The Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (MDB EWKR) project is collaborating with water managers to investigate the uncertainties around how best to use environmental water, and apply this knowledge to real-life decision making.

We work in dynamic environments, with floods, droughts and our ‘boom and bust cycles’ making what we do complicated. Our research is rigorous, creative, and undertaken on a systematic basis to increase our shared knowledge with the many stakeholders involved in environmental water management.

Together with water managers, scientists, local communities and Federal and State Government agencies, we are improving our understanding of critical ecological processes, like fish recruitment and bird breeding, which relate to changes in flow. Understanding these processes is critical to decisions about how to allocate and manage environmental water.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is the policy framework within which we work, and we are committed to ensuring that we provide people with the best available knowledge to get great local and Basin-wide outcomes for fish, vegetation, waterbirds and food-webs.

Our work is funded by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, and we have a number of organisational collaborators helping us to achieve our goals. You can read more about them on ‘Our Collaborators’ page.

How our work fits within the Basin Plan

Making a difference

We expect our research to improve the ability of water agencies to assess and understand changes in ecological health over the medium to long-term. We will strengthen their operations and planning by:

  • Improving our capacity to predict outcomes of environmental flow allocations over one to five years.
  • Building capacity to set realistic objectives and targets for water management and other complementary activities as the climate changes.
  • Improving monitoring, evaluation and reporting on progress toward the Basin Plan environmental objectives and targets.
  • Building capacity to report progress on Basin Plan environmental objectives and targets.

We have organised our work around four themes: vegetation, fish, waterbirds and foodwebs, with overarching adoption and communication activities synthesising across disciplinary boundaries.  Each theme has a research manager who works as part of the MDB EWKR Executive Team, made up of the people outlined in the table below:

EWKR Leadership

Team Members
Ben Gawne
Project LeaderUniversity of Canberra
Ben Gawne is currently Professor of Environmental Flows within the Institute of Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra.  Ben’s research interests include:

  • Lowland river ecology
  • Flow ecology
  • Aquatic invertebrate ecology
  • Primary productivity and decomposition
Jessica Davison
Project ManagerMDFRC/La Trobe University
Jessica Davison is the Project Manager for the Murray-Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research (MDB EWKR) Project.  Jessica’s main area of professional interest is in project managing collaborative policy and planning projects with a particular interest in water policy and land use planning, including:

  • Project management of large-scale collaborative cross-disciplinary projects
  • Establishing and managing governance arrangements and stakeholder relationships
  • Design and conduct of workshops to build capacity, consensus and strengthen alliances


Cherie Campbell
Vegetation Theme CoordinatorMDFRC/La Trobe University
Cherie’s main research interests relate to understanding the maintenance of aquatic and floodplain vegetation in riverine corridors, monitoring ecological responses to flow regimes, and assessing and interpreting patterns in aquatic and floodplain vegetation composition.
Amina Price
Fish Theme CoordinatorMDFRC/La Trobe University
Amina Price is an aquatic ecologist based at The Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre in Wodonga, Victoria, Australia.  Dr Price’s research topics of special interest include:

  • Fish and shrimp ecology
  • Recruitment ecology
  • Flow-habitat-biota relationships in rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin


Paul McInerney
Food Web Theme CoordinatorMDFRC/La Trobe University
Dr Paul McInerney is a freshwater ecologist interested in the influence of riparian plants on stream ecology, invasive species and aquatic macroinvertebrate ecology.
Heather McGinness
Waterbird Theme CoordinatorCSIRO
Dr McGinness is an Ecologist who conducts research aiming to inform sustainable natural resource management practices. With a background in riverine and floodplain landscape ecology, her interdisciplinary work integrates aquatic and terrestrial ecology in a range of agricultural, mixed and natural ecosystems. Research areas include the effects of changes in landuse, hydrology and flooding upon biodiversity and productivity; the ecological influence of variability and connectivity in river systems and their catchments; and the adaptive management and rehabilitation of ephemeral creeks, floodplains and wetlands in multi-use landscapes.

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Searching for royal spoonbill nests to install remote monitoring cameras. Photo credit: Heather McGinness