Associate Professor Rod Fensham

Associate Professor

School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 334 67737


Most of my research is quantitative field ecology in the big natural playground of Queensland. I do ecology because I want to help avoid extinction and better manage Australia’s natural resources, and also because discovery is extremely enjoyable. In 2010 I am working with co-workers on editing of Ludwig Leichhardt’s diaries, woody vegetation dynamics, artesian desert springs, grazing dynamics in the arid zone, the role of fire in savannas and establishing a large project to facilitate ecosystem restoration within an emerging carbon economy. I have far more ideas than capacity to fulfil them, so welcome committed post-grads to discuss potential projects.

Research themes:

Artesian springs

Artesian springs are isolated oases in a sea of arid-lands containing weird and wonderful endemic creatures including snails, crustacea, plants and fish. The springs provide a focus for research relating to their hydrological function, conservation, optimum management and biogeographic history.

Woody vegetation dynamics

The processes that drive changes in woody plant abundance, including drought-induced dieback, fire, woody plant expansion, aka woody thickening, invasive scrub, woody plant encroachment have been a focus of attention. The issue has been addressed through systematic survey, field and nursery experiments, physiological studies and with systematic use of the historic record, including aerial photography, old survey charts and explorers notes.

Arid-zone grazing

A review of water-remote grazing effects prompted a program of work that will utilise long–term grazing exclosures, water-remote gradients and the ecology of rare plants to build a deeper understanding of grazing in arid landscapes.

Integrating the carbon economy into conservation

This arena provides a broad scope to examine the dynamics of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, extend our understanding of biodiversity in Australia, and to understand the trade-offs between managing for carbon and for biodiversity


  • PhD, University of Tasmania
  • Bachelor of Science (Hons), University of Tasmania


View all Publications


View all Grants


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision



Book Chapter

  • Fensham, Rod (2012). Fire regimes in Australian tropical savanna: perspectives paradigms and paradoxes. In Ross A Bradstock, A Malcolm Gill and Richard J Williams (Ed.), Flammable Australia: fire regimes, biodiversity and ecosystems in a changing world (pp. 172-194) Australia: CSIRO Publishing.

  • Fensham, Rod (2010). Artesian Springs. In Libby Robin, Chris Dickman and Mandy Martin (Ed.), Desert channels: The impulse to conserve (pp. 144-159) Collingwood, VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.

  • Fensham, Rod (2006). Grasslands. In Peter Attiwill and Barbara Wilson (Ed.), Ecology: an Australian Perspective 2nd ed ed. (pp. 484-498) South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

  • Fensham, Rod (2003). Grasslands. In Attiwill, Peter and Wilson, B (Ed.), Ecology : an Australian perspective First ed. (pp. 247-262) South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.

  • Fensham, R. J. (2002). Part of a Cycle. In Savanna Burning: Understanding and using fire in northern Australia (pp. 38-38) Darwin: Tropical Savanna CRC.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Watson, James E. M., Evans, Megan C., Carwardine, Josie, Fuller, Richard A., Joseph, Liana N., Segan, Dan B., Taylor, Martin F. J., Fensham, R. J. and Possingham, Hugh P. (2011) The capacity of Australia's protected-area system to represent threatened species. Conservation Biology, 25 2: 324-332. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01587.x

  • Fairfax, R. J. and Fensham, R. J. (2005). A Conservation Srategy for Springs in Queensland. In: 5 Spring Researchers Forum Proceedings. Great Artesian Basin Spring Researchers Forum, Cathedral Centre, Toowoomba, Qld, (9-11). 10 March 2002.

  • Fensham, Rod (2005). Challenges of Fire and Exotic Plants for Queensland Conservation Reserves. In: M. Taylor and L. Schneiders, Growing Pains - Managing a Larger Protected Estate. Workshop on Protected Area Management in Queensland, Indooroopilly, Brisbane, (35-35). 6 April, 2005.

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision