ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Research Activities

  • Regional
  • National
  • International


Burrowing frogs

Dr Alexandra Knight and Associate Professor Ben Wilson are working with landholders from the Corowa District Landcare Group and the Holbrook Landcare Group to investigate the soil habitats that burrowing frogs use and the relationship between soil health and burrowing habitats. The project Sustaining soils and earth-dwelling fauna in cropping and farming landscapes of the Murray-Darling Basin is funded by a $10,000 CSU Sustainability Research Seed Grant. It aims to find correlations between agricultural production practices, and sustaining soil habitats for macrofauna, particularly the diverse range of burrowing amphibians which occur on private lands throughout the MDB.It will involve testing soil characteristics at sites known to contain populations of suitable macrofauna, and interviews with farmers to determine how farming practices sustain both soil health and amphibian populations.

Women in Regional trades

The project team for the Women in Regional Trades: Understanding Resilience project hosted an industry consultation in Wagga Wagga on April 11.The study, which has received funding from the Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences, is being conducted by ILWS members Dr Donna Bridges, Dr Larissa Bamberry and Associate Professor Branka Krivokapic-Skoko, together with Dr Stacey Jenkins and Research Assistant Dr Elizabeth Wulf. The project is investigating why some women prosper in traditionally male-dominated occupations and industries while others do not. Another industry consultation meeting was held in Bathurst, May 10.

Inclusion of older people

A research team led by Associate Professor Maree Bernoth has conducted a yearlong project focused on encouraging the inclusion of older people in teaching ageing. The project, OPTEACH (Older People Teaching and Empowering Aged Care and Health Students) has been funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. A website has been developed which contains information and support material for older people, educators (TAFE, university, clinical) and managers to encourage and support them as they introduce older people to teaching and learning situations. The project was conducted in partnership with Nambucca Valley Care, Navorina Nursing Home in Deniliquin, Holy Spirit Nursing home in Dubbo and Riverina Institute of TAFE.

Declining turtles

Following Drs James Van Dyke and Geoff Heard’s $8000 CSUGreen Sustainability grant (awarded last June)  Project Lifeboat: a conservation plan for declining turtles, the team have completed this autumn’s turtle assessment at the CSU Albury campus.

Sounding the Chorus for Frogs

Dr Alexandra Knight together with the Corowa District Landcare Group have received a $40,000 grant from the NSW Environment Trust, for the project "Sounding the Chorus for Frogs in Corowa’s Wetlands."The project involves recording the Sloane’s Froglet song (which Alexandra wrote); developing a teachers’ education package based on good scientific evidence; visits by scientists to six schools in the Corowa district over the next two years; and wetland planting days with scientists, including Alexandra, presenting.

Secure Safe Domestic Water

Institute Adjunct Professor Peter Waterman is one of the main researchers behind the Secure Safe Domestic Water project, now in its third year. In February and March Peter spoke at public meetings and workshops in Far West NSW (Broken Hill, Thyme on Argent, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarie and station properties) on the importance of all Australians having access to adequate and safe domestic water.


Indian Hawkers research

Associate Professor Dirk Spennemann is investigating  the lives (and deaths) of Indian hawkers in the Southern Riverina and North-East Victoria in the late 1900s and early 2000s.

Ageing research

Associate Professor Maree Bernoth is involved in a 12 month project funded by a NSW Family and Community Services “Liveable Communities” grant, to investigate  the inclusion of older people in the teaching of ageing with industry partner Naorina Village, Deniliquin.

Improving water supply

Institute Adjunct Professor Jay Punthakey is working on a project in the mid North coast of NSW looking at improving water supply to various coastal communities.

Effects of flooding on blackbox woodlands

Since 2014 Institute Adjunct Richard Loyn has been researching the effects of flooding on black box woodlands in North West Victoria for the Mallee CMA as part of the Living Murray Initiative. In 2017 the study was expanded  to include waterbirds and bush birds as part of a project with La Trobe University and MDRFC.

