Samantha Setterfield
The University of Western Australia

Samantha Setterfield photoAssociate Professor Samantha Setterfield

Regional Node Coordinator, The University of Western Australia, School of Biological Sciences

See Sam’s full research profile here.

E: [email protected]

Research outputs for policy change and decision making

  • Associate Professor Setterfield has been Research Leader of a multidisciplinary research team on the ecology and management of non-native grasses in northern Australia’s for more than 20 years. Her research has developed decision-support tools and led to policy changes. She was Project Leader of a collaborative team with the NT Government that developed the NT’s Weed Risk Management (WRM) system, formally adopted in 2008 by the NT Government and used to nominate plant species for declarations. The system included decision making tools to determine weed risk and feasibility of successful control, an economic evaluation framework, a policy with guiding principles, and recommended management actions. This system was used for the listing and management of weeds in the NT, including gamba grass (Setterfield et al. 2019, Pacific Conservation Biology 22:189-200; Setterfield et al. 2010 Plant Protection Quarterly 25: 86–88). Within NERP, we developed management scenario evaluation tools to assist protected area managers to design invasive plant management strategies (Adams et al. 2018 Conservation Letters; Adams et al. 2015 MEE; including the design and evaluation of gamba grass management strategies for Litchfield N.P. and para grass and olive hymenachne management strategies for Kakadu. This research has underpinned activity in NESP NEAR Project 5.5. In 2007, A/Prof Setterfield formed a cross-jurisdictional steering committee with senior Government personnel in weed policy and management in WA, NT and Qld to ensure uptake of current research and co-ordinated management response. This committee facilitated the sharing of regional cross-jurisdiction datasets and influenced on-ground management. For example, we used the datasets assess of daily fire risk by the BoM, resulting in 3 new fire management zones created in the Darwin and regional areas (Setterfield et al. 2013 Plos One 8, e59144.).
  • A/Prof Setterfield’s research in the NESP commissioned Project 2.7 examines potential impacts on riparian vegetation following the decommissioning of Ranger Uranium Mine. The project is addressing a knowledge need identified for ERISS on the effect of elevated MgSO4 levels on groundwater dependent ecosystems.
  • A/Prof Setterfield leads the plant ecology research within the transdisciplinary NAER NESP Project 1.3.3 team. The team (including WA Government staff) developed a hydro-socio-ecological conceptual model for the Fitzroy catchment (WA) that demonstrated the need to maintain hydrological connectivity to support hydro-ecological values and Indigenous use for food and amenity, and to meet religious responsibilities. They developed a set of guiding principles for using e-flows to protect aquatic ecosystems and their dependent human cultures and livelihoods. The WA Government are using these for their catchment water planning.
  • NESP Northern Hub projects: Managing savanna riparian zones, Fire and weeds in the Top End, Methods to measure temporal change in soil carbon, Environmental water needs for the Fitzroy River, Tree water use and sensitivity to contaminated mine water, Improving gamba grass control on Cape York Peninsula, Bininj/Mungguy healthy country indicators and Transdisciplinary environmental research.

Current academic employment and positions

  • Associate Professor, Ecology and Environmental Management, UWA, 2016-current
  • Research Executive member, Northern Australian Environmental Research (NAER) NESP Hub
  • Project Leader, NESP NAEH for Project 1.4 Methods and techniques to measure temporal change in soil carbon
  • Project Leader, NESP NAEH Project 2.3 Weed invasion, fire and ecosystem failure
  • Project Leader, NESP NAEH Project 2.6 Managing savanna riparian zones
  • Activity Leader, Plant water requirements in the Fitzroy River (WA), Project 1.3.3
  • Researcher, NESP NAEH for Project 2.7 Tree water use and sensitivity to contaminated mine water; Project 2.10 Improving gamba grass control on Cape York Peninsula, Project 5.5. Bining/Mungguy health country indicators (Kakadu); Project 6.2 Transdiciplinary environmental research; and the NESP Gamba grass web resource.
  • Researcher/PhD Supervisor. Honey Bee Products CRC Understanding the environmental drivers of flora and honey bee product production: development of Remote Sensing approaches for predicting flowering events (Project Lead : Dr Nik Callow, UWA)

Highest Qualification

  • 1997, PhD, Charles Darwin University

Major Prizes, Medals and Honours

  • 2015, Territory Natural Resource Management Awards, Research Team Award (
  • 2009, CDU Vice-Chancellors Award for Exceptional Performance in Research
  • 2008, NT Research and Innovation Award Finalist
  • 2008, CDU Dean of Science Award for Outstanding Researcher
  • 2006, Invasive Species Council Biosecurity Australia

Roles on government or regional organisation committees

  • Expert panel, ABARES National Environmental Priority Pest and Diseases list (2018-9)
  • Kakadu Research and Management Advisory Group (Current)
  • Chair, National Gamba Grass National Taskforce (2011- )
  • Darwin Harbour Ecosystem Research Group (2005-2007)
  • Chair, NT WRM Technical Committee (2006-2010 )
  • Member of the NT WRM Steering Committee (2006-2008)
  • NT Land and Sea Advisory Board (2009-2013)
  • Darwin Regional Weeds Advisory Group (2010-16)

My Projects

Current projectCompleted project
NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present