The current members are:
- Professor Helene Marsh (Chair)
- Dr Sarah Legge (Deputy Chair)
- Dr Rhonda Butcher
- Professor Kingsley Dixon
- Associate Professor Rachael Gallagher
- Professor Richard Harper
- Professor Christopher Johnson
- Professor David Keith
- Associate Professor Nicola Mitchell
- Associate Professor Brett Murphy
- Professor Colin Simpfendorfer
- Professor Stephen van Leeuwen
Emeritus Professor Helene Marsh AO FAA FTSE FRZS FQA (Qld) (Chair)
Emeritus Professor Helene Marsh
Professor Helene Marsh was appointed to the Committee as Chair in August 2011. She is a conservation biologist with some 40 years’ experience in research into species conservation, management and policy with particular reference to tropical marine and terrestrial wildlife of conservation concern. The policy outcomes of her research include significant contributions to the science base of dugong conservation in Australia and internationally. Her research also provided the conceptual basis for the 'Back on Track' Program conducted by the Queensland government. Helene is committed to informing interdisciplinary solutions to conservation problems and has collaborated widely with colleagues in other disciplines.
Helene is a Fellow of the Australian Academies of Science (Vice-President, Biological Sciences) and Technological Sciences and Engineering and has received national and international awards for her research and conservation. In 2021, she became an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the biological and environmental sciences, to the conservation of marine mammals, and to tertiary education. Helene is currently the Lead for the Threatened and Migratory Species and Threatened Ecological Communities Initiative for the National Environmental Science Program based in the Resilient Landscapes Hub. She was the natural heritage expert on the Australian delegation for the World Heritage Committee (2018-21) and is Co–chair of the IUCN Sirenia Specialist Group. She is also on the editorial boards of Conservation Biology (Regional Editor), Endangered Species Research and Oecologia.
Helene retired as Dean of Graduate Research at James Cook University (JCU) in 2018. She is now Emeritus Professor in Environmental Science and a Professional Fellow at JCU. Her publications include two books, 170+ papers in professional journals, ~50 chapters in refereed monographs/conference proceedings, more than 30 papers in conference/workshop proceedings, plus numerous technical reports and popular articles. Helene has been on the supervisory committees of about 100 honours and research students (including 61 PhDs to successful completion) and 12 postdoctoral fellows.
Professor Sarah Legge (NSW)
Professor Sarah Legge
Professor Sarah Legge was appointed to the Committee in October 2012. She is Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the Australian National University, Professorial University Fellow at Charles Darwin University, and Principal Research Fellow at the University of Queensland.
Sarah is a wildlife ecologist with 30 years of research and conservation management experience. She worked originally in behavioural and evolutionary ecology (evolution of sociality, mating systems, sex allocation, siblicide, intra-tropical migration). Over the past 20 or so years, her research has aimed to improve our understanding of the impacts of threats (especially fire and feral animals) on threatened and declining species, and to develop ways to address those threats. She worked in the non-profit conservation sector for over a decade, with a focus on the on-ground delivery of conservation management and research. Sarah developed a regional fire management project that won the WA State Environment Award, and she was awarded the Serventy Medal by Birdlife Australia for her contribution to ornithological research, and a Distinguished Service Award by the International Society for Conservation Biology.
Sarah is a member of several advisory committees for conservation organisations or projects, including the Christmas Island Cat Eradication Project Advisory Committee, the Purnululu World Heritage Area Advisory Committee, Birdlife Australia’s Threatened Species Committee, the Wild Deserts Advisory Committee, and Accounting for Nature Standards and Accreditation Committee. She also sits on the Australian Government’s Feral Cat Taskforce and was a member of the Australian Government’s Expert Panel for Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery, during and after the 2019-20 megafires. Sarah has published over 200 scientific papers and book chapters, and four books, two of which won Whitley Awards.
Dr Rhonda Butcher (Vic)
Dr Rhonda Butcher
Rhonda Butcher was appointed to the Committee in November 2020. She is an aquatic ecologist with over 30 years of experience. Rhonda began her career with an ecological study of movement patterns in Mountain Pygmy Possum in the Victorian high plains in 1986 followed by work on invertebrates at the Museum of Victoria and Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre. She was co-author of the book, An overview of the conservation of the non-marine invertebrates of Australia in 1997, the first national assessment of its type. Her PhD undertaken at Monash University/CRC for Freshwater Ecology, investigated assessment of biodiversity in permanent and temporary wetlands focusing on invertebrates, waterbirds, aquatic plants, and wetland classification systems. Since 2003 she has been operating as an independent consultant undertaking a broad range of ecological and natural resource management projects with a focus on integrating science and management to achieve on ground outcomes for the environment.
