Research Ideas Workshop

Albany, 2 February, 2011

Edited by Dr Julia Fry

Originally published as CENRM report number CENRM 122
Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management
The University of Western Australia


The idea of developing this Natural Resource Management (NRM) Research Ideas report came from a wonderful little publication developed many years ago by the former Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), titled "Bright Ideas". That document described a number of biodiversity research ideas for the south coast, within the scope of CALM's activities, and supervised by local CALM staff.

The idea of developing a broader NRM Research Ideas report was supported by the Advisory Board of the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management (CENRM), The University of Western Australia.

The Board saw a range of merits in having such a document: ensuring knowledge gaps in NRM were clearly communicated; having some ready research ideas for honours and post-graduate students interested in studying the region; and providing a strategic direction and support for universities and other organisations in developing and seeking funding for research projects.

The Board also felt that providing this report and keeping it up-to-date with regular review would help to maximise the focus of new research on key management issues for the region, and minimise any potential duplication in research.

CENRM took carriage of the process and convened a workshop of local and Perth-based NRM researchers and managers to identify the key knowledge gaps. The workshop was held on 2nd February 2011 and attracted 35 participants, and resulted in a comprehensive table of knowledge gaps under a range of broad topic areas.

Theme leaders at CENRM further developed these tables, and then this report was collated to synthesize the ideas into overarching research priorities.

It is intended that achievement against the research priorities, and identification of new knowledge gaps, will be considered as a part of the Great Southern Science Symposium, convened annually by CENRM. The report will then be updated as necessary.

We hope this summary of research priorities and projects provides good ideas to encourage on-going research in our fantastic Great Southern region, to provide the knowledge we need to ensure its ongoing protection and management.

We encourage you to contact any of the research contacts in the document to help get your research project underway.

Naomi Arrowsmith



The objective of the Research Ideas Workshop was to compile a statement of NRM knowledge requirements for the Great Southern region, and identify potential science/ research projects to meet these needs.

The Workshop was to commence definition of the region’s knowledge requirements and research opportunities in NRM. It was hoped to define a suite of projects that could be appropriate for honours, doctoral, post-doctoral or professional research over the next five years.

It was intended that with a suitably formulated statement of NRM knowledge requirements organisations and scientists would be strategically positioned to identify research partnerships, attract funds, and attract students to the region.

The Workshop was to have as its scope the Great Southern region, with a focus on 2011-2015. Some of the organisations represented are also active in neighbouring areas such as the South Coast or Wheatbelt regions.

The Workshop was facilitated by Naomi Arrowsmith, Department of Water, and a member of the CENRM Advisory Board. After an introduction to the workshop, representatives from four government agencies presented some of their major issues and management priorities for the next five years. The agencies involved were the Department of Fisheries, Water, Environment and Conservation, and Agriculture and Food.

There were five working groups convened on the day to identify knowledge needs across five theme areas. The themes were suggested as water; biodiversity; marine, coastal and estuarine; soils, carbon and plantations; and communities and social sciences. The two groups for 'water' and 'soils' operated as one group at the workshop but suggested ideas for both themes.

Each working group was asked to capture knowledge needs under four main categories:

  • Data requirements
    The science that is required for long-term understanding of the state of resources, including monitoring information, inventories and surveys.
  • Strategic knowledge requirements
    The fundamental research that is required to understand how systems work, including processes and linkages.
  • Operational research and tools
    The knowledge and tools that are required to answer specific management questions, including models and decision support systems.
  • Innovation
    Development and refinement of new solutions, often technological.

In the time allowed for this process most of the groups were not able to allocate the knowledge needs to these categories.

Some organisations also contributed their knowledge needs prior to the workshop.

All the ideas from the workshop and from prior communications were collated into a spreadsheet and circulated for further comment. Staff from CENRM have now analysed and synthesised this data and produced this report.

The report is structured according to six themes:

  • Agriculture and Soils
  • Community and NRM
  • Marine and Coastal
  • NRM Research Governance
  • Terrestrial Biodiversity
  • Water

Within each theme there is a further categorisation according to research field with a description of the NRM problem and some possible research objectives.

The proposed possible projects are separately presented as an appendix to this report. Some of the information presented at the workshop and in other tabled documents is not included in this table but is available on request from CENRM. The notes in the table include some organisations that would be available to assist with these projects. The list is not meant to be exhaustive and does not include any of the government agencies, large community organisations or universities.

This document should be used to assist with seeking resources and projects for research in the Great Southern and beyond. Review of the document should be ongoing and in particular could include some prioritisation of the research fields, objectives and project ideas. It is hoped that the proposed Southern WA Science Council will be able to take carriage of the document once established.

All comments on this report should be directed to Randall Jasper, Business Manager, UWA Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management.    9842 0848    PO Box 5771, Albany, Western Australia 6332