Dr Anita Chalmers
|Work Phone||(02) 4349 4462|
|Fax||(02) 4348 4145|
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
The University of Newcastle, Australia
|Office||SOE147, Science Offices|
Anita is a Lecturer in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences. She has been teaching in the discipline of Sustainable Resource Management at the Ourimbah Campus since 1999. She has taught a wide range of courses encompassing the sustainable management of land, water and vegetation, monitoring and assessment of vegetation, as well as community attitudes and values towards the environment.
Her research interests focus on the disturbance ecology of plants and aims to improve the management of vegetation by understanding its response to natural and human disturbances.
Research conducted by Anita and her students include the effects of soil disturbance and nutrients on grasslands, the effects of fire regimes on plant diversity, hanging swamps, tree hollows, dieback in woody wetlands within urbanising catchments and the population dynamics of threatened species. She has experience in rainforest, grassland, riparian/floodplain and wetland ecosystems.
In collaboration with University of Newcastle geomorphologist, Professor Wayne Erskine, and researchers at Southern Cross University she has recently completed research on the vegetation at Widden Brook in the Hunter Valley of NSW. This research showed the important role that Casuarina cunninghamiana (River Oak) plays in river restoration (by enhancing the formation of in-channel benches) and that grazing by livestock reduces the recruitment of River Oaks. She also established the flow regimes typically experienced by River Oaks at Widden Brook. Anita is currently working on the riparian vegetation of Wollembi Brook, and its tributaries, with Professor Erskine.
More research on the the links between vegetation, fluvial processes and sediment dynamics is needed if we are to effectively manage and restore riverine vegetation. Understanding how riparian and floodplain plant species respond to wet and dry climatic periods will also help us predict the impacts of climate change and determine environmental flow requirements.
Since 2005, Anita has collaborated with the Australian Plants Society (Central Coast Group) and Gosford City Council on a field experiment established in the edge of a rainforest at Katandra Reserve near Gosford. The experiment is testing how useful the long-stem planting technique (developed by Bill Hicks for riparian zones) is for rainforest restoration. This research is aimed at improving on-ground restoration outcomes.
- PhD, University of New England, 1998
- Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Newcastle, 1992
- Bachelor of Science, University of Newcastle, 1991
- environmental flows
- floodplain vegetation
- riparian vegetation
- river restoration
- riverine plant species
- woody wetlands
My research is aimed at improving the management and conservation of vegetation through understanding its response to natural and human disturbances.
- Endangered wetlands - we investigated the possible impact of altered hydrology on a woody wetland on the Central Coast. The floristic composition and health of the wetland was found to be associated with an inundation gradient. Predictions have been made as to how the two endangered ecological communities (Swamp Sclerophyll Forest and Sydney Freshwater Wetland) may change with increased urbanisation of the catchment.
- Riparian trees - the recruitment of Casuarina cunninghamiana (River Oak) and its role in effecting channel contraction on reaches treated by Natural Sequence Farming is being investigated at Widden Brook in the Upper Hunter Valley. We also assessed the effects of excluding livestock from the river channel and found that River Oak recruitment was improved. Tree cores have been taken from the different landforms (benches and the floodplain) to investigate whether tree ring analysis can be used to confirm the age of the landforms (i.e. technique known as dendroecology).
- Endangered riparian trees - monitoring has recently commenced on an endangered population of River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) near Aberdeen in the Upper Hunter. This population is in poor health and recruitment is not occurring naturally. When sufficient water is available, the area will be artificially flooded and recruitment will be monitored.
- Restoration techniques - in collaboration with Gosford City Council and the Australian Plants Society (Central Coast Group), a field experiment has been established in the edge of a rainforest edge at Katandra Reserve near Gosford. The experiment is testing how useful the long-stem planting technique (developed by Bill Hicks for riparian zones) is for rainforest restoration. This research is aimed at improving on-ground restoration outcomes.
- Tree hollows - we investigated the abundance and size of tree hollows in five native woodland species. We found that hollow abundance increased with tree diameter and that retaining (or planting) a diversity of tree species would supply the diversity of hollows required by different faunal groups.
- Soil disturbance and nutrient enrichment - a field experiment was established to investigate the response of grassland species to mechanical soil disturbance and nutrient enrichment. Species response to soil disturbance depended on the level of nutrient enrichment and could be explained by the historical disturbance regime.
