Dr Natalie Rossiter-Rachor
Research fellow, Charles Darwin University
See Dr Rossiter-Rachor’s full research profile here.
Research outputs linked to policy change and decision-making
- 2017–2021: National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub (NAERH) project ‘Weed invasion, fire and ecosystem failure’, Rossiter-Rachor and Setterfield (co-project leaders). This project has delivered applied research to support the improved conservation management in the Northern Territory, by assessing threat abatement actions to address the key threats of high-biomass grassy weeds and changed fire regimes. Using Mary River National Park (NT) as a case study, this project quantified the increase in savanna tree health that resulted from the active management of gamba grass invasion. Reducing gamba grass fire frequency resulted in a 50% decrease in gamba grass density, and a 50% increase in tree canopy cover. The NESP data has assisted decision-making in the park, as the project data informs the park’s integrated conservation strategy and the annual fire and weed management plans. The outputs from this project have changed perceptions of how land managers can manage the threat of grassy weeds and fire. See the project impact video. This project included a cumulative analysis of impacts of high-biomass grassy weeds and fire, to examine alternative trajectories for gamba grass-invaded sites, to avoid ecosystem failure. This included synthesising the impacts of gamba grass on fire regimes, carbon cycling, native plant soil seed banks, and identifying management strategies to improve gamba management. In addition, the NESP project team developed a new remote sensing mapping methodology for mapping gamba grass via very high-resolution satellite imagery. This is critical for savanna burning carbon projects. The project team is commencing a NESP leverage project requested/funded by the NT Government focusing on using distribution data to better inform gamba grass management. They will leverage the NESP-developed methodology to map gamba on conservation areas, including Litchfield National Park. This will help support better management of weeds on conservation land.
- 2016–2019: Bushfires and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre – ‘Management of high biomass flammable grasses’, Setterfield and Rossiter-Rachor (co-project leaders). This project delivered applied research to support the prioritisation of high-biomass grassy weed management, to reduce the key threats of grassy weeds and changed fire regimes. The flammability traits of a range of high-biomass grassy weeds was quantified, including their fuel loads, fuel height, heat of combustion and other flammability traits. This project also quantified cost-effective fire and weed management, helping land managers better understand how to effectively manage gamba grass on conservation land.
- 2013–2015: National Environmental Research Programme project ‘ Gamba grass: managing the threat’, Setterfield, Hutley, Richards, Douglas, Rossiter-Rachor, and Bird (key member of research team). This project quantified the cumulative impacts of grassy weed invasion (gamba grass) on carbon cycling on savanna ecosystems, including the impact on above-ground and below-ground carbon stocks. This project was the first comprehensive assessment of the ecosystem impacts of gamba grass-fuelled fires, and how this key threatening process leads to increased tree death and ecosystem degradation.
- NESP NAERH projects: Fire and weeds in the Top End, Managing savanna riparian zones, and Improving gamba grass control on Cape York Peninsula.
Current academic employment and positions
- 2017–present: senior lecturer and research fellow (invasive species and fire ecology), Charles Darwin University.
- 2008: PhD in ecology, Charles Darwin University.
Major prizes, medals and honours
- 2015: NT Natural Resource Management (NRM) research award (winner)
- 2009: Charles Darwin University Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Exceptional Performance in Research
- 2008: NT Natural Resource Management (NRM) research award (finalist).
Roles on government or regional organisation committees
- Northern Territory Government, gamba grass weed advisory committee (WAC) member: Dr Rossiter-Rachor has been actively involved in the gamba grass WAC as the research representative. This government committee is completing the 10-year review of the Northern Territory gamba grass management plan. The plan aims to reduce the risk of gamba grass fires impacting on the environment, lives, property and infrastructure. Substantial changes have been made to to the draft plan to better protect environmental, cultural values, and her NERP/NESP research has been integrated into this plan.
- Northern Territory Government, Darwin weed advisory committee member: This government committee provided advice to the NT Government on weed management issues in the greater Darwin region.
Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present