Dr Melissa Neave
Global, Urban and Social Studies
+61 3 9925 2512
Design & Social Context
Dr Melissa (Mel) Neave is an environmental geographer with experience in natural resource management and a particular interest in water resources. She teaches in the undergraduate and postgraduate Environment and Planning program at RMIT and is currently responsible for the following courses: Coastal and Catchment Management (ARCH1266/ARCH1288), Emissions and Waste Management (ENVI1156) and Natural Resource Management (ENVI1196/ENVI1132). Mel’s main objective is to improve our understanding of how natural systems operate and of how humans use natural systems to achieve both environmental and social objectives.
- BA (Hons), Monash University, 1991
- Ph.D. State University of New York at Buffalo, 1999, Thesis title: ‘Impact of small mammal disturbances on water and sediment yields in the Jornada Basin, southern New Mexico’
Mel has spent the majority of her career working in academia, first as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Frostburg State University (USA), then as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Sydney, followed by a brief stint at the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change (as a geomorphologist on the Tweed Heads Sand By-Pass project) before moving to RMIT.
Mel is an advocate for the discipline of Geography and, as such, has been an active member of the NSW Geographical Society (serving as a Councillor and Vice-President for several years) and has represented the Society on the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Geography. She is also Associate Editor of the Journal Australian Geographer and is a member of a number of other professional organisations including the Institute of Australian Geographers.
Prizes and awards
- 2008 Faculty of Science Citation for Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Sydney
- 1997 Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching Award, SUNY Buffalo
Mel’s research spans the social and physical sciences and seeks to find solutions to natural resource problems at scales ranging from the local to the international. She is currently working on a major project (funded by RIRDC) that aims to investigate the drivers and implications of land ownership change in rural Australia but is also interested in the links between biological and physical systems in these environments.
Mel’s main areas of research include:
- Investigating patterns of non-urban land ownership change in rural Australia
- Considering the environmental implications of rural land ownership change in Australia
- Examining links between river flooding processes and soil condition in semiarid environments
- Deciphering the complex links between hillslope runoff and erosion processes
- Examining the biogeomorphic influences of small mammals in semiarid environments
Prospective topics for research students:
Environmental implications of rural land ownership change
Rural landscapes in Australia are experiencing rapid rates of land ownership change. This is occurring as a result of many concurrent processes, including farm consolidation and fragmentation, the rise of corporate farming and an increase in absentee and foreign farm ownership. Although we have a basic understanding of the nature of these ownership changes, little is known about the implications of these changes on sustainable farming practices, land clearance, and other environmental factors associated with farming (e.g., the use of fertilisers and pesticides, water resource management, pest and weed management). This project would seek to address these issues by investigating farm practices, and land use and land cover changes in the context of changing land ownership.
Economic and environmental consequences of the transformation of native grasslands to native scublands
The invasion of former grasslands by woody native plants (termed invasive native scrub) is a common occurrence in semi-arid Australia. From a farming perspective, this tends to be viewed as a negative occurrence as it reduces the grazing potential of the affected lands. However, such areas may potentially be beneficial to native fauna and may also help to remediate environmental problems in arid lands (such as rising soil salinity, high rates of Aeolian and fluvial soil erosion or poor soil fertility). This study seeks to investigate both the positive and negative effects of invasive native scrub and to come up with a set of recommendations for how best to manage these systems across a range of scales (from individual farms to entire landscapes) and institutions (from landholders and national parks to catchment management authorities and state and federal environmental and land management agencies).
Geomorphic and hydrologic consequences of invasive species in semi-arid Australia
Across Australia, invasive plant and animal species are abundant. Owing to their competitive advantages, these organisms often negatively impact on the native flora and fauna that were present prior to their arrival. Many researchers have investigated the biological consequences of the arrival of invasive species into an area, and infer that these consequences are brought about almost solely through ecological processes. Importantly, however, it is becoming apparent that many of these species are also effective ecosystem engineers, who can transform the landscape to suit their own needs and thereby strengthen their competitive advantage. This project will seek to address this issue by investigating how invasive mammal and plant species affect the geomorphology, soil character and hydrology of semi-arid floodplains and hillslopes in Australia, and how any changes observed might serve to improve their own biological fitness at the expense of that for native species.
Pritchard, B., Neave, M., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Rural Land in Australia: A Framework for the Measurement and Analysis of Nationwide Patterns of Ownership Change, Aggregation and Fragmentation. Report submitted to RIRDC in April 2012.
Pritchard, B., Neave, M., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Land Ownership Change in Rural Western Australia, 2004-08. Report submitted to RIRDC in June 2012.
Pritchard, B., Neave, M., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Land Ownership Change in Rural New South Wales, 2004-08. Report submitted to RIRDC in April 2012.
Neave, M., Pritchard, B., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Land Ownership Change in Rural Queensland, 2004-08. Report submitted to RIRDC in April 2012.
Neave, M., Pritchard, B., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Land Ownership Change in Rural South Australia, 2004-08. Report submitted to RIRDC in April 2012.
Neave, M., Pritchard, B., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Land Ownership Change in Rural Victoria, 2004-08. Report submitted to RIRDC in April 2012.
Neave, M., Pritchard, B., Hickey, D., Troy, L. (in press). Land Ownership Change in Rural Tasmania, 2004-08. Report submitted to RIRDC in April 2012.
Neave, M., Rayburg, S., Curtis, E. (2011) “A comparison of deflation basin (wetland) soils from wet and dry climatic zones”, IAHS Publication, 348: 26-31.
White, A., Rayburg, S., Neave, M. (2011) “The influence of physical factors on channel morphology and geomorphic diversity”, 34th IAHR World Congress-Balance and Uncertainty: 3153-3159.
Carroll-Macdonald, T., Rayburg, S., Neave, M. (2011) “Potential impacts of water resource development on soil character in a semi-arid floodplain-wetland complex”, 34th IAHR World Congress-Balance and Uncertainty: 3036-3043.
Iveson, K., Neave, M. (2010) “Teaching across the divide? Physical and Human Geographies of Hurricane Katrina”, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 34: 581-593.
Neave, M., Rayburg S., Swann, A. (2009) “River channel change following dam removal in an ephemeral stream”, Australian Geographer, 40: 235-246.
Rayburg, S., Thoms, M., Neave, M., (2009) “A comparison of digital elevation models generated from different data sources”, Geomorphology, 106: 261-270.
Rayburg, S., Neave, M., (2008) “Assessing morphologic complexity and diversity in river systems using three-dimensional asymmetry indices for bed elements, bedforms and bar units”, River Research and Applications, 24: 1343-1361.
Neave, M., Matthews, S., (2008) “Modelling hillslope soil erosion at ANZAC Cove”, IAHS-AISH Publication, 325: 616-619.
Neave, M., Rayburg, S., McQuire, L., (2008) “Spatial and temporal trends in the water quality of the Namoi River catchment”, Proceedings of Water Down Under 2008. Engineers Australia, Adelaide, pp. 1364-1374.
Thornton, E., Neave, M., Rayburg, S., (2008) “Bed element, bedform and bar unit asymmetry in river channel networks: an investigation into morphologic complexity and diversity at multiple spatial scales”, Proceedings of Water Down Under 2008. Engineers Australia, Adelaide, pp. 2508-2518.
Rayburg, S., Neave, M., (2008) “Morphologic complexity and diversity in natural and channelized streams”, Proceedings of Water Down Under 2008. Engineers Australia, Adelaide, pp. 1902-1911.
Neave, M., Rayburg, S., (2007) “Nonlinear biofluvial responses to vegetation change in a semiarid environment”, Geomorphology, 89: 217-239.
Waugh, J., Neave, M., Bruce, E., (2007) “The impact of varying rainfall conditions on the quality of runoff entering Wamberal Lagoon, NSW”, Physical Geography, 28: 1-13.
Neave, M., Rayburg, S., (2007) “A field investigation into the effects of progressive rainfall-induced soil seal and crust development on runoff and erosion rates: The impact of surface cover”, Geomorphology, 87: 378-390.
Thoms, M., Rayburg, S., Neave, M., 2007. The diversity and assessment of a large river system: The Murray-Darling, Australia. A. Gupta (ed.) Large Rivers: Geomorphology and Management. Special publication of the IAG/AIG Working Group on Large Rivers, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, pp. 587-607.
Thornton, E., Neave, M., Rayburg, S., 2007. Hydraulic geometry in river channel networks as a method for the assessment of river condition. In: Wilson, A.L., Dehaan, R.L., Watts R.J., Page, K.J., Bowmer, K.H., and Curtis, A (eds). Proceedings of the 5th Australian Stream Management Conference: Australian Rivers: Making a Difference. Charles Sturt University, Thurgoona, New South Wales, pp. 401-406.
Abrahams, A.D., Neave, M., Schlesinger, W., Wainwright, J., Howes, D.A., Parsons, A.J., 2006. Biogeochemical fluxes across piedmont slopes of the Jornada Basin. In: K.M. Havstad, Huenneke, L. F., and Schlesinger, W. H. (Eds.), Structure and Function of a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem: The Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research site. Oxford, London, pp. 150-175.
Neave, M., Rayburg, S., 2006. Salinity and erosion: a preliminary investigation of soil erosion on a salinised hillslope. IAHS-AISH Publication, 306: 531-539.
McQuire, L., Neave, M., Rayburg, S., 2005. Assessing agrochemical trends in the Namoi River Catchment using an index model. I.D. Rutherford, I. Wiszniewski, M. Askey-Doren and R. Glazik (eds), Proceedings of the 4th Australian Stream Management Conference: Linking Rivers to Landscapes. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 432-438.
Rayburg, S., Neave, M., Thoms, M., 2005. A preliminary investigation into the influence of changing stream network patterns on the distribution of water in the Narran Lakes Ecosystem. I.D. Rutherford, I. Wiszniewski, M. Askey-Doren and R. Glazik (eds), Proceedings of the 4th Australian Stream Management Conference: Linking Rivers to Landscapes. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 509-515.
Murray, O., Rayburg, S., Thoms, M., Neave., M., 2005. Preliminary results on a study on variations of wetland patch characteristics under different inundation levels using remotely sensed data. I.D. Rutherford, I. Wiszniewski, M. Askey-Doren and R. Glazik (eds), Proceedings of the 4th Australian Stream Management Conference: Linking Rivers to Landscapes. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 439-444.
Neave, M., Abrahams, A.D., 2002. Vegetation influences on water yields from grassland and shrubland ecosystems in the Chihuahuan Desert. