Heather McGinness

Heather McGinness

Heather McGinness, Australia

Dr Heather McGinness is an Ecologist conducting research aimed at informing sustainable natural resource management. She provides solutions to management problems such as how, when and where to apply environmental flows in the context of competing environmental and consumptive water needs – for both in-stream benefits and sustainability in the broader landscape. She has a strong interest in improving the understanding and management of water as a key integrating element crucial to the resilience of our inland systems. With a background in floodplain river landscape ecology, her work integrates aquatic and terrestrial ecology in agricultural and natural ecosystems, working directly with water and land managers. Heather’s expertise is applicable to a range of domains, and she is able to develop conceptual models of whole systems and integrate diverse sources of information. This allows her to develop novel solutions to problems, communicate complexity effectively and lead forward-thinking collaborative projects.

Presentation Title: Waterbird recruitment and movement: Responses to flooding, stressors and threats.

Environmental watering events in Australia are frequently targeted to support completion of waterbird breeding.  While knowledge exists regarding key breeding locations in the Murray-Darling Basin and the flows required to trigger and complete nesting events, there is limited knowledge about recruitment, habitat variables, pressures and threats.  Consequently it is difficult to model or predict population outcomes relevant to management at different scales. The Waterbird Theme of the Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research Project addresses this through research focusing on two main questions: (i.) Where and what are the critical foraging habitats during and after breeding events that support recruitment? How might these be affected by water management and threats such as habitat change; and (ii.) What are critical nesting habitat characteristics we need to maintain and how do these affect recruitment? How might environmental flows, vegetation management and threats such as predation interact with nesting habitat characteristics to affect recruitment? We describe our research rationale, methods and preliminary results from on-ground data collection in waterbird nesting colonies in 2015-16 and 2016-17 and satellite GPS tracking of 20 straw-necked ibis starting in spring 2016. This research aims to provide information to enable better targeting of water, vegetation and predator management actions to maximise chick survival during flooding events, ‘event readiness’ at nesting sites, and juvenile and adult survival between flooding events. It is funded by the Department of Environment Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and is a collaboration between the CSIRO, University of New South Wales, University of Canberra, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, and Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

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