Research Team

 Porter Masters Student Queensland University of Technology.
(PrimarySupervisor: Jennifer Firn, Associate Supervisors: Tony Clarke,  SusaSlide1nne Schmidt, Amanda Rasmussen) I’m a Master’s student studying the below-ground interactions amongst invasive grasses and their native congeners in Australia. Many studies focus on above-ground interactions of invasive grasses in Australia, but few have focused primarily on the below-ground associations both of individual species and of invasive species compared to native congeners. My research will aim to provide further understanding of certain invasive grasses for effective management, while providing knowledge on the importance that below-ground traits can have on invasive ecology.

Coral Pearce, PhD student, Queensland University of Technology (Primary supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Firn, Associate supervisor:s Associate Professor James McGree,  Dr. Kerrie Mengersen, Dr. Rod Fensham): I am studying the efficacy of prescribed burning for the management of woody encroachment and the invasion of exotic species in the very special Bunya Mountain grassy balds otherwise known as the Bunya Balds. The Bunya Mountains are of signiimg_2097ficant cultural importance to a range of indigenous peoples of Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales, known as Boobarran Ngummin meaning “mother’s breast” the mountains were seen as the providers and creators of the land and people. The mountains were the site for the Bunya Nut festival which revolved around the fruiting of the Bunya pine, Araucaria bidwillii. The journey to the Bunya Mountains was undertaken to allow groups to engage in trade, marriage ceremonies and spiritual practices as no one group remained on the mountain permanently. The grasslands of the Bunya Mountains are unique ecosystems occurring in scattered patches amongst Eucalypt and Rainforest that were managed by the Indigenous communities as a cultural practise in relation to the festival. Indigenous management of the land ceased with European settlement as the indigenous peoples were forbidden to manage the area, leaving the balds largely unmanaged or used as grazing land for livestock. We are very lucky to be working with the Murri Rangers on this project, whom have brought traditional knowledge back to the Bunya mountains to manage the balds in Russell Park.

Simone-Louise Yasui, PhD student, Queensland University of Technology (Primary supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Firn, Associate supervisor: Associate Professor James McGree). I adsc_0257m a PhD student and my research focuses on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on the maintenance of the community structure and composition of grassland ecosystems in southeastern Australia. Using a functional trait-based approach, I will investigate the effects of three types of disturbance: Fire, nutrient addition, and plant invasion. The aim of this research is the use ecological concepts to develop more specialized management programs for practitioners to maintain the health and functioning of Australian grassland ecosystems and others around the world.


Jim Lewis, PhD student, Queensland University of Technology. 

I am working on a CSIRO funded project that is seeking to develop adaptive, localised management plans for invasive and threatened plants and animals in the Lake Eyre Basin. The Basin, as well as including the well known Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, is also home to many unique, threatened species. Invasive species are important threats to the native plants and animals. My research into developing plans to manage these invasive species is starting with the strategies that have been identified at a regional scale using a Priority Threat Management tool. I will be investigating the impact of spatial and temporal scales on strategy choices in developing more localised management plans. These plans will incorporate adaptive management approaches at different scales. An aim of my research is to assist land managers and policy makers to identify the most cost-effective strategies that can deliver better conservation outcomes. And, the starting scale of my research is the whole Basin – It is one of the largest internally draining river systems in the world and covers nearly 1/6 of the area of Australia. My primary supervisor is Jennifer Firn and my associate supervisors are Kerrie Mengersen (QUT) and Josie Carwardine and Cameron Fletcher (CSIRO).

EleanorEleanor Velasquez, PhD student QUT

Eleanor’s personal website

I am a research PhD student at Queensland University of Technology with Jennifer Firn as my primary supervisor and both Scott Bryan and John Hayes as my associate supervisors. I am investigating the links between submarine volcanism and shallow marine ecosystems via the phenomenon of pumice rafting. Pumice rafts allow the transport of shallow marine ecosystem dwelling organisms across oceans to the coastlines of continents and islands. However, the importance and subsequent consequences of these rafts for the rapid dispersal of otherwise dispersal limited benthic marine organisms to eastern Australia has only recently been realised. My research is specifically looking at the community assemblages of benthic marine organisms that form on pumice rafts and how these communities change in relation to time and space.