Areas of expertise include design and review of monitoring programs, management planning for environmental water including alignment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan Environmental Management Framework, development of prioritisation and decision-making frameworks, risk assessments, environmental training programs, facilitation, and program evaluation. She has experience in inland rivers, wetlands, karst, groundwater dependent ecosystems, coastal and near shore marine ecosystems across Australia. Rhonda has undertaken considerable work on Matters of National Environmental Significance having worked on all Australian Ramsar sites, prepared over 22 Ecological Character Descriptions, numerous Ramsar management plans and developed the nomination documents for the last two listed Australian sites.
Rhonda was the lead ecologist on the National Cultural Flows Research Program, led the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Native Fish Recovery Strategy and the development of the Basin Science Platform for implementation of the MDB Basin Plan. Rhonda is chair/facilitator of the Independent Advisory Group to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office for their monitoring, evaluation, and research program. She is also assisting the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s Native Fish Science program, initially undertaking a status assessment of native fish in the Basin as part of the implementation of the Native Fish Recovery Strategy. Rhonda has also served on numerous advisory committees to regional Catchment Management Authorities, State and Federal agencies, and served nine years on the Victorian Scientific Advisory Committee for the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 2009-2018.
Professor Kingsley Dixon (WA)
Professor Kingsley Dixon
John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kingsley Dixon is a botanist at Curtin University working in threatened species conservation and ecosystem restoration. He was appointed to the Committee in March 2015. Professor Dixon is a strong advocate of enabling communities to be effective deliverers of science in conservation and restoration in community-led programs. This includes programs with traditional owners in the mid-west of Western Australia, the Galganyem Trust in the Kimberley, and southwest Australian Noongar groups. Specialist areas include seed science and technology, plant ecophysiology, mycorrhizal biology, pollination ecology with a major focus linking science to more effective on-ground ecological restoration with the mining industry, landcare, and coastcare organisations.
Kingsley was the Foundation Director of Science at Kings Park and Botanic Garden and was awarded the Linnean Medal for Botany (2013) and 2016 Western Australian Scientist of the Year for his work in the role of smoke and fire chemicals in germination ecology of Australian plants. He is Executive of the international Society for Ecological Restoration, and Foundation Chair of the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia and the International Network for Seed Based Restoration, Vice-Chair of the IUCN Orchid Specialist Group and Plant Reintroduction Group, and is a member of the Western Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
Associate Professor Rachael Gallagher (NSW)
Associate Professor Rachael Gallagher
Associate Professor Rachael Gallagher was appointed to the Committee in November 2020. She is an Associate Professor in Plant Conservation at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in New South Wales. Rachael works to ensure that plants are protected and recognised for their vital contribution to society. She runs a research program investigating plant diversity and adaptation, including experimental and field studies of plant responses to key threatening processes such as climate change. Rachael’s research draws on national and international initiatives on plant traits and ranges, several of which she contributes to directly as co-curator of the national AusTraits database. She uses these rich sources of data to inform continental and global scale studies in plant biogeography.
Rachael has worked in plant science since 2004, initially at the National Herbarium of NSW and subsequently as an Australian Research Council Early Career Research Fellow (DECRA 2017-2021) after completing her PhD on the functional ecology of climbing plants in 2012. She served on the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee from 2016-2021 (Deputy Chair 2019-2021).
In 2020, she was awarded NSW Premier’s Prize for Early Career Research (Biological Sciences) in recognition of her national assessment of the impacts of the 2019-2020 bushfire season on Australian plant diversity. Her work prioritising plant species for recovery actions after the fires has been widely applied to inform planning, management, and extinction risk assessment at the State and Commonwealth level. She has authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications and has worked closely with the NSW Saving our Species conservation program to deliver research for strategic threat management.
Professor Richard Harper (WA)
Professor Richard Harper
Professor Richard Harper was appointed to the Committee in February 2019. He is a Professor at Murdoch University, which he joined in 2009. This followed twenty years science and policy experience with the Western Australian government in programs addressing salinity, plantation and farm forestry establishment and climate change mitigation. Professor Harper has a B.Sc. Agric. (Hons) and PhD (Soil Science) from the University of Western Australia.