- Plant traits - comparisons of the traits of native and exotic grassland species showed that weeds have traits that enable them to avoid summer moisture stress and the impacts of grazing. The root morphology of grassland species has been investigated in root tubes and inter-specific differences can be explained by life-cycle, and the ability to access fertiliser and subsoil moisture.
- Fire disturbance - research conducted by my honours students includes the effects of fire regime on plant diversity in Wallum Heath (dominated by Banksia aemula), response of Flannel flower (Actinotis helianthi) to fire regime and soil type and the effect of fire regime on the floristic composition of Hanging Swamps.
My primary research interest is in investigating the links between vegetation and river processes. This includes the role of vegetation in enhancing sedimentation and preventing erosion along waterways. This research will lead to an understanding of how vegetation is involved in the formation of fluvial landforms such as benches and floodplains. As there are feedbacks between fluvial-sedimentation processes, the vegetation and the hydologic regime, my research looks at the flow requirements of riverine plant species and their dependency on groundwater. This involves research on the recruitment of riverine (i.e. riparian and floodplain) species and the maintenance of mature populations. Species we are currently working on include Casuarina cunninghamiana (River Oak), Tristaniopsis laurina (Water Gum) and a number of native grass species.
Further, I am interested in the application of this research to river restoration projects. This research needs to investigate environmental flow requirements that facilitate habitat creation and plant recruitment, as well as the use of the long-stem planting technique to obtain better on-ground outcomes for restoration projects. I have a secondary interest in the relationship between endangered woody wetland communities and their hydrologic regimes (i.e. flooding and groundwater requirements).
Fields of Research
|060299||Ecology Not Elsewhere Classified||45|
|040699||Physical Geography And Environmental Geoscience Not Elsewhere Classified||30|
|050199||Ecological Applications Not Elsewhere Classified||25|
Body relevant to professional practice.
- Australian Ecological Society
Committee/Associations (relevant to research).
- Hunter/Central Coast Region National Parks and Wildlife Services Research Committee.
Committee Member (NSW Ministerial Appointment)
Central Coast Regional Vegetation Committee (Australia)
|01/01/2001 - 01/12/2003|
- Course co-ordination of four courses.
- Honours co-ordinator for the discipline of Applied Science from 2007.
- Timetable Co-ordinator for the School of Applied Science from 2000-2003. This role involved maintaining a database of timetabled courses to assist with scheduling, preparing course sets for use in Syllabus Plus, producing a document summarising the School timetable procedures, negotiating changes to the timetable with course co-ordinators, answering timetable queries from staff and liaising with the Campus Timetable Officer.
- Representative of the School of Applied Sciences on the Faculty Student Recruitment Committee (2003 2004). This involved attending meetings, getting commitments from academics to attend activities each year and ensuring that participating academics had the necessary information and resources.
- Australian flora
- plant ecology
- sustainable agriculture
- sustainable forestry
- vegetation management
- Plant ecology and population processes, predominant vegetation types of Australia vegetation, botanical and adaptive features of Australian flora and plant identification.
- Current issues in land and vegetation degradation, including fragmentation, weed invasion, altered fire regimes, altered hydrology, salinity and threatened plant species.
- Strategies to manage Australian flora and plant communities including legislation, weed control, management and restoration of remnant vegetation, timber production and fire in vegetation systems.
- Vegetation assessment and monitoring including sampling methods, assessment techniques for different management objectives and different spatial scales, tree hollow assessment, rare plant monitoring, vegetation as faunal habitat.
- Values and attitudes towards the environment including environmental ethics and philosophies, effect of culture, environmental values, attitudes and behaviour, landscape preference, environmental politics, ecological economics, valuation techniques and economic instruments for resource management.
- Strategies to change peoples attitudes and behaviour towards the environment, the use of ecological instruments and valuation techniques to manage natural resources, designing and implementing community surveys.
- Physical, chemical and biological processes in lakes and streams, the hydrological cycle and water balance, water quality and aquatic habitat, ecological impacts of water use and water pollution.
- Strategies to manage freshwater systems including wastewater and stormwater management, legislation, river restoration, water quality assessment and use of macro-invertebrates as indicators of river health.
Teaching interestsAnita is interested in finding the best way to teach the scientific and management principles that graduates will need to deal with environmental problems in the real world.
- Managing plant populations
- Botanical skills for plant identification
- Sustainable forestry and agriculture
- Vegetation sampling/surveys
- Vegetation degradation and its management
- Ecosystem restoration
- Bachelor Of Science (Sustainable Resource Management)
- Bachelor of Environmental Science & Management
- Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Ourimbah Campus)