Professor Stuart Bunn, Director, Australian Rivers Institute
See Stuart’s full research profile here.
What are your research interests as they relate to northern Australia?
My research aims to understand how freshwater ecosystems function. I seek to identify the important sources of energy and nutrients that sustain aquatic food webs and determine how the quantity and quality of food resources are influenced by environmental and anthropogenic factors. I am particularly interested in quantifying the important food web connections between rivers and their floodplains (and estuaries). Maintenance of these connections and food web subsidies is critically important for the protection of river-floodplain ecosystems in northern Australia, and the important cultural and environmental values they sustain.
What do you love about working in northern Australia?
Much of my work these days, in research and at the science-policy interface, is focused on trying to find ways to fix degraded freshwater ecosystems. I’ve always felt that there was an opportunity in northern Australia to build our knowledge base to guide future development and avoid the mistakes made in southern Australia (and many parts of the world). I am still optimistic enough to believe there is an opportunity to get things right in the north, and to take our learnings to help protect other tropical systems in the region that are facing increasing pressures from development and climate change.
I’ve always loved visiting the Alligator Rivers Region in the NT. There aren’t many places in the world that offer such a variety of freshwater habitats to study, from crystal clear streams and waterholes in the escarpment country to vast river-floodplain wetlands – that are still relatively intact.