He was an early advocate of using carbon mitigation investment, or carbon farming, to drive landscape scale improvements in soil, water, forest, and biodiversity management. His research has involved work with the agriculture, forestry, and water sectors and encompassed sequestration in plants and soil and novel bioenergy systems. Current projects include work with dryland reforestation, an exploration of the use of carbon markets in mangrove protection, and restoration and understanding the carbon and water dynamics in eucalypt forests in response to past management and climate change. Recent work has also examined the major agricultural soil management problem of water repellency. His research program currently comprises 6 PhD students, funded through a range of grants from government and industry.
Richard was a lead author on the 2014 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGIII), a member of the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (2015-16), President of the Australian Council of Agricultural Deans (2018-19) and Chair of the IUFRO Taskforce on Forests, Soil and Water (2015-2017).
Professor Christopher Johnson (Tas)
Professor Christopher Johnson
Professor Chris Johnson was appointed to the Committee in November 2020. He is Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Tasmania.
Chris is an ecologist with a more than 30-year career of teaching and researching animal ecology, conservation science, wildlife management, and the environmental history of Australia. He is an authority on the ecology and biology of marsupials, threatened species especially. He also studies the management of invasive species, where his research aims to use ecological understanding to find new ways to reduce impacts of invasive species on native biodiversity at landscape scales. He was awarded the 2007 Whitley Medal of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, the 2008 Troughton Medal of the Australian Mammal Society, the 2012 Australian Ecology research Award of the Ecological Society of Australia, and the 2013 Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.
Chris serves on several advisory committees, including as Red List Coordinator for the IUCN Australasian Marsupials and Monotremes Specialist Group, member of the Science Advisory Network to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and member of the Tasmanian Threatened Species Scientific Advisory Committee.
Professor David Keith (NSW)
Professor David Keith
Professor David Keith was appointed to the Committee in November 2013 and previously served on the NSW Scientific Committee (2003-2008). He is Professor of Botany at the University of New South Wales, where he teaches vegetation science, plant identification and population biology, and biodiversity conservation. Previously he was Senior Principal Research Scientist in the NSW government, including a joint appointment with UNSW (2012-2022). His research activities include field and modelling studies on the dynamics of species populations and ecosystems and their application to the conservation of biodiversity. He has worked closely within government in NSW to integrate these advances into policy and management of natural and semi-natural landscapes.
David leads long term ecological research projects on the dynamics of heathland, mallee, upland swamp and grassy woodland ecosystems. These have helped to advance understanding of interactions between native vegetation and bushfire, climate change, grazing, and diseases. His work on bushfire ecology, blending fieldwork and modelling approaches, has produced insights into life history processes that help to identify plant species that are most prone to declines and extinctions under different fire scenarios, work that he is extending to animal species and ecosystems to support the development of fire management strategies for biodiversity conservation. He led multiple studies to assess risks and develop management options for threatened flora, fauna, and ecological communities. He played a significant role in national assessments and prioritisations of species and ecosystems after the 2019-20 bushfires and developed the conceptual framework underpinning a new listing of fire regimes as a key threatening process.
A major theme of David’s research is the development, testing, and application of conservation risk assessment methods, including population viability models and Red List methods for both species and ecosystems. He led the scientific development of IUCN Red List criteria for ecosystems, co-leads the Red List of Ecosystems theme within IUCN's Commission on Ecosystem Management and has served on the Red List of Threatened Species Standards and Petitions Committee since its inception in 2001.
David also contributed to the development of vegetation survey and mapping approaches now applied widely in government agencies and regulatory frameworks. His systematic surveys in the Sydney Basin and southeast NSW forests formed the basis for developing the first public databases that are now central to environmental assessment in NSW and nationally. His award-winning book, 'Ocean shores to desert dunes: the native vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT' is widely used in vegetation management and fire management protocols, while his book on ‘Australian vegetation’ produced the first national synthesis on that topic in more than 20 years. David has authored more than 220 peer-reviewed scientific papers and book chapters and is recipient of the Clarke Medal for natural sciences (2017), the Luc Hoffmann Award for ecosystem management (2020), the NSW Premier’s Prize for Environmental Science (2019), the Australian Ecology Research Award (2013) and two Eureka Prizes (2015, 2021).
