Dr Rob Rolls

Research Fellow - School of Environmental and Rural Science

Rob Rolls


I am a Research Fellow and member of the Aquatic Ecology and Restoration Research Centre at the University of New England. My research focusses on understanding how manipulation and management of ecosystems influence their structure, functioning, and conservation value. I produce evidence and ideas directly relevant to freshwater, floodplain, and estuarine ecosystems. I am best known for my research identifying mechanisms that link ecological responses to hydrological events in freshwater ecosystems (Rolls et al., 2012; 2018). Examples of my research experience and expertise are:

  • Multi-scaled biodiversity responses to human disturbances and restoration scenarios to inform future management interventions and refine ongoing monitoring programs
  • Conceptualisation and experimental ecological assessment of implemented environmental flow regimes
  • Ecological responses to land use change and contribution to best management practices for timber harvesting practices
  • Hydrological connectivity prioritisation based on broad-scale fish community analyses
  • Risk assessment and predicting ecological consequences of species invasion under future environmental scenarios
  • Trophic dynamics underpinning ecological responses of species population and community responses to hydrological regimes

For more details about what I do, see www.robrolls.weebly.com

Research ID



Bachelor of Science (University of Tasmania)

Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) (Honours) (Charles Sturt University)

Doctor of Philosophy (University of New England)

Primary Research Area/s

Ecohydrology – identifying ecological outcomes of hydrological alteration, and scenarios for achieving benefits for aquatic and floodplain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; Biodiversity – assessment of biodiversity patterns across space and through time, and determining underlying ecological and environmental factors responsible for biodiversity change; Conservation management – linking environmental, ecological, and biodiversity changes with resource and conservation management interventions, and subsequent evaluation of intervention outcomes

Research Interests

2019-2021: Managing environmental flows for biodiversity at landscape scales. New South Wales Environmental Trust Environmental Research Grants Program ($145,000)


Book chapters:

Boulton, A.J., Rolls, R.J., Jaeger, K.L., Datry, T., 2017. Hydrological connectivity in intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams, in: Datry, T., Bonada, N., Boulton, A.J. (Eds.), Intermittent Rivers and Ephemeral Streams: Ecology and Management. Elsevier, London, United Kingdom, pp. 79-108.

Datry, T., Corti, R., Heino, J., Hugueny, B., Rolls, R.J., Ruhi, A., 2017. Habitat fragmentation and metapopulation, metacommunity, and metaecosystem dynamics of intermittent and ephemeral streams, in: Datry, T., Bonada, N., Boulton, A.J. (Eds.), Intermittent Rivers and Ephemeral Streams: Ecology and Management. Elsevier, London, United Kingdom, pp. 377-403.

*Rolls, R.J., Bond, N.R., 2017. Environmental and ecological effects of flow alteration in surface water ecosystems, in: Horne, A., Webb, J.A., Stewardson, M.J., Richter, B., Acreman, M. (Eds.), Water for the Environment: From Policy and Science to Implementation and Management. Elsevier, London, United Kingdom, pp. 65-83.

Journal papers

*Rolls, R.J., Smolders, K.E., Boulton, A.J., Webb, A.A., Sheldon, F., 2019. How does experimental selective timber harvesting affect invertebrate diversity across different spatial scales in subtropical streams? Ecological Indicators 98, 723-735.

*Rolls, R.J., Heino, J., Ryder, D.S., Chessman, B.C., Growns, I.O., Thompson, R.M., Gido, K.B., 2018. Scaling biodiversity responses to hydrological regimes. Biological Reviews 93, 971-995.

*Smolders, K.E., Rolls, R.J., Boulton, A.J., Webb, A.A., Sheldon, F., 2018. Effects of selective forest harvesting best management practices on organic matter and invertebrate detritivores in streams draining subtropical eucalypt forest. Ecological Engineering 122, 271-285.

*Rolls, R.J., Faggotter, S.J., Roberts, D.T., Burford, M.A., 2018. Simultaneous assessment of two passage facilities for maintaining hydrological connectivity for subtropical coastal riverine fish. Ecological Engineering 124, 77-87.

Datry, T., Foulquier, A., Corti, R., von Schiller, D., Tockner, K., et al. 2018. A global analysis of terrestrial plant litter dynamics in non-perennial waterways. Nature Geoscience 11, 497-503.

Hayden, B., Myllykangas, J.-P., Rolls, R.J., Kahilainen, K.K., 2017. Climate and productivity shape fish and invertebrate community structure in subarctic lakes. Freshwater Biology 62, 990-1003.

