Samantha Setterfield
University of Western Australia

Samantha Setterfield profile imageAssociate Professor Samantha Setterfield

Western node leader

Professor, The University of Western Australia, School of Biological Sciences

See Professor Setterfield’s full research profile here.

Research outputs for policy change and decision-making

  • Professor Setterfield has been research leader of a multidisciplinary research team on the ecology and management of non-native grasses in northern Australia for more than 20 years. Her research has developed decision-support tools and led to policy changes. She was project leader of a collaborative team with the Northern Territory (NT) Government that developed the NT’s weed risk management (WRM) system, formally adopted in 2008 by the NT Government and  used to nominate plant species for declarations. The system included decision-making tools to determine weed risk and feasibility of successful control, an economic evaluation framework, a policy with guiding principles and recommended management actions. This system was used for the listing and management of weeds in the NT, including gamba grass (Setterfield et al. 2019, Pacific Conservation Biology 22:189-200; Setterfield et al. 2010 Plant Protection Quarterly 25: 86–88). Within the National Environmental Research Programme, they developed management-scenario evaluation tools to assist protected-area managers to design invasive-plant management strategies (Adams et al. 2018 Conservation Letters; Adams et al. 2015 MEE; Estimating financial risks of gamba grass) including the design and evaluation of gamba-grass management strategies for Litchfield National Park, and management strategies for para grass and olive hymenachne for Kakadu National Park. This research has underpinned activity in the Bininj/Mungguy healthy Country indicators project of the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub (NAERH) of the first phase of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP). In 2007, Professor Setterfield formed a cross-jurisdictional steering committee with senior government personnel in weed policy and management in Western Australia (WA), NT and Queensland to ensure uptake of current research and coordinated management response. This committee facilitated the sharing of regional cross-jurisdiction datasets and influenced on-ground management. For example, they used the datasets to assess of daily fire risk by the Bureau of Meteorology, resulting in 3 new fire-management zones created in the Darwin and regional areas (Setterfield et al. 2013 PloS One 8, e59144.).
  • Professor Setterfield’s research in the NESP-commissioned Tree water use and sensitivity to contaminated mine water project examined potential impacts on riparian vegetation following the decommissioning of the Ranger uranium mine. The project addressed a knowledge need identified for the Australian Government’s Supervising Scientist Branch on the effect of elevated levels of magnesium sulfate on groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
  • Professor Setterfield led the plant-ecology research within the transdisciplinary NESP NAERH Environmental water needs of the Fitzroy River project team. The team (including WA Government staff) developed a hydro-socio-ecological conceptual model for WA’s Fitzroy catchment that demonstrated the need to maintain hydrological connectivity to support hydro-ecological values and Indigenous use for food and amenity, and to meet cultural and spiritual responsibilities. They developed a set of guiding principles for using e-flows to protect aquatic ecosystems and their dependent human cultures and livelihoods. The WA Government are using these for their catchment water planning.
  • NESP NAERH projects: Managing savanna riparian zones, Fire and weeds in the Top End, Methods to measure temporal change in soil carbon, Environmental water needs for the Fitzroy River, Tree water use and sensitivity to contaminated mine water, Improving gamba grass control on Cape York Peninsula, Bininj/Mungguy healthy Country indicators and Transdisciplinary environmental research.

Current academic employment and positions

  • 2022–present: professor, ecology and environmental management, The University of Western Australia (UWA)
  • 2016–2022: associate professor, ecology and environmental management, UWA
  • member, research executive committee, NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
  • project leader, NAERH for project 1.4: Methods to measure temporal change in soil carbon
  • project leader, NAERH project 2.3: Fire and weeds in the Top End
  • project leader, NAERH project 2.6 Managing savanna riparian zones
  • activity leader, plant water requirements, NAERH project 1.3.3: Environmental water needs for the Fitzroy River
  • researcher, NAERH project 2.7: Tree water use and sensitivity to contaminated mine water; project 2.10: Improving gamba grass control on Cape York Peninsula; project 5.5: Bininj/Mungguy healthy Country indicators (Kakadu); project 6.2: Transdisciplinary environmental research; and the NAERH gamba grass web resource.
  • researcher/PhD supervisor for the project Understanding the environmental drivers of flora and honey bee product production: development of remote sensing approaches for predicting flowering events, Cooperative Centre for Honey Bee Products (project lead: Dr Nik Callow, UWA).

Highest qualification

  • 1997: PhD, Charles Darwin University (CDU).

Major prizes, medals and honours

Roles on government or regional organisation committees

  • 2018–2019: expert panel, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences national environmental priority pest and diseases list
  • current: Kakadu research and management advisory group
  • 2011–present: chair, national gamba grass taskforce
  • 2005–2007: Darwin Harbour ecosystem research group
  • 2006–2010: chair, NT WRM technical committee
  • 2006–2008: member, NT WRM steering committee
  • 2009–2013: NT land and sea advisory board
  • 2010–2016: Darwin regional weeds advisory group.

My Projects

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