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Dr Heather McGinness

Senior Research Scientist


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Dr McGinness is a Senior Research Scientist who conducts ecological research aiming to inform sustainable natural resource management practices. With a background in riverine and floodplain landscape ecology, her interdisciplinary work integrates aquatic and terrestrial ecology in a range of agricultural, mixed and natural ecosystems. Research areas have included: the effects of changes in landuse, hydrology and flooding upon biodiversity and productivity; the ecological influence of variability and connectivity in floodplain river systems; and the adaptive management and rehabilitation of ephemeral creeks, floodplains and wetlands in multi-use landscapes. Recently, Dr McGinness has led novel research into waterbird movement ecology, including Australia's largest waterbird movements tracking project, using the latest satellite technology to directly inform water and wetland management from local to national scales.

Dr McGinness’ research describing how key drivers including land use and water regime influence ecological outcomes in floodplain ecosystems is part of a nation-wide effort to develop ecosystem response models to inform management in these systems. She provides solutions to management problems such as how, when and where to apply environmental flows in the context of competing environmental and consumptive water needs – for both in-stream benefits and sustainability of ecological communities in the broader landscape.

As a Senior Research Scientist, Heather develops and leads significant and forward-thinking collaborative research projects. She leads teams comprising both internal and external staff, and concurrently manages and applies for funding for multiple projects and associated contracts and budgets within tight timeframes. Heather is actively sought as a collaborator by colleagues internal and external to CSIRO. She has a ‘big picture’ brain, able to develop conceptual models of whole systems and synthesise diverse sources of information and perspectives. This allows her to develop novel solutions to difficult problems and communicate complexity effectively. She has a strong interest in improving the understanding and management of water as a key integrating element crucial to the sustainability of our inland landscapes.


Current Roles

  • Project leader - various projects
    Heather has been a formal Project Leader for a range of projects in CSIRO since 2008. She has consistently and independently sought and obtained external funding for research and consultancies that she has led. Each year she has been Project Leader for between two and six projects simultaneously, while at the same time has also contributed expertise to projects led or developed by others – usually an additional two to three projects per year. Many of the projects that Heather leads involve leadership, co-ordination and supervision of multiple staff from across several CSIRO Business Units and from external agencies and universities.

Academic Qualifications

  • 2007

    Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Applied Science (Floodplain River Ecology)
    CRC for Freshwater Ecology, University of Canberra, Australia

Professional Experiences

  • 1998-Present

    Leadership: Over the past 20+ years Heather has completed multiple leadership courses and workshops most of which have included personality, preference and leadership style profiles and evaluations and plans. Some recent examples include: • The Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust ‘Science to Policy Leadership’ program. • The 2016 Public Service Women in Leadership Summit • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People • Working With People • Coaching Performance - Fundamental Skills • Coaching Performance – Challenging Conversations • Customer Conversations • CSIRO Code of Conduct and You and CSIRO Code of Conduct refreshers • Fair Play at Work • EEO Anti-Bullying Harassment & Discrimination • CSIRO Behavioural Expectations • Diversity and Inclusion in CSIRO • Introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Awareness at CSIRO • Understanding your role and responsibilities as a CERC Postdoctoral Fellow Supervisor
    University of Canbera; CSIRO

  • 2004-Present

    Other skills: Heather has also completed a range of professional courses, workshops, licences and certificates, including: • Project Management Fundamentals • Using R for statistics • ArcGIS II Essential Workflows • Journal Paper Writing Workshops • 4WD Handling and Recovery • All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV - Quad-bike) Handling and Recovery • NSW/ACT Boat Licence • CASA Remote Pilot Licence • CSIRO Remote Pilot Certificate Induction • CASA Aviation Radio Operator’s Certificate • Class A/B Firearm Licence (Employment Licence) • Competition and Consumer Law • Commercial Business Skills Program • Senior / Apply First Aid and Refreshers • Animal Research Ethics for Researchers • Security & Fraud Awareness and refreshers • Impact@CSIRO

Achievements and Awards

  • 2016-2016

    CSIRO Certificate of Recognition 'To acknowledge exemplary project leadership and achievement of significant science impact with key stakeholders on the MDB EWKR Waterbird project'

  • 2018-2018

    CSIRO Land and Water Award for Visual Communication of Science

  • 2015-2015

    CSIRO Land and Water Award 'To acknowledge going the extra mile to deliver impact and trust by directly connecting science with local NRM and landholder communities'

  • 2019-2019

    Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of outstanding support and contribution
    CEWO (Commonwealth Environmental Water Office)

  • 2015-Present

    Completion of the prestigious and challenging ‘Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust Science to Policy Leadership Program’
    Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust

  • 2016-2016

    Ecological Society of Australia 2016 Ecology in Action Photography Competition ‘When No-one’s watching: Camera trap gems’ remote camera images category: Second Prize for the image ‘Young fox in the afternoon’
    Ecological Society of Australia

  • 2016-2016

    Ecological Society of Australia 2016 Ecology in Action Photography Competition ‘Beneath Southern Skies: Unique Australian Landscapes’ category: Highly Commended for the image ‘River red gums at sunset, Paika Lake NSW’
    Ecological Society of Australia

Community and Corporate Citizenship

  • 1998-Present

    Member, Australian Freshwater Sciences Society (Australian Society for Limnology)

  • Member, Ecological Society Australia

  • Member, BirdLife Australia

We have publications by Dr Heather McGinness

    Published data & software

    We have published items by Dr Heather McGinness