Building knowledge of country

As part of the ‘Building knowledge of Country and measuring its health’ project funded by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, ILWS and CSU's Faculty of Science, community workshops were held in Griffith, Deniliquin and Moama. These information sessions provided an opportunity for CSU researchers and NPWS to meet with Indigenous communities and explore with them various aspects of Country and why environmental monitoring is important. These information sessions are the first in a three phase project and use rich pictures/mapping to understand how the communities interact with Country and see themselves working on Country into the future.

The second phase of the project will involve field sessions on Country, discussing particular environmental monitoring principles, ideas and exploring opportunities for future Indigenous environmental monitoring.

The third phase of the project will draw on these community exploration processes to co-develop training resources that equip communities for the aspects of environmental monitoring that they highlighted as important to them.

Proposed study of families

Professor of Rural Health, Linda Shields is involved in planning meetings to set up a longitudinal study of families living in rural areas. Partners of the proposed study will be CSU (lead), University of Sydney Rural Medical School and Notre Dame School of Rural Medicine. The study is being supported by the Mater-University Study of Pregnancy at UQ

Mistletoe in Melbourne's Parks

Professor Dave Watson is leading a project in Melbourne which is part of the City of Melbourne's long-term management plan for its land and assets. The city is running a world-first trial in which creeping mistletoe seeds have been planted on 27 plane trees in downtown Melbourne. Creeping mistletoe is one of the few Australian mistletoes that can live off exotic hosts such as plane trees. Dave's former Masters student, Mel Cook from UTS, is involved in the project.


Water quality impacts from inundation of floodplains during flooding

Sha Sha with sample pots in glasshouse ILWS researchers Dr Xiaoying (Sha sha) Liu, Professor Robyn Watts, Dr Julia Howitt and Dr Nicole McCasker are undertaking a glasshouse experiment to examine carbon and nutrient release and effects on dissolved oxygen (DO) following the inundation of different types of soils, grasses and crops from the floodplain.

Soil samples and plants for the experiment were collected from redgum forest and cropland that are adjacent to each other, but separated by a levee bank, on the Edward-Wakool floodplain. Forest soil, forest soil with leaf litter, and forest soil with wallaby grass were collected from the forest. Bare paddock soil, wheat stubble with paddock soil, and ryegrass with paddock soil were collected from the cropland. These samples were put into large pots and inundated with riverwater in the glasshouse at CSU Wagga Wagga campus. Carbon, nutrient and DO was sampled on day 1, 2, 4, 8, 12 and 16 following inundation.

Preliminary results suggest that both of the forest and the paddock systems are a significant source contributors of dissolved organic carbon and nutrients during floods. Research results will be shared with managers, landholders and other community groups.


Ecological character report

Dr Wayne Robinson has assisted the South Australia Government’s revised description of the ecological character of the Coorong, Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar site with his report: Robinson, W. A. (2017) Setting refined waterbird LAC [Limits if Acceptable Change] for the Coorong, Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar site. Technical Report to DEWNR. November 2017.

Fair trade agreements

Dr Richard Culas is working with a recipient of an Endeavour Post-Doc Fellowship on a project on Free Trade Agreements and their implications for Australian agricultural products trade and regional farm economies.

Economic impact

Dr Richard Culas is involved in a three year project (2018-2020) administered by the Graham Centre and funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia looking at the economic impact of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) on Australian horticultural (fruits and vegetables) crops.

Effects of climate change

Faculty of Science post doc, Dr James Turner, together with Associate Professor Dale Nimmo, has begun a three year study on how heat waves and diet affect folivorous mammals - the ringtail possum.

Frog disease research

Dr Geoffrey Heard is working on a project looking at the change in the lifespan of frogs as a result of chytrid invading Australia. Together with Dr Ben Scheele, from ANU, they have been ageing frogs using skeletochronology, where they count the growth rings in a cross-section of bone using contemporary samples of bell frogs as well as specimens in museums.

Standing stone Aboriginal heritage sites

Dr Jim Birckhead and eldersInstitute Adjunct Dr Jim Birckhead has begun a research project on an ethnography of standing stone Aboriginal heritage sites throughout the Pilbara and into the eastern desert areas of WA.The project is being funded through BHP's Heritage Research Division, Perth as part of  BHP's community outreach and obligations. It is being developed over a number of phases.

