Leon Barmuta
University of Tasmania

LeonBarmuta profile imageAssociate Professor Leon Barmuta

Associate professor in ecology, biological sciences, School of Natural Sciences, University of Tasmania

See Associate Professor Barmuta’s full research profile here.

Research outputs linked to policy change and decision-making

  • Protecting biodiversity by improving the resilience of lakes managed for hydroelectricity generation and irrigation supply. This series of interlinked projects culminated in simulation models and expert and stakeholder liaison groups that successfully managed the extreme low-water-level crisis in yingina/Great Lake over 2015–2016. This resulted in Hydro Tasmania setting higher minimum water levels to protect threatened species and initiated further collaborations to support restoration of Lagoon of Islands and manage water levels in other lakes and wetlands in Tasmania. From 2005, Associate Professor Barmuta led 3 consultancies, supervised 3 honours, 1 PhD student and 1 postdoctoral researcher, and continue close collaborations with Hydro Tasmania, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and stakeholders to conserve freshwater biodiversity.
  • Australian River Assessment System (AUSRIVAS) rapid biological assessment tools. This developed the first nationally applied set of protocols for biological assessment of water and habitat quality in Australia. For the duration of the program, Associate Professor Barmuta led the team that developed output metrics (ISBN 0642267154) that continue to be used by all state and territory agencies and led further research on the robustness of these metrics. The metrics were adopted by the Australian and New Zealand Water Quality Guidelines in 2000 and are now components of river health programs in all states and the ACT, as well as forming the basis for citizen-science programs (e.g. Waterwatch, Ribbons of Blue).
  • Impacts of forestry on headwater streams. Associate Profressor Barmuta led an Australian Research Council linkage project with the Forest Practices Authority (FPA), initiated in 2003, and then continued in this leadership role with the Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry, implementing a long-term program assessing the adequacy of riparian protection protocols in the Tasmanian Forest Practices Code. His group developed a well-cited practical, biologically relevant definition of  headwater streams, and their research provided scientific support for revisions of the the Forest Practices Code via the FPA’s biodiversity expert review panel in 2008, which then led to a commissioned review on headwater streams by the National Water Commission in 2009. This review identified substantial knowledge gaps about headwater streams in non-forested catchments.

Current academic employment and positions

  • associate professor in ecology, biological sciences, School of Natural Sciences, University of Tasmania.

Highest qualification

  • 1987: PhD, Monash University.

Major Prizes, Medals and Honours

  • 2020: Fubright Fellowship, Kansas State University
  • 2014: Hilary Jolly Memorial Address, Joint Conferences of the Australian Society for Limnology and Australian Society for Fish Biology
  • 2013: Australian Society for Limnology Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Limnology in Australia
  • 2013: Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, Office for Learning and Teaching, Australian Government
  • 1987: Water Research Achievement Award, Australian Water Research Advisory Council.

Roles on government or regional organisation committees

  • Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality. Lead author for biological assessment sections for the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) & Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) 2000 and Water Quality Australia 2018 revisions.
  • Forest Practices Authority Tasmania biodiversity expert review panel. Lead author and expert advisor on freshwater biodiversity and in-stream habitat quality issue. Collaborate or lead targeted research projects to support or improve forestry practices for freshwater outcomes and support statistical analyses of diverse wildlife and water-quality data.
  • Water Assessment Branch, DPIPWE Tasmania. Co-author and collaborator in Tasmanian Environmental Flows program and its descendants which provides the framework for environmental flows to protect biodiversity and ecosystem processes in Tasmania (doi:10.1111/fwb.12407).

Links with non-government groups or networks

  • reference or scientific advisory committees for NRM North, NRM Cradle-Coast, NRM South; links with Derwent Catchment Project, Derwent Estuary Program, Tasmanian Land Conservancy
  • Australian Society for Limnology/Australian Society for Freshwater Sciences since 1980
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems: alpine streams and lakes expert panel since 2020; Australian Mountain Research Facility since 2019.

My Projects

Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present