ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Research Impacts

irrigation spraysThe research undertaken by our researchers is making a difference. At the local, national and global levels, our  research generates insights that help to address issues of social significance, inform policy and decision making, and support people, communities and the natural environment.

Research Impact is defined as the demonstrable contribution that research makes to the economy, society, culture, national security, public policy or services, health, the environment, or quality of life, beyond contributions to academia.

Research Impact - Examples:

Shark management policy informed by social research

  • Since 2017, ILWS researchers have been involved in a series of social research projects funded by the NSW Department of Primary Industries through its Shark Management Strategy which have looked at public perception and acceptance of shark harm mitigation strategies. Harm from sharks is relatively rare but fear of sharks is widespread and has a range of important consequences. From their studies the researchers (led by Associate Professor Peter Simmons) found that the community had a clear preference for strategies that are less invasive to sharks and other marine life. Recent surveys have showed that the more invasive a strategy is, the lower the community support. The results of their studies were presented at a National Shark Bite Mitigation Measure Workshop, in Adelaide, February 2020, which included shark management policy leaders from NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia where shark management has been a contentious public issue in recent years, as well as Surf Life Saving, Taronga Zoo’s Shark Management File, the Federal Government, and researchers from five universities. Authorities responsible for shark management policy are recognising the importance of understanding and addressing community perceptions. Future policy will increasingly be informed by social research as well as marine environment and technology research, and involve targeted communication to ocean users.

Showcasing ILWS research on sustainable water systems

  • ILWS environmental research on sustainable water systems (led by Professor Robyn Watts and Associate Professor Skye Wassens) was featured in the inaugural NSW Universities Research Impact Showcase to the NSW Parliament, in September 2019.  The work is highlighted by CSU on its Research Impact web pages,

Input into the Aged Care Royal Commission

  • Associate Professor Maree Bernoth is actively involved in the Aged Care Royal Commission. Mid 2019 she submitted a third document to the Commission, with co-authors Associate Professor Marguerite Bramble, Dr Belinda Cash and Dr Robin Harvey. The submission was as a result of the Dubbo Aged Care Community Forum, jointly hosted by the Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health, the School of Midwifery and Indigenous Healthy, CSU, and Dubbo Regional Council, on May 7, 2019. Associate professor Bernoth was one of three CSU academics interviewed by a panel from the Royal Commission via teleconference about issues related to ageing in rural and remote areas.  In September she was again interviewed by two of the legal representatives from the Royal Commission. Her research is also featured by CSU on its Research Impact web pages

Extending fish passage research to other countries

  • In 2018 the ACIAR funded project Quantifying improved fisheries productivity at fish passage rehabilitation sites in Lao PDR. (2016-2020)  received additional funding from ACIAR and USAID  ($800,000) to scale-out the existing work to include four additional countries of the Lower Mekong Basin - Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. ILWS, together with the United States Department of Interior, has partnered with agencies in each country to prioritise fish migration barriers for mitigation, construct a demonstration fishway in each country, and then research how well fish passage has been restored. The additional funding has also provided for extensive GIS-based work in each country to determine the proportion of tributary streams being blocked by irrigation infrastructure which impacts on fish migration and productivity. ILWS used the ACIAR funding to extend work in Laos and Myanmar; the USAID funding was used to extend outcomes of the project into Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. While the USAID funding did not come directly to CSU, our researchers have been working with the team and guiding the process. This project is an excellent example of research impact, where the results of an ACIAR funded project has been picked up by a donor and extended to other countries.

