Dr Helen Murphy, researching invasive plant dynamics after cyclones.
Dr Helen Murphy: understanding the impact of weeds on rainforest habitats
Dr Helen Murphy is interested in the role of weeds in rainforest landscapes in the face of climate change and extreme weather events such as cyclones.
1 May 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011
Dr Helen Murphy is a research scientist with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Atherton, north Queensland, Australia.
Her major research focus involves understanding how weeds impact rainforest community structure and function, providing information to managers on what types of weeds have the greatest impact and where in the landscape their impacts are strongest.
Dr Murphy leads a large project that began in 2006 monitoring recruitment, growth and mortality of native and invasive species in what was intact rainforest prior to severe Cyclone Larry hitting the area in March 2006.
The project not only sets out to demonstrate whether cyclone disturbance facilitates invasion but also where in the landscape its effects are strongest and, importantly, the community ecological processes that facilitate or mitigate against such an effect.
In addition, the impacts of Miconia calvescens, an invasive weed, and the three other Class 1 (Qld) Melastomes, which are the target of a national eradication program, are a focus of her research.
Dr Murphy's major research focus involves understanding how weeds impact rainforest community structure and function.
She maintains close links with weed managers in the Wet Tropics and has collaborated on several publications with Biosecurity Queensland researchers and managers on growth, spread and recruitment of Class 1 invasives. A major research focus involves predicting the rate and pattern of spread of Miconia across the Wet Tropics landscapes.
Dr Murphy joined CSIRO in May 2005 as a Weeds Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Postdoctoral Fellow after completing her doctoral research in Canada.
Her doctoral research examined the applicability of classic theories and current frameworks for understanding regional-scale population dynamics of plants across their geographic range.
During her Doctorate she was lab instructor, tutor and occasional lecturer for students in biology, plant ecology and evolution.
Prior to undertaking her Doctorate, Dr Murphy worked as an environmental consultant in Townsville, Gladstone and Perth, Australia, primarily undertaking environmental impact assessment for major developments.
Dr Murphy has been awarded a:
Bachelor of Applied Science, Environmental Science, (Major in Environmental Science and Zoology, Honours Class 1), James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, 1996
Master of Environmental Law, Australian National University, 2001
Doctor of Philosophy (Biology; Plant Ecology/Landscape Ecology), University of Windsor, Canada, 2005.
Dr Murphy has received the following honours:
Australian National University Vacation Research Scholarship, 1995-1996
Century Zinc Limited Award, James Cook University – Best overall performance and ability in Level 4 studies leading to the degree of Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours), 1996
University of Windsor International Graduate Student Scholarship, 2001-2005
Shared Hierarchical Academic Computing Network (SHARCNET) PhD Fellowship May 2003 – May 2005
University of Windsor Graduate Excellence Award – Biological Sciences, May 2004
Canadian Botanical Association, J.S. Rowe Award, Honourable Mention 2005 – Best published paper in ecology by a student at a Canadian University.
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