Associate Professor Nicola Mitchell (WA)
Associate Professor Nicola Mitchell
Associate Professor Nicola Mitchell was appointed to the Committee in March 2015. She is a physiological ecologist focused on anticipating and mitigating the impacts of climate and habitat change on threatened species. Nicola has studied amphibians and reptiles for the past 28 years, with research locations ranging from alpine Tasmania to the Kimberley, to offshore islands in New Zealand. Since 2005 she has been based at the University of Western Australia and is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences and the co-leader of Conservation Biology teaching programs. Her research group apply skills in developmental and thermal biology, mechanistic modelling and population genetics, working on taxa such as sea turtles, freshwater turtles, skinks, terrestrial-breeding amphibians and mammals. Emerging conservation strategies such as assisted colonisation and targeted gene flow are a major research interest, and Nicola recently co-led the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub research program on translocation, reintroductions and conservation fencing for threatened fauna.
Nicola is a member of the Western Swamp Turtle Recovery Team, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Skink Specialist Group, and co-author of the 2017 Action Plan for Australian Lizards and Snakes. She is a former president of the Australian Society of Herpetologists and was a member of Western Australia’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee from 2016-18.
Associate Professor Brett Murphy (NT)
Associate Professor Brett Murphy
Associate Professor Brett Murphy was appointed to the Committee in November 2020. He is a researcher at Charles Darwin University. Originally from the southernmost tip of Western Australia, he fell in love with Australia's tropical north and has spent virtually all of his working life there. Trained as a botanist, Brett now has broad research interests related to the ecology and sustainable management of tropical savanna landscapes, especially savanna fire management. His research focuses on understanding:
- the drivers of the decline of small mammals in northern Australia, especially the relative importance of predation by feral cats and inappropriate fire regimes,
- the effectiveness of prescribed burning as a management tool in northern Australian savannas, aimed at decreasing annual fire extent and increasing the abundance of long unburnt habitat,
- population dynamics of savanna trees, and how tree populations are affected by fire regimes, and
- the environmental controls of fire regimes throughout Australia and the likely impacts of global environmental change.
Professor Colin Simpfendorfer (QLD/TAS)
Professor Colin Simpfendorfer
Professor Colin Simpfendorfer was appointed to the Committee in March 2015. His research interests are in the fields of shark and ray biology, ecology, fisheries, and conservation. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the College of Science and Engineering at James Cook University, and a Professor in the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. He has worked in Australia and the USA as a research scientist for government, academia and a private research laboratory. Throughout his career he has conducted research that is aimed to improve the management and conservation of sharks, rays and other marine predators.
Colin has extensive experience in providing scientific advice to fisheries management and conservation agencies. He served as Co-Chair of the IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group from 2012 to 2020. He had previously served as the Chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s Shark Resources Assessment Group, and the US National Marine Fisheries Service’s Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team. He has served on numerous fisheries management committees, including the Queensland Shark Panel, Queensland Reef Management Advisory Committee and Western Australian Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fishery Management Advisory Committee.
Colin has published over 300 scientific papers and two books, and continues an active research program supervising postgraduate students and collaborating with colleagues in Australia and overseas.
Professor Stephen van Leeuwen (WA)
Professor Stephen van Leeuwen
Professor Stephen van Leeuwen was appointed to the Committee in November 2020. Stephen is Australia’s first Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and Environmental Science, based at Curtin University in Western Australia. Stephen is an astute and knowledgeable botanical ecologist, senior manager and research scientist empowered with the interpersonal and organisation skills to combine a broad scientific competency with a commitment to leadership in research to protect biodiversity and culture, while promoting the sustainable management of Country.
Stephen is a respected South West Boojarah Wardandi Noongar leader with a profound respect for Country who embraces innovation and opportunistically engages and builds collaborative relationships with Traditional Owners and other land managers with the intent to co-deliver novel and enduring outcomes for biodiversity conservation, bio-cultural land management, and the stewardship of Country.
Stephen is a dedicated botanical ecologist with a diverse research pedigree extending from threatened flora survey, fire ecology and threatened flora management through to biological survey, arid zone ecology, plant taxonomy, and pollination biology. He has worked for over 38 years across Western Australia, principally in the rangelands and Kwongan sandplains, during which time he has attained a solid understanding of the patterns, process and threats influencing species/community occurrence and persistence.
Stephen is the Director of the ARC Training Centre for Healing Country based at Curtin University and Deputy Director and Senior Indigenous Facilitator for the Resilient Landscapes Hub of the National Environmental Science Program. He is also Chair of the Murujuga Rock Art Stakeholder Reference Group and the Karri Karrak Aboriginal Corporation.