Adjunct Associate Professor Richard Thackway

BSc, MSc
Visiting Fellow and then Adjunct Associate Professor

Richard is a research scientist with extensive experience working in, and with, science and science-policy agencies in the Australian government. He has worked in environmental, agricultural and forestry agencies developing several national initiatives and frameworks involving state and territory governments, universities and NGOs and land managers.

Richard’s research involves assessing the transformation of ecosystems and landscapes due to the effect that land management regimes and practices have on ecological criteria and indicators including function, structure and composition.

He has held/holds various honorary positions at several universities: 2016-20 Visiting Fellow and then Adjunct Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; 2016-21 Visiting Fellow and then Visiting Lecturer, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences (PEMS) University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy and 2010-18 Visiting Fellow and then Adjunct Associate Professor, the University of Queensland.

His research aims to assist decision makers improve their ability to monitor and report on the status, and to track and change and trend in environmental condition arising from deliberate and inadvertent land management practices. A focus of his current research involves evaluating regenerative landscape management regimes. His research incorporates time series remote sensing.

Research interests

Richard has a passion for understanding human induced landscape transformation, and is curious about how successive land managers manage and transform the ecosystems that they are the stewards of. For any given soil landscape unit this includes pre-European indigenous land managers as well as contemporary public-private land management regimes.

His research involves three components: 1) establishing the best available information on what the reference state was in 1800; 2) compiling a systematic chronology of land management regimes from 1800 to present day for a soil landscape using multiple lines of evidence (descriptive, observations and direct measurements both spatial and temporal); 3) making an informed assessment as to how modified a soil landscape is in terms of its ecological function, structure and composition, relative to its fully natural reference state.

Richard draws on qualitative and quantitative sources of data and information. The resulting graphical summary integrates multiple lines of evidence to represent change and trend. This research is relevant to production and conservation land managers.

This approach has been applied across Australia’s 11 agroclimatic regions. A wide variety of stakeholders have contributed to developing this understanding of landscape transformation including areas managed for state forestry, mineral sand mining, national parks, defence estate, grazing land, cropping land, restoration sites as well as offshore islands.

Several land management issues create challenges in understanding landscape transformation including invasive native species, the impacts climate change, severe wildfires, droughts, feral animals and weed. This research shows each soil landscape has a story and that much still needs to be done.