The first desktop/archival phase has been completed with the resulting report - Birckhead, J. & Czerwinski, P. (2017) Ethnography of Stone Arrangements, Unpublished report, 36 pp for BHP Heritage Research, Land Access Solutions/Heritage WA, Perth. The next phase is liaising with researchers in WA and Tasmania, and visits to communities across the Pilbara to identify senior Traditional Owners who have the knowledge of these stone arrangements and the authority to speak for them.

Once identified, Jim will visit these sites with the appropriate elders to record their stories and the meaning of these sites. The final phase is to write a report of the research and to prepare journal and other research works based on the research.

Gender Spaces of Social Work

Associate Professor Susan Mlcek, a social work educator and social scientist, heads a small research group at Bathurst within the School of Humanities & Social Sciences made up of herself, fellow ILWS member Dr Donna Bridges, a sociologist, and Dr John Healy, a social work educator.  The three are exploring gender and indigenous issues including the gender spaces of social work.

A small Faculty grant was used to employ a research assistant to assist them with a literature review. From that initial activity evolved a co-operative enquiry research activity, and a thematic analysis paper - 'What does it mean to be part of the gendered space(s) of social work?' Susan presented on the paper's topic at an international conference, New Directions in Humanities, in London in July.

Fauna Research Alliance

Charles Sturt University, through the Institute, is one of the institutional members of the FAUNA (Future-proofing Australasia's Unique Native Animals) Research Alliance, a network which connects researchers and conservation "end user" practitioners from 47 organisations. Projects involving Institute members include:

  • Rewilding Little Desert  (Professor David Watson)
  • Search for the Long-beaked echidna (Professor David Watson)

Travelling Stock Routes and Reserves

Dr Peter Spooner, who has had a long term interest in Travelling Stock Routes and Reserves is currently writing a book on the Historic Development of Travelling Stock Routes and Reserves, something he has been working on since 2015. Dr Terry Kass and Mr Iain Marshall from NSW Land and Property Information have been assisting him with the project. Honours student Bryce Vella began a project commencing mid 2017 aimed at exploring the gazettement history of Travelling Stock routes and Reserves in NSW. The project is co-supervised by Dr Prue Gonzalez from CSU's Port Macquarie campus.


Exhibition an International Research Initiative

Professor Margaret Woodward’s collaborative Lost Rocks (2017-2021) project with Justy Phillips was curated into the exhibition "The Habitat of Time" at the Casula Powerhouse, Sydney from April 19 to May 5. Margaret is one of the exhibition’s six  artists. The event, which is part of an international research initiative led by Dr Julie Louise Bacon at UNSW Art & Design in collaboration with Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in the UK, explores how contemporary art and archival practices experiment with time and reimagine reality.

Kiska Battlefield Exhibit

Associate Professor Dirk Spennemann’s photography is featured in a new Kiska Exhibit which commemorates a little-known Alaska battlefield of global significance, Kiska Island. A slice of Alaska World War Two history, the Kiska Exhibit includes both historic and modern images of Kiska’s battlefield landscape. The Kiska Exhibit, on at the Alaska Aviation Museum, opened on Thursday, April 12, 2018 and runs until January 27, 2019. May marks the 75th commemorative anniversary of US efforts to retake the Japanese-held islands of Kiska and Attu. Kiska is one of eight former World War Two sites in Alaska designated as National Historic Landmarks. The Kiska Exhibit, developed by the National Park Service, National Historic Landmark Program, is based on research by the NPS and USFWS, supported by the American Battlefield Protection Program and the Aleutian WWII National Historic Area, in conjunction with A/Prof Dirk Spennemann.