James Beattie, Research AssistantJames_B

I am a research assistant for the interdisciplinary research group Jennifer is a part of. The research group – a collaboration between Dr Michael Milford, Dr Matthew Dunbabin and Dr Firn – is on the leading edge of automating ecological data collection and is seeking to push ecological automated analysis to the algorithmic limits. Being part of this inspiring group is helping me constantly challenge myself, and has given me the chance to help with some of the most innovative ideas in the ecological and robotic sciences. As well as being a research assistant for Jennifer’s group, I study physics and biology at Queensland University of Technology. I also hold a voluntary laboratory position with a research group that focusses on answering questions of the plant systematics, anatomy and phylogenetics nature. Working with such a diverse group of researchers has led me to the perspective that there are no real scientific distinctions in nature, such as biology, chemistry and physics; and when you think like this you can open your mind to some of the most interesting questions nature has to offer.

*Lab Alumni*

Dr. Eugene Mason 

Finished his PhD in 2018 now working with the Office of Environmental Heritage inCowra, NSW.

Eugene Mason

Dr. Jarrah Wills

Finished his PhD in 2017 and is now a postdoctoral fellow at UQ and the Queensland Herbarium and Department of Environment and Science (DES)



Dr. Thita Soonthornvipat,

Finished her PhD in 2018 and is now a Lecturer at Chiangmai University.

Joshua pictureDr. Joshua C Buru  
My research project tested the efficacy of biological control agents on two forms of an invasive species, Dolichandra unguis-cati/cat’s claw creeper. Cat’s claw creeper is a Weed of National Significance in Australia and occurs majorly on the eastern coast, covering parts of Queensland and New South Wales. Recently two forms of this weed with distinct leaf and fruit morphology have been found to occur in south east Queensland but the same biocontrol agents are used in controlling both forms. It is not known whether biocontrol agents are effective on both forms. My research project will compare the efficacy of the biocontrol agents between the two forms of cat’s claw creeper under a range of resource conditions (water, nutrients and light levels). The outcome of my research project may have direct implications on the management and control of cat’s claw creeper in Australia.
Dr. Sharif A. Mukul 
Finished his PhD in 2016 and is now an Assistant Professor at the Independent University in Bangladesh. 1434849075






Dr. Emma Ladouceur, Research Assistant

Now a Postdoctoral fellow at IDiV in Leipzig, Germany.




Dr Huong Nguyen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland and frequent collaborator of our lab.

I was awarded my PhD in tropical forestry at The University of Queensland in 2012 (Jennifer was an associate supervisor of mine) and started my career as a part-time postdoc research fellow at School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (UQ). Before that I had experience as a forest physio-ecologist at Forest Science Institute of Vietnam. My research interest is small-scale forestry, forest ecology, ecological restoration and biodiversity. My passion is to design mixed-species plantations that use a diversity of native species and functional species groups, with a cheaper cost but benefit both ecological services and livelihood for local people. Now I am involved in several projects related to the Rainforestation Farming system in Philippines, the planting for ecological restoration in the North Queensland and the rehabilitation of mined land at Stradebroke Island in the East Queensland, Australia.


Matt Rees Honours Student (2016):matt-rees

Integrating agricultural co-benefits into the priority threat management of invasive animals in the Lake Eyre Basin



Michelle Mogilski Honours Student (2016): 

Finding michelleoptimal seed provenances and microsite conditions increases direct seeding success




Elisa Westmore Honours Student (2013):

The soil seedbank is an important contributor to future aboveground plant community composition, but their own composition is directly impacted by historical land use and management. Weed management201128_10151089059286766_655571684_o practices are often applied with the aim of changing the species composition of the area, yet despite this, there is little research on the impact of weed management practices on the soil seedbank. 
My results found that Lovegrass does indeed form a seedbank. In fact, its presence dominated the seedbank in every treatment and had potentially reduced the diversity and frequency of native species in the seedbank. This was in contrast to the results of the above-ground field trial, in which some treatments had reduced above-ground Lovegrass frequency and increased the presence of native plants. 

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