*Rolls, R.J., Hayden, B., Kahilainen, K.K., 2017. Conceptualising the interactive effects of climate change and biological invasions on subarctic freshwater fish. Ecology and Evolution 7, 4109-4128.

Robson, B.J., Lester, R.E., Baldwin, D.S., Bond, N.R., Drouart, R., Rolls, R.J., Ryder, D.S., Thompson, R.M., 2017. Modelling food-web mediated effects of hydrological variability and environmental flows. Water Research 124, 108-128.

Rolls, R.J., Baldwin, D.S., Bond, N.R., Lester, R.E., Robson, B.J., Ryder, D.S., Thompson, R.M., Watson, G.A., 2017. A framework for evaluating food-web responses to hydrological manipulations in riverine systems. Journal of Environmental Management 203, 136-150.

Rolls, R.J., Heino, J., Chessman, B.C., 2016. Unravelling the joint effects of flow regime, climatic variability and dispersal mode on beta diversity of riverine communities. Freshwater Biology 61, 1350-1364.

Rolls, R.J., Sternberg, D., 2015. Can species traits predict the susceptibility of riverine fish to water resource development? An Australian case study. Environmental Management 55, 1315-1326.

Rolls, R.J., Leigh, C., Langhans, S.D., 2015. Improving science through improved acknowledgment of reviewers. Conservation Biology 29, 307-308.

Leigh, C., Bush, A., Harrison, E.T., Ho, S.S., Luke, L., Rolls, R.J., Ledger, M.E., 2015. Ecological effects of extreme climatic events on riverine ecosystems: insights from Australia. Freshwater Biology 60, 2620-2638.

Smolders, A., Rolls, R.J., Ryder, D., Watkinson, A., Mackenzie, M., 2015. Cattle-derived microbial input to source water catchments: An experimental assessment of stream crossing modification. Journal of Environmental Management 156, 143-149.

Rolls, R.J., Stewart-Koster, B., Ellison, T., Faggotter, S., Roberts, D.T., 2014. Multiple factors determine the effect of anthropogenic barriers to connectivity on riverine fish. Biodiversity and Conservation 23, 2201-2220.

Rolls, R.J., Arthington, A.H., 2014. How do low magnitudes of hydrologic alteration impact riverine fish populations and assemblage characteristics? Ecological Indicators 39, 179-188.

Arthington, A.H., Rolls, R.J., Sternberg, D., Mackay, S.J., James, C.S., 2014. Fish assemblages in subtropical rivers: low-flow hydrology dominates hydro-ecological relationships. Hydrological Sciences Journal 59, 594-604.

Rolls, R.J., Growns, I.O., Khan, T.A., Wilson, G.G., Ellison, T.L., Prior, A., Waring, C.C., 2013. Fish recruitment in rivers with modified discharge depends on the interacting effects of flow and thermal regimes. Freshwater Biology 58, 1804-1819.

Rolls, R.J., Ellison, T., Faggotter, S., Roberts, D.T., 2013. Consequences of connectivity alteration on riverine fish assemblages: potential opportunities to overcome constraints in applying conventional monitoring designs. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 23, 624-640.

Rolls, R.J., Leigh, C., Sheldon, F., 2012. Mechanistic effects of low-flow hydrology on riverine ecosystems: ecological principles and consequences of alteration. Freshwater Science 31, 1163-1186.

Rolls, R.J., Boulton, A.J., Growns, I.O., Maxwell, S.E., Ryder, D.S., Westhorpe, D.P., 2012. Effects of an experimental environmental flow release on the diet of fish in a regulated coastal Australian river. Hydrobiologia 686, 195-212.

Rolls, R.J., 2011. The role of life-history and location of barriers to migration in the spatial distribution and conservation of fish assemblages in a coastal river system. Biological Conservation 144, 339-349.

Rolls, R.J., Boulton, A.J., Growns, I.O., Maxwell, S.E., 2011. Response by fish assemblages to an environmental flow release in a temperate coastal Australian river: A paired catchment analysis. River Research and Applications 27, 867-880.

Rolls, R.J., Wilson, G.G., 2010. Spatial and temporal patterns in fish assemblages following an artificially extended floodplain inundation event, northern Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. Environmental Management 45, 822-833.


International Biogeography Society

Ecological Society of Australia

Australian Freshwater Sciences Society

Consultancy Interests

I regularly deliver commercial, consultancy-based research within the field of ecology, biodiversity, literature review and evidence synthesis, statistical analyses, and environmental management.