Responding to on-ground requests from practitioners

  • A series of research projects undertaken by social researchers Associate Professor Catherine Allan and Dr Michael Mitchell with a central theme of capacity building in, for, of and by Community Based Natural Resource Management Groups (CBNRM groups) is a good example of what can happen when researchers respond to requests from on-ground practitioners. In 2016 Murray Local Land Services (Murray LLS), in collaboration with the Murray Landcare Collective, two long term collaborators, engaged Catherine and Michael to help them develop a process for assessing the ‘capacity’ of CBNRM groups, drawing on existing best practice and a review of relevant literature.  The researchers developed, and administered, a new survey instrument which enabled the groups to assess their own capacity strengths and needs. The instrument was designed to provide snapshot reports with customised feedback to each CBNRM group, along with district level data. Over 2016/17 the survey was completed by 47 CBNRM groups in the Murray LLS area, encompassing Landcare type groups, producer groups and Aboriginal community groups. Additional funds were later provided to ILWS by Murray LLS to develop a way to automate the analysis and snapshot report production. The survey instrument was made available for others to use and in 2017 and again in 2019 Landcare NSW administered a slightly modified version of the survey instrument to its member organisations who are Local Landcare Coordinator Initiative (LLCI) hosts. Thirty-two organisations completed the survey in 2017, while 27 did so in 2018, with 17 of these completing the survey in both years. Landcare NSW then commissioned ILWS to undertake the analysis of and reporting on the results of the two surveys. The original project, while small, has already had impact in NSW. The favourable response by NRM practitioners Australia-wide when the work was presented at the 7th National NRM Knowledge Conference, in Wodonga, in 2019 is an indication that the work is likely to have greater and broader impact in the future.

Protecting Red Pandas

  • A three year project in Bhutan funded by the UK Darwin Initiative Fund, Sustainable rangeland management to protect red panda and herder livelihoods (2016-2019) achieved significant on ground impact and capacity building at local and national levels.  Dr Joanne Millar and Dr Karma Tenzing worked closely with Government staff from Bhutan’s Department of Forestry and Parks Services, and the Department of Livestock to implement a range of on-ground activities and capacity building activities with the Merak herding community in eastern Bhutan. Project impacts included rehabilitation of 105 hectares of eroded gullies and red panda habitat; Special Protection Zone declared over 200ha of rangelands; 80 ha sown to improved pasture boosting winter feed for yaks and cattle; two women's savings groups contributing to livelihood diversification; 100% increase in awareness of red panda ecology from school and community education events; publication of the first national and trans-boundary Red Panda Conservation Action Plan for Bhutan (2018-2023). Full plan at

PhD research is being used by water managers for better environmental outcomes

  • The findings from a PhD study undertaken by Dr Adrian Clements, under the supervision of Professor Max Finlayson, and Dr Daryl Neilsen (MDRFC), are being used to guide water regimes in Lake Brewster, in the Lachlan Catchment in central NSW. Using the findings regarding water regimes and vegetation composition, the Lachlan River Environmental Advisory group (EWAG) is continuing to work with Water NSW to adjust the water regime of part of Lake Brewster to increase the diversity of wetland vegetation, and to maximise the potential to improve water quality in the lake. The PhD study was done as part of the ILWS project Ecological responses of aquatic vegetation to the environmental water regime developed for Lake Brewster. Finlayson, M., Nielsen, D., Clements, A. (2012-2015) Lachlan CMA & State Water, $90,000.

Adaptive management of environmental water

  • Our researchers are leading two major long-term projects monitoring ecosystem responses to environmental water in the Edward-Wakool and the Murrumbidgee River Systems, both in the Murray-Darling Basin. In 2016, they also played key roles in researching a major blue green algal bloom in the Murray River and the widespread flooding that occurred in spring in many parts of the Basin. The information they collect is providing immediate assistance to the the decisions water managers make on a day-to-day as well as to longer term planning and future management decisions. This work has been selected by CSU as one of its Case Studies "Water Ecosystem Health" as an example of Research Impact.

Building community connections for disaster resilience

  • Our researchers have been working with the Blue Mountains community to research community connections and document experiences since the 2013 bushfires. Key insights include the benefits of connecting organisations such as emergency services, councils and neighbourhood centres.  Their research has resulted in the development of a Community Action Framework, accessible to other communities prone to bushfires and other natural emergencies, so that they also can better prepare. This work has been selected by CSU as pone of its Case Studies "Community Resilience" as an example of Research Impact.

Sloane's Froglet Conservation

  • A PhD study by Dr Alexandra Knight on a vulnerable species Sloane's Froglet has resulted in not only better ecological knowledge about the species but also heightened community and local government awareness. As a result concrete efforts are being made to protect and conserve the species, found in peri-urban areas around Albury and Corowa, NSW. This include town planning to retain and protect habitat, wetland planting field days and a Sloane's Froglet education  program for school-children. A brochure and habitat guide with management recommendations has also been produced.

