Dr Don Butler
Adjunct fellow, School of Biological Science, The University of Queensland
See Dr Butler’s full research profile here.
Research outputs linked to policy change and decision-making
- Dr Butler is currently chief scientist in the Queensland Government’s Land Restoration Fund (LRF). The LRF is an innovative $500 million state government program building off the Commonwealth’s carbon farming framework to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for Queensland. It is a response to the multitude of challenges facing landscapes across Australia and the globe, including climate change and ever-increasing pressure on biodiversity, agriculture and regional communities.
- Dr Butler’s role in the LRF team has been leading collaborative research and development supporting the program’s broad objectives. This work has included development of a co-benefit standard, to set out a framework for verification of environmental, social and economic ‘co-benefits’ and enable the LRF to contract with landholders and pay them for delivery of carbon credits and co-benefits. The LRF standard applies natural capital accounting principles to enable transparent, third-party verification of environmental outcomes from LRF projects. It is a significant step toward more effective environmental markets, with potential to unlock impact investment well beyond the LRF’s initial $100 million investment round. Delivery of the LRF and its supporting framework, including key parts of the Accounting for Nature framework, are examples of Dr Butler’s effectiveness.
- The design of the LRF’s co-benefit framework drew on Dr Butler’s experience in application of research to the management of Australian landscapes. From 2014 to 2018, he was the science leader managing the Queensland Herbarium’s ecosystem survey and mapping team. The team began mapping the regional ecosystems of Queensland in the late 1990s and Dr Butler joined the team in 1998. They published the first seamless statewide coverage of Queensland’s regional ecosystems in 2017, 3 years into his tenure as the team’s leader.
- Regional ecosystems are central to the operation of Queensland’s environmental regulations – they feature in 7 state acts in force. Leading the mapping team required Dr Butler to navigate complex legal, social and scientific issues, at both state and national scales, and to respond appropriately in managing the team’s research priorities, partnerships and science products. The team’s products began with regional ecosystems but they now include classifications, spatial products and conceptual frameworks for wetlands, groundwater-dependent ecosystems, threatened species, fire risk and management and carbon potential. Managing and designing this portfolio of research and science products has given Dr Butler a very strong understanding of the critical issues challenging managers of Australia’s landscapes, the state of play in terms of knowledge and research agendas, and emerging themes such as natural capital accounting, environmental markets and climate change.
Current academic employment and positions
- adjunct fellow, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland.
- 2004: PhD, University of Queensland.
Links with non-government groups or network
- Dr Butler is an ecologist with more than 20 years’ experience applying science to key challenges in landscape management through policy, regulation and market-based incentives.
- Dr Butler’s roles in government have not primarily been research positions but he has made substantial contributions to the fields of applied ecology and functional ecology. His research skills were sharpened considerably through a postdoctoral appointment in Professor Mark Westoby’s comparative ecology group at Macquarie University from 2008 to 2010. His research contributions cover a diverse range of themes from plant invasions to fire ecology, allometry and biomechanics.
Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present