Harry Butler Institute

Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability

Centre Director: Professor Trish Fleming
Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia


About the centre

The Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability represents a collaboration of academic research staff working with community, industry and management partners towards a shared vision of maintaining sustainable and biodiverse ecosystems through scientific excellence.

This Centre captures the outputs of 17 academic staff and over 100 current HDR students, with a shared vision to carry out robust science underpinning biodiversity conservation.

Our research strengths – in wildlife, plants and processes – are applied to ecosystems influenced by urbanisation, extraction industries, and primary production. Underpinning this research is our cross-cutting research themes, strong education linkage, and substantial industry and community engagement.


The centre’s core research areas

Research in the Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability spans four key themes in restoration ecology, wildlife biology and conservation, urban ecosystems, and forestry and threatening processes. Our work provides fundamental information to regulators and managers for identifying biodiversity processes and threats, understanding conservation science, and protecting ecosystems through increased stewardship.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

Wildlife Biology and Conservation

Conservation and management of wildlife requires that we understand the biology, behaviour and ecology of native and invasive fauna, as well as their potential susceptibility to disease.

Murdoch researchers are contributing to this through robust applied science. We are developing and applying traditional and novel approaches to understand threatened species biology, evolutionary biology, and habitat requirements. Our investigations into wildlife disease and invasive species underpin conservation management decisions.

Aquatic Megafauna

Terrestrial Ecosystem Management

Western Australia is home to more native plant species than any other state in the nation, with 10,000 plant species identified. Eight of Australia’s 15 terrestrial biodiversity hotspots occur within the state, and WA also supports an extraordinary diversity of unique terrestrial animal species.

Our research provides much needed evidence to inform policies that effectively address threatening processes, including land use, climate change, fire, weeds, and the introduced animals and diseases that threaten our extraordinary diversity.

Catchments to Coast

Ecological Restoration

Ecological restoration is a multi-disciplinary pursuit requiring collaboration across soil science, plant community ecology and social science. Many ecosystems need informed management to ensure that they can be returned to functioning landscapes.

Murdoch Researchers are well-positioned to deliver the collaborative translational science that’s needed to inform this emerging practice. Our research in this area is helping to rebuild agricultural, mining and urban landscapes.

Urban Ecosystems

Urban Ecosystems

Globally, urban centres occupy the most biodiverse parts of the Earth, and increasing human population stretches the capacity of many ecosystem processes. In Australia, our quality of life strongly depends on how we manage these urban environments.

Murdoch ecologists and social scientists are working on the biology of urban wildlife, the impacts of weeds and invasive animals, and maintaining quality urban water reserves. Growing the connection between people and urban nature, through tourism, recreation and education, is important for preserving the unique environments we live in.


Key researchers

Professor Trish Fleming

Professor Fleming is a wildlife biologist with a focus on conservation biology and welfare. Recognising that it is difficult to conserve animals that we know little about, her research is strongly practical and applied – increasing our knowledge of habitat selection or foods required by native species informs management decisions, while identifying ‘biological Achilles heels’ for invasive species can help control their populations.

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Professor Giles Hardy

Professor Hardy is an expert in forest pathology and natural ecosystems, in particular, how biotic and abiotic plant diseases impact on ecosystem function and health. His research covers remote sensing, eco-hydrology, entomology, molecular plant pathology, plant physiology and nutrition, fungal genetics, microbiology, soil health, restoration ecology and native fauna.

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Professor Treena Burgess

Professor Burgess leads research into the biology, ecology and genetics of beneficial and detrimental microorganisms in natural ecosystems, plantation forestry and horticulture, with a focus on biodiversity and biosecurity issues. Her recent research has focused on Phytophthora, where she has been instrumental in the recognition of 20 new species.

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Professor Kris Warren

Professor Warren has worked in the field of conservation medicine for more than 25 years and is currently Professor in Wildlife, Zoological and Conservation Medicine and Academic Chair of Postgraduate Studies in Conservation Medicine. She has worked as a veterinarian and researcher on orangutans and is leading research to better understand and secure the future of black cockatoos in Western Australia.

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Dr Natalie Warburton

Dr Warburton’s research on the link between structure and function in animals provides important information on our unique wildlife, both living and extinct. As a leading expert on marsupial anatomy, her work utilises both quantitative and qualitative techniques that contributes to our understanding of animal ecology and biodiversity in changing environments through time.

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Associate Professor Rachel Standish

Associate Professor Standish is a plant community ecologist and Deputy Director for the Centre. She lives and works in south-western Australia where she is passionate about the ecology of the local plant diversity hotspot and its conservation. Dr Standish was acknowledged for her contributions in 2019 when she received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and again in 2022 when she received a Fulbright Future Scholarship to research and teach in the United States.

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