Policy Brief for Laos

  • Our researchers, working in Laos on fish passage research in the Mekong River Basin, have worked with the Australian Embassy to produce a Policy Brief on Research Findings at the request of the Laos government to determine how research outcomes could be translated into new policy. The brief Incorporating fish passage in sustainable development practices and policy in Lao PDR outlines the potential policy implications on sustainable fisheries and irrigation expansion in that country.

Assessment framework for climate change adaptation

  • A Climate Change Adaptation Catchment Assessment Framework (CCA CAF) has been developed and tested as a planning tool aimed at catchment-level NRM managers. The tool has proved helpful to CMA project officers during a review of NSW Catchment Action Plans, allowing for the incorporation of climate change adaptation considerations into management activities within the CMAs' water programs.

New fishing regulations in NSW

  • A PhD project studying Murray Crayfish has contributed to the development of new fishing regulations for the NSW Murray Crayfish recreational fishery.

Strategies to improve the success of Indigenous enterprise

  • An ARC Linkage project (2011-2014) that investigated the factors that influence the success of private and community-owned Indigenous businesses across remote, regional and urban Australia has helped stakeholders better understand the challenges facing Indigenous enterprises in various geographic, economic and social settings. The findings have been presented to policymakers to assist in developing strategies to improve the uptake and success rate of Indigenous enterprises.

Improving access to fish resources and wetland management

  • Research projects funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in Laos and Indonesia have resulted in improved access to fish resources and wetland management, spreading income and risk from aquaculture, better pond management practices, more disposable income for households and increased support from government agencies.

Reigniting interest in freight rail lines

  • The on-going Reviving Regional Railways project has promoted a better informed debate on reinstating regional freight rail and presented a broader range of options than might have been apparent otherwise.  In August 2016, seven years after supporters of the revival of the Blayney-Demondrille line first met, the NSW State Government announced that $5 million would be invested to reinstate the Maimuru (north of Young) to Demondrille (near Harden) railway. Under the NSW Government's Fixing Country Rail program, several million more dollars were allocated among smaller projects. The Blayney-Demondrille project stands out for the breadth of community engagement, including the ILWS seminar held at Blayney in 2013, as well as its level of funding. Community support for the project remains strong.

CSU research informing improved dam operations

  • ILWS researchers have developed strong partnerships with commonwealth, state and regional water management agencies and have assisted managers balance the multiple benefits of water and achieve enhanced environmental and social outcomes. A long-term partnership between CSU researchers, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and Goulburn-Murray Water that examined ecosystem responses to variable flow releases from Dartmouth Dam has resulted in the development and application of new interim operational guidelines for Dartmouth Dam, the largest capacity dam in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Improving livestock profitability in Laos

  • A four year project funded by the Australian Centre for International Research has assisted the Lao government to help farmers adopt ways of improving their livestock production. As a result of the project the livestock profitability of over 500 farmers has improved; there is a greater understanding by extension staff on how to tailor their approaches for different ethnic communities; and the Lao government and non-government project partners have taken up recommendations from the project.

Improving landholder participation in NRM

  • A three year collaborative project with researchers from CSU, Sunshine University, University of Technology Sydney and University of Tasmania has identified how to best engage and communicate with landholders to increase their participation in natural resource management. The project focussed on the Great Eastern Ranges where five distinct landholder types (quality operators, traditional farmers, retiree life stylers, professional life stylers and blue collar blockies) were identified. As a result, the Hawkesbury Nepean CMA has reviewed its communication strategy to better engage with the blue collar blockies, a much larger and more significant group than previously recognised. The researchers also surveyed all NRM agencies in Australia with respect to their communication practices, and trialled seven different communication campaigns with the aim of  identifying which message/channel combinations were most effective at engaging landholders overall and in particular those landholders who were difficult to reach (absentee owners and life stylers).  They found that using emotionally based treatments was very effective in reaching a range of different types of landholders. The research is expected to lead to a more 'tailor-made' approach by CMAs that will drive higher levels of engagement for groups of landholders that historically have showed low levels of participation.