Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

Emily Mendham

Dr Emily Mendham has expertise in understanding the social dimensions of environmental management on private rural land. Emily is a Research Fellow at Charles Sturt University and has strong skills in the application of mixed methods including quantitative surveys and qualitative semi-structured interviews. Emily has expertise in the field of demographic change and changing rural landscapes and in understanding landholder decision making and adoption of practices. Most recently her research has included examining the transformation and adaptation of primary industries and rural communities in response to climate change.

In 2011 Emily was appointed as a post-doctoral research fellow with the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training. Emily is currently working on a project examining how different stakeholder groups perceive and value groundwater dependent ecosystems, using the North Central Catchment Management Authority region in north-east Victoria as a case study.

Emily graduated from her doctoral studies at Charles Sturt University in 2011. Her thesis was titled: “Changes in rural property ownership: Challenges and opportunities for natural resource management” and explored the impact of changing rural demographics on natural resource management by examining the implications of property turnover. The research predicted unprecedented rates of ownership change. The study will assist agencies engage a diverse cohort of landholders as a growing proportion of non-farmers purchase properties and land management is increasingly disconnected from making a living. Research findings revealed the diversity of rural landscapes in transition.

Mendham, E., A. Curtis and J. Millar. (2012). The natural resource management implications of rural property turnover. Ecology and Society 17 (4), 5. [online]

Mitchell, M., Curtis, A., Sharp, E., & Mendham, E. (2012). Directions for social research to underpin improved groundwater management. Journal of Hydrology, 448-449, 223-231.

Park, S.E., Marshall, N.A., Jakku, E., Dowd, A.M., Howden, S.M., Mendham, E., & Fleming, A. (2012). Informing adaptation responses to climate change through theories of transformation. Global Environmental Change, 22(1), 115-126

Curtis, A., & Mendham, E. (2011). Bridging the gap between policy and management of natural resources. In D. Pannell and F. Vanclay (Eds). Changing land management: Adoption of new practices by rural landholders (pp. 153-176). CSIRO publishing, Collingwood.

Mendham, E., & Curtis, A. (2010). Taking over the reins: trends and impacts of changes in rural property ownership. Society and Natural Resources, 23(7), 653-668.

Mendham, E., Gosnell, H., & Curtis, A. (2010). Rural change and natural resource management: comparing U.S. and Australian cases. In G. Luck, D. Race and R. Black (Eds). Demographic change in Australia’s rural landscapes: Implications for society and the environment (pp. 153-187). Springer Landscape Series (Vol 12).

Mendham, E., Millar, J., & Curtis, A. (2007). Landholder participation in native vegetation management in irrigation areas. Journal of Ecological Management and Restoration, 8(1), 42-48.

Past Appointments

Emily Sharp

In 2012 Emily Sharp was part of an integrated project funded by the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training that is identifying how changes in climate, technology and water policy impact groundwater and surface hydrology in the Namoi catchment, NSW.  Emily is undertaking the social research component of this larger project with Prof Allan Curtis.  The social research will be used to understand farmers’ beliefs and knowledge about climate change and their views about how water reforms have impacted their future plans for their properties.  The research also explored innovative opportunities for landholders to better manage their properties in response to changes in water entitlements and variability in water supply. 

In addition to the Namoi project, Emily was involved in cross-cultural research comparing how wildfire-affected communities interact with fire management agencies in Australia, Canada and the United States.  One of the main aims of the research is to produce a trust-building framework that can be applied to community-agency partnerships which are developed to prepare for, respond to and recover from wildfire. 

 Michael Mitchell

Michael Mitchell has a growing body of social research experience related to natural resources management. In 2011-2012 he was a post doctoral research fellow with Prof Allan Curtis and Emily Sharp to bring that experience to support NCGRT’s integrated program.

As part of this work he collaborated with a post doctoral research fellow (Sondoss El Sawah) and doctoral student (Joseph Guillaume) at iCAM in ANU on a research project to develop an integrated model to improve groundwater planning in the Willunga Basin of South Australia. Michael’s contribution was to facilitate the initial scoping and stakeholder engagement for the project, and to identify and pursue research questions that can be pursued with Willunga Basin land managers as part of the social data to input into the model, as well as the answers that the model can help to provide.

In addition, Michael and Emily worked together on an international review of the literature related to social dimensions of groundwater management. The purpose was to provide a critical overview of the literature as well as a gap analysis to identify how we as social researchers can make a contribution to improved groundwater management, especially through our ongoing contributions to the NCGRT.

Michael was also engaged for half of his time on a project concerning ‘transformation for resilient landscapes and communities’. This project received seed funding from NCGRT and others on a case study involving collaboration with Wakool Shire Council and Murray CMA to facilitate their rural, resource-dependent communities consider and pursue transformational change options. Experience from this project will form the basis for a second case study involving the newly formed community-based Cape York NRM Board in its efforts to develop a community engagement strategy for future NRM planning and investment priorities. Michael will be involved in this case study that has received funding from RIRDC, with the likelihood of further funding for a third case study.

Michael’s doctoral dissertation involved collaboration with Murrumbidgee Irrigation and focused on the company’s efforts to improve its use of ‘triple bottom line’ reporting – i.e. reporting on the economic, social and environmental performance. From a review of the international academic literature, Michael developed an evaluation framework to assist organisations like Murrumbidgee Irrigation improve their use of ‘triple bottom line’ reporting as part of an iterative learning cycle.