Dr Elizabeth Williams
Elizabeth is currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR). She completed her PhD through the Centre in 2011 and has since worked on a number of projects addressing environmental challenges facing the mining industry.
Where has your career taken you since completing your studies at CMLR?
As a Research Fellow as CMLR I get to work on a variety of projects that examine the impact of mining on the local fauna.
I have always loved animals and feel it is a great privilege to be able to work in such an interesting and important role. I especially enjoy the field work, to be able to go onto sites to conduct research.
Currently, I am working on a project that is monitoring the fauna (bats, frogs and birds) surrounding an underground coal mine that is near a conservation area in the Blue Mountains.
What did your PhD thesis explore?
The title of my thesis was Ant community response to management practices on rehabilitated mine sites. Essentially it explored the impact of rehabilitation practices on the local ant population at two mines.
Mines in Australia are obliged to rehabilitate the land affected by the mine once it shuts. This process can take a long time, so landscapes are monitored along the way to make sure rehabilitation occurs.
Management practices are often conducted to improve individual aspects of the rehabilitated ecosystem. These practices typically target vegetation parameters (such as increasing biodiversity) and can cause secondary disturbances to the system. Generally, minimal attention is paid to the impact of such secondary disturbances on other biota—which is what my research covered. The findings from my research include recommendations for ant sampling methodology and procedures.
Why did you choose to study at CMLR?
All my tertiary study has been at The University of Queensland. I studied a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Zoology in 2002 and then completed my Honours in Entomology in 2006. From there, the logical path was to undertake my PhD in Restoration Ecology which I was awarded in 2011.
The Centre has an excellent reputation within the field I work. It is known for its breadth of expertise—it is a huge advantage to have access to such a diverse range of specialists in the one place. The fact that there is a heavy focus on applied research means you get to work on solving real problems and have the potential to change how the mine and mineral industries interact with the environment.
What are your current ties to other parts of the University?
Because of the nature of my work, I get to collaborate with other Centres and parts of the University. The next collaboration will be with researchers from the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry (CWiMI) and the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management to write a paper on coal seam gas and fauna biodiversity.