts on freshwater ecosystems (incl. urban & agricultural)
Ecosystem structure and function
Restoration ecology
Organic matter dynamics
Nutrient processing and cycling (esp. N, P and C)
Groundwater-surface water interactions

Current Research:
I am currently researching four major areas:

1. Investigating the structure, function and hydrology of small ephemeral headwater streams around Melbourne.
Headwater streams, where catchment runoff first accumulates sufficiently to create overland flow paths, represent a dominant part of the river network by length. These smallest streams are primary sources of streamflow, important sources of organic matter to downstream waters and act as ‘hot spots’ for retention and transformation of nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon. Their contribution to regional aquatic biodiversity has also been shown to be disproportionally large. While small headwater streams are likely to be extremely important for maintaining downstream river and bay health, they are particularly vulnerable to degradation or loss in rapidly urbanizing cities such as Melbourne. Despite this recognition, we still lack a clear understanding of their ecological structure and function and hydrologic behaviour.

2. Investigating linkages between flow, sediment, organic matter and in stream vegetation.
Instream vegetation provides habitat and refuge for in-stream biota, engineers biogeomorphic processes, increases hydraulic complexity, influences sediment and chemical fluxes and contributes to primary production in streams. Research has shown that urbanisation alters stream hydrology, increasing coarse sediment export and reducing organic matter storage, diversity and abundance of instream vegetation. Despite these broad scale patterns, we still lack a clear understanding of which components of the flow regime are most significant at influencing sediment and organic matter dynamics and how they interact to influence instream vegetation retention, germination, emergence and persistence.

3. Investigating the potential for integrated water management to protect streams from urban development.
Urbanisation degrades stream health. However recent research has shown that retrofitting perri-urban catchments using water sensitive urban design (WSUD), can restore some elements of stream ecosystem structure and function. The success of these WSUD approaches is dependent on sufficient space for larger systems and demand for captured water; requirements that are difficult to meet in existing urban areas, but far simpler when designed into new greenfield developments. This research investigates the potential to protect urban stream structure and function in the face of new urban development planned and occurring around the Sunbury region, west of Melbourne, Australia.

4. Investigating factors driving and limiting the restoration of peri-urban streams using stormwater control measures.
Urban stream health is primarily degraded by stormwater runoff; a product of the connection of impervious surfaces (e.g. roofs and roads) to streams via the stormwater drainage network. Small scale research has shown that stormwater control measures (SCM’s; e.g. biofilters, rainwater tanks) can improve water quality and reduce and slow flows at system outlets. However the effectiveness of newer SCM’s, designed specifically to treat, retain and use stormwater, when applied at a catchment scale remains unknown. This research aims to test if the application of catchment scale SCM’s in perri-urban environments can restore the structure and function of small streams already degraded by urban development. See more here http://www.urbanstreams.unimelb.edu.au/

Previous Research:
PhD, Freshwater Ecology (2011)

My PhD research aimed to investigate the effects of catchment scale urbanisation and reach scale riparian vegetation on organic carbon processing in small streams. More specifically, this research provided insights into the rates of organic matter inputs, retention, breakdown and storage across numerous streams ranging in catchment urbanisation. This research strongly highlighted the need for both riparian restoration and the application of water sensitive urban design in order to restore/maintain organic matter availability in urban streams.

Honours, Chemistry/Biology (2006)

This research investigated the impacts of catchment urbanisation on the rate and mechanisms of leaf litter breakdown. The findings clearly demonstrated the negative impacts of decreased water quality on organic matter availability in urban ecosystems.

Download an overview here:

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