Questing for biodiversity

During April, ILWS members A/Prof Dale Nimmo, Dr James Turner, Dr James Van Dyke and Dr Maggie Watson, alongside ILWS PhD scholarship student Harry Moore and Karen Retra and Dr Damian Michael, competed in the month-long QuestaGame University bioQuest. QuestaGame is an app-based game that lets users all over the world win points by spotting, photographing and identifying wildlife. Submitting sightings also allows participating conservation partners, including The Wilderness Society, Invasive Species Council, Birdlife Australia, WWF and Ningaloo Coast World Heritage, to earn cash donations towards their work. Team registration was supported by a Grass roots grant from CSU Green, obtained by Professor  Dave Watson

Work in Myanmar continues

Adjuncts Rob McInnes and Nick Davidson continued their work as members of a "Ramsar Expert Team" supporting the bilateral project between the governments of Myanmar and Norway on Conservation of Biodiversity and Management of Protected Areas in Myanmar by facilitating a workshop in Yangon, Myanmar from 9-12 April 2018 on the "status and finalisation of management plans for selected protected areas".From the workshop discussions a guidance document providing Recommendations for management planning in protected areas in Myanmar is being prepared. During their visit Rob and Nick also discussed with Myanmar and Norway government representatives another component of the project: a draft set of Guiding Principles for a systematic approach to Ramsar Site identification and prioritisation for designation and a Provisional working list of Myanmar wetlands potentially qualifying as internationally important under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which will be finalised later in 2018.


Core Agriculture Support Program (CASP)

Institute Adjunct Dr Tony McDonald is a member of a multi-disciplinary team for a project which aims to offer small holder farmers across the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) improved capacity to produce and market “clean and green” produce.The project is promoting the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement’s (IFOAM) “Participatory Guarantee System” approach, a method to promote voluntary compliance with organic protocols.The team have been working with small holder farmers across Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and the two southern provinces of PRC China. The broad strategy of CASP Phase II is to increase subregional agricultural competitiveness and agribusiness investment in the economic corridors.

Water governance regimes

Institute Adjunct Dr Patrick Cobbinah, who is with the Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, is a member of the research team for the project Urban Growth, Neo Liberal Failures and Water Scarcity in Accra and Atlanta. The project has received US$10,000 funding and is investigating water governance regimes in Atlanta (USA) and Accra (Ghana), two rapidly growing cities —one from the global North and the other from the global South—that share similar histories of neoliberal water governance failure.

Ecotourism in Ghana

Institute Adjunct Dr Patrick Cobbinah is involved in a long term on-going project - Conservation and livelihood - that examines environment-development relations in Africa focusing on Ghana. The first phase of the project (which received some financial support from the Institute for data collection) was Ecotourism in protected areas in Ghana: benefits for few, costs to many.

Impact of IPM on sweet potatoes

Dr Richard Culas is involved in an ACIAR funded and Graham Centre administered project (2017-2020) looking at the economic impact of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on sweet potato production in Papua New Guinea.

Call Playback research

Professor David Watson, together with Dr Mike Craig, University of WA, ILWS social scientist Dr Jennifer Bond and ILWS PhD student Liz Znidersic are investigating the "call playback" issue and whether or not the impact on birds is detrimental. Many birders use Apps on their Smartphones to help identify birds. However birders and guides are now using the App to try and attract birds so that they can have a look at them. While on a visit to Colombia in Latin America mid-year, Dave and Mike spent time out in the field in  with birding guides in the foothills of the Andes and found that they all used call playback.

Carbon emissions

Dryflux samplingDr Julia Howitt and Professor Max Finlayson are involved in a volunteer international research collaboration which is investigating the carbon emissions from dry wetland and river sediments around the world. The global dryflux investigation is led by a team in Germany.A standard sampling protocol is being used.

Others in the Australian team are Dr Jason Condon from the Graham Centre and Dr Catherine Leigh from Griffith University. The Australian team has done two rounds of sampling. During the week June 5 to 9, Drs Howitt, Condon and Leigh conducted measurements of carbon emissions in the Wagga region. In October, Dr Howitt and Professor Finlayson took 30 samples across 5 sites – the David Mitchell Wetlands on CSU's Albury-Wodonga campus, the Wonga Wetlands out of Albury near the Murray, and three sites at the Winton Wetlands near Benalla in Victoria - over two days.

The CSU samples are the only ones from Australia and are included in samples collected from more than 225 sites in 17 countries on 6 continents.