Aquatic Ecology and Restoration Research Group

Aquatic Ecology anr Restoration Research Group


The Aquatic Ecology and Restoration Research Group has a focus on applying rigorous science to inform the management of a range of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems. Our interests range from innovative fundamental research into how habitat structure affects distribution patterns of freshwater species, applied research to monitor the impacts of human activities on the ecological condition and functioning of catchments, through to understanding the ecosystem services provided by wetland, river and estuarine ecosystems.

Much of our research is based in the regulated floodplain rivers and wetlands of the northern Murray-Darling Basin and in the unregulated coastal rivers and estuaries of eastern Australia. The applied focus of our research means we work closely with community, industry and government to solve actual management issues in our region.

Our Research

Research projects in the Aquatic Ecology and Restoration Laboratory have a strong focus on investigating the ecology of wetland, river and estuarine ecosystems – how populations and communities interact with their physical environment. We are particularly interested in understanding the fundamental biogeochemical processes such as nutrient and organic matter cycling, and ecosystem metabolism that support aquatic food webs.

Research Themes
  • Aquatic species ecology - microbes, algae, invertebrates and fish.
  • Management of environmental flows in the context of competing demands for water.
  • Development and implementation of monitoring programs to assess the ecological condition of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Design and ecological assessment of waterway restoration projects.
Research Student Opportunities

The Lab is recruiting Honours and postgraduate students to undertake research projects in a number of areas that link with our current funded projects. These include:

  • Ecological responses to environmental watering in the Gwydir Marshes;
  • Assessing the ecological condition of coastal rivers in northern NSW; and
  • Linking physical habitats and biodiversity in coastal rivers.

Gwydir Marshes at Gingham

Further Information

AERRG in the Media

Ecohealth: Clarence River
Results of a major collaborative project assessing the health of the Clarence River under the banner of one of our flagship projects EcoHealth.

Clarence River Report Card

Our People


A/Prof Darren Ryder

Dr Sarah Mika – Research Fellow

Dr Adrienne Burns – Research Fellow

Dr Ivor Growns – Research Fellow

Dr Iris Tsoi - Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Rob Rolls - Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Ben Vincent - Research Officer

Paul Lisle – Technician

Max Richardson – Technician

Prof Andrew Boulton – Adjunct

Research Students

Bob Baker (PhD Candidate) – Potential for biofuels from natural algal communities in sewage treatment ponds: nutrients and zooplankton as regulatory processes.

Solomon Birhanie (PhD Candidate) - Influence of dams on malaria transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa

Swornima Shrestha (Ph. D Candidate)

Lindsey Frost (Masters Candidate)
Tracing energy flow in a floodplain wetland to understand ecosystem responses to environmental water

Sam Lewis (Hons Candidate)
The benefits of habitat restoration in estuarine fish communities

Michael Smart
Anna Barker
Mellissa Hampton-Smith
Penny Leary

Recently Completed

Dr Rob Rolls (Ph.D.) - Ecological effects of flow regulation on fish assemblages in tributaries of the Hunter River catchment, New South Wales, Australia

Dr Sally Maxwell (Ph.D.) The effects of river regulation and response of invertebrates to a pulse flow release in the upper Hunter Catchment, NSW

Dr Morag Stewart (Ph.D.) Reach-scale biogeochemistry within agricultural streams: interactions with riparian vegetation, channel geomorphology and hydrology.

Dr Ben Wolfenden (Ph.D.) Geochemical behaviour of metalliferous contaminants in the upper Macleay Gorges, Northern NSW

Dr Sarah Mika (Ph.D.) Restoring vertical connectivity in rivers: geomorphic, hydrologic and biogeochemical responses to log sills in the Williams and Hunter Rivers, NSW, Australia

Dr Karlie McDonald (PhD) – Integrated modelling of trophic shifts in unregulated coastal rivers: A Bayesian network approach.

Dr Lisa Thurtell  (PhD) - The response of aquatic communities to water quality, land use, flow variability and extraction in an unregulated Australian coastal river.

Andrew Smolders (MEnvSci) – Developing best-practice management in water supply catchments

Phoebe Haslett (Honours)  – Developing geochemical fingerprints for determining the source of fine sediment in degraded coastal rivers.

Nathan Eager (Honours)  – Does riparian restoration improve instream biodiversity in urban streams?

Join Us

We're always on the look out for interested students to come and join the lab. If the research on this site sounds interesting, then feel free to contact me and discuss some options. I will happily supervise students or host post docs that cover any area of aquatic and restoration ecology, as long as we feel that we can contribute to the project.

Living in Armidale

Armidale is a beautiful city, with distinct seasons. While it can be cold overnight in winter, the trade-off is glorious sunny days with little wind and clear skies. We are fortunate that within a couple of hours drive are many aquatic habitats from mountain streams, peat swamps, coastal rivers and estuaries. Armidale is also surrounded by many National Parks and reserves, so finding a close field site is easy! To learn more about Armidale, have a look here.

Scholarship opportunities

For those looking for scholarships to fund PhD projects, see here.

Available Resources
Aquatic Ecology Laboratory

Equipped with a range of field equipment including 4WD, boat and canoe, water quality meters, electro-fisher and nets, micro- and macro-invertebrate sampling equipment, flow meter, portable field-based automatic weather station, light and radiation meters, and surveying gear. Laboratory equipment includes incubators, ovens, refrigerators, balances, microscopes (including research standard with fibre-optic cold-light source, fluorescence and digital imaging), autoclave, and specimen storage facilities.

Environmental Chemical Analysis Laboratory

This facility provides chemical analyses of water samples for nutrients, algae and solids, UV/ UIS spectrophotometer, drying ovens, incubators, centrifuges, autoclaves, muffle furnace, balances, distillation units.

Related publications from 2010 to the present

Darren Ryder in WadersContacts

If you are interested in some of the projects we are undertaking or have ideas that fall into similar areas, please contact:

A/Professor Darren Ryder
School of Environment and Rural Science
Phone: +61 2 6773 5226