The High Country Dieback Network
A Centre for Biodiversity Analysis Synthesis Group. Our network is developing proposals to secure funding for a multi-disciplinary 5 year project investigating the current dieback event in snow-gum stands of the Australian high country. Our network is drawing on the excellent facilities of the partner institutions and the expertise of our determined network of collaborative players. We are focussing particularly on the snow-gum group but with extension to other high country eucalypt clades.
Our aims are to:
quantify the history, geography, and trajectory of the dieback event,
map the patterns of genomic and phenomic variation as relevant to the dieback,
model the feedback of the event between hydrology, soils, other vegetation communities and water yield, and
propose a management action plan that will enable a cost-effective solution to maintain trees in the high country with follow on benefits for biota and the catchment.
Click a logo to read about some of our members and their activities.
Dr Matthew Brookhouse, ANU
Matt's research largely lies in the use of dendrochronology to reconstruct the response of forest ecosystems to environmental variability and disturbance. He has a particular interest in integrating knowledge across spatial scales ranging—spanning wood anatomy to stand structure and landscape patterning—and temporal scales—from high-resolution variability in gas exchange to multi-centennial change in growth—to understand forest ecosystems, and a love of sub-alpine woodlands.
Professor Adrienne Nicotra, ANU
Prof Adrienne Nicotra is a plant evolutionary ecologist with interest in the capacity of plants to respond to environment and environmental change – what we call phenotypic plasticity. Her work focusses on native species from a wide range of environments, though she is particularly fond of mountain flora. In addition to her research work, Adrienne is the director of the Australian Mountain Research Facility.
Professor Justin Borevitz, ANU
My lab works on the genomic basis of climate and soil adaptation in Eucalyptus foundation species. New NSW-Environmental Trust work is looking at E viminalis dieback in the tablelands and E pauciflora dieback in the mountains to see how the current genetic distribution matches with the past and future climates. This can guide ecological restoration and agricultural regeneration planting and thinning efforts to re-establish climate and dieback resilience.
Dr Ben Gooden, CSIRO
Ben Gooden is a vegetation ecologist, specialising in alien plant invasion and management (https://people.csiro.au/g/b/ben-gooden). Ben is also leading several projects at CSIRO on the application of microbes to ecosystem management, such as the release of fungal pathogens as biocontrol agents to help reduce the impacts of their host weeds (e.g. https://research.csiro.au/wandering-trad/). Ben is currently coordinating NSW Environmental Trust-funded research into the role of soil microbes (both pathogens and mutualists, such as mycorrhizae) in Eucalyptus woodland dieback, in partnership with several CSIRO colleagues (Suzanne Prober, Tracey Steinrucken, Felipe Albornoz, Gavin Hunter), Celeste Linde from ANU, Landcare (represented by Margaret Mackinnon) and Greening Australia (represented by Nicki Taws). Our cutting-edge research endeavours to develop inoculation protocols to ‘reconnect’ nursery-grown native plant seedlings with mycorrhizal and other microbial mutualists to enhance their performance when planted into highly degraded landscape suffering from severe woodland dieback. Ben is representing CSIRO within the High Country Dieback Network and is contributing to the CBA Synthesis Group’s global review of drivers and management of dieback syndromes.
Margaret Mackinnon, Upper Snowy Landcare
Margaret Mackinnon is Chair of Upper Snowy Landcare Network, a community organisation busy restoring a eucalyptus dieback-affected areas on the Monaro. She is a quantitative geneticist who, in her role with Landcare, is helping to link research with practical solutions for on-ground restoration of damaged landscapes.
Rob Gibbs, Program Manager - Australian Alps National Parks Cooperative Management Program
I am currently in the role of Australian Alps National Parks Co-operative Management Program Manager. I have worked as a field officer and ranger and project officer in Kosciuszko National Park for 18 of the over 30 years working for the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service on the development and implementation of on-ground park management and natural and cultural heritage conservation program delivery.
The Australian Alps Program has been operating across the Australian Alps bioregion for over 36 Years. The Program brings staff from the relevant Park management agencies (ACT Parks and Conservation Service / NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service / Parks Victoria / Parks Australia) together with community stakeholders and partners including Universities and Researchers with the goal being working in partnership to achieve excellence in conservation management of the Australian Alps national parks natural and cultural values and sustainable use through an active program of cross-border cooperation. The issue of snow-gum dieback being a significant landscape scale issue affecting the Alps bioregion it is important that partnerships, co-operation and knowledge sharing between government land managers, the research, and broader community and stakeholders is critical in addressing this important issue.
Mel Schroder, Senior Conservation Planning Officer,
Southern Ranges Branch, NSW NPWS
I have worked for over 25 years for the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service on the development and implementation of on-ground conservation program delivery. I currently lead the conservation team in Kosciuszko National Park and surrounding reserves. We work with staff and other stakeholders to develop and implement threatened species research and monitoring, threat management programs, vertebrate pest and weed management programs. My work has led to the formation of significant linkages between research and on-ground natural area management in the alpine and sub alpine systems of Kosciuszko NP. These connections have led to research outcomes which, in turn, have informed and improved management of conservation values including threatened alpine skinks and small mammals.
Dr Megan Head, ANU
Megan is an evolutionary ecologist whose research focuses on how insects interact with their environment. She is particularly interested in how insects coevolve with other species, like parasites and plants, and how they adapt to novel and changing environments. Current research in Megan’s lab focuses on understanding the evolution of thermal tolerance in native beetles, and figuring out what attracts herbivorous insects to particular host trees.
Dr Zach Brown , ANU
Dr Zach Brown is the Sr. Technical Officer leading the deployment and operation of environmental monitoring equipment throughout remote regions of the Australian Alps as part of the Australian Mountain Research Facility (AMRF).
Genevieve Wright, NSW DPIE
Flora ecologist expertise in fire ecology, weed ecology and management, high mountain flora, Kosciuszko National Park vegetation and threatened species and ecological community research. I work on 3 threatened eucalypts, all of which exhibit dieback syndromes and all of which occur in SE NSW. Involvement in investigations into snow gum dieback in Kosciuszko over the past 10 years.
Dr Pieter Arnold, ANU
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Research School of Biology, ANU. I conduct research in ecophysiology, evolutionary ecology, and evidence synthesis. Thermal tolerance and responses of plants to temperature and interacting stressors has been my focus. I am using evidence synthesis (systematic methods to review existing literature) to quantify features of dieback phenomena across tree species globally with the aim to investigate the interacting abiotic and biotic drivers of dieback and identify opportunities for management.
Professor Saul Cunningham, ANU
Professor Cunningham's work ranges across specific questions regarding the fundamental determinants of diversity, methods of ecological restoration, management to increase farm productivity, and more. He has been Director of the Fenner School of Environment & Society since 2017. Saul is helping to understand the ecology of the insects that are part of the dieback story.
Dr Steph Courtney Jones, Conservation Research ACT Government
I am a Research Ecologist working at Conservation Research, ACT government and on the Living on the edge: how do Australian plants cope with extreme temperature? ARC Linkage project based in the Nicotra – Plant Physiology Research Group at The Australian National University. I am particularly interested in the feedback of bushfire plays in dieback events and whether fire management can play a role in reducing the impacts of dieback, particularly within the subalpine habitats of Namadgi National Park. I am an applied functional ecologist with a bevy of interests in fire ecology, phenotypic plasticity, assisted evolution, translocations, community ecology and their applications for conservation biology. I have expertise in phenotypic responses to environmental change and how populations adapt. My experience extends to measurements of functional traits in a wide range of taxa (flora and fauna) including the use of physiological techniques and technologies for both ex-situ and in-situ conservation. My research examines the effect of environmental change on phenotypic traits to community scale, and employ various conservation technologies in land management across changing landscapes
Dr. Helen Bothwell, ANU
Helen is a landscape geneticist interested in understanding how environmental and anthropogenic factors influence microevolutionary processes in foundation tree species, and how this in turn shapes the distribution of species and genetic variation across the landscape. Her work investigating above and belowground adaptations to aridity in eucalyptus aims to identify climate-ready restoration stock to improve the resilience of future forests.