Our planet and beyond


In this area of research, we have many scientists dedicated to discovering and understanding how our planet works as a system, how all of its ecosystems and species formed and continue to evolve, how our planet relates to the universe around us, how human behaviour affects it, and how to protect it.

Particular strengths include our research into climate change, environmental policy and natural resource management, with many of our academics providing solutions and advice to government, industry and not for profit organisations.

The research topics of some of our most eminent scientists in this area are detailed below.


Scientists enlist public to help restore vital sea grasses
Associate Professor Adriana Vergés
Scientists are asking local communities to help restore endangered Posidonia seagrass meadows by collecting shoots that naturally become detached after large storms.

A team led by UNSW and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is launching ‘Operation Posidonia’ to encourage local coastal communities to help restore ecologically and economically important seagrass meadows.


Echidna quills can now be analysed to determine if a specific animal is being illegally trafficked.
Cracking illegal wildlife trade
Dr Kate Brandis
Scientists have developed a revolutionary way to determine if animals are being illegally trafficked.

UNSW Sydney scientists - in collaboration with Taronga Conservation Society Australia, UTS (University of Technology Sydney) and ANSTO (Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) - have developed a revolutionary...

Tropical tree mortality: why trees die
Dr Daniel Falster
Scientists have shed light on tropical tree deaths – with results predicted to have important implications for managing forest biodiversity.

A study by scientists at UNSW Sydney, Macquarie University, data61 and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has shown why some tropical tree species die and others survive, revealing new insights into the processes...

Scientists crack genetic code of cane toad
Professor Peter White
A group led by UNSW's Peter White has unlocked the DNA of the cane toad. The world-first genome will help scientists understand how the toad spreads, how its toxin works, and provide new avenues to try to control its population.

A group of scientists from UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney, Deakin University, Portugal and Brazil have unlocked the DNA of the cane toad, a poisonous amphibian that is a threat to many native Australian species. The...

Safeguarding the health of our rivers and wetlands
Professor Richard Kingsford
Three decades of surveying waterbirds in Australian rivers and wetlands by Professor Richard Kingsford has strongly influenced national water management policy and practice.

Professor Richard Kingsford has been involved in the surveying of waterbirds in rivers and wetlands since 1986 and his research has had a profound impact on water management practice in Australia and overseas.


Regional modelling improves climate change preparedness
Professor Jason Evans
The highly successful NSW and ACT Regional Climate Modelling project has enabled organisations to plan for future climate change in a consistent and systematic way.

The climate of NSW and the ACT is changing. Average temperatures have been rising steadily since the 1960s with the decade from 2001 to 2010 being the hottest on record. The hottest year ever in NSW was 2017, and from powerful...

Nothing compares to the humble frog
Dr Jodi Rowley
Dr Jodi Rowley explains why frogs are so vital for healthy ecosystems, how she is working to conserve them and the positive impact she has already made to the study of amphibians in Southeast Asia.

Dr Jodi Rowley has dedicated much of her career to illuminating what she calls ‘the black hole’ in the world’s knowledge of amphibian life in Southeast Asia. Her original impetus started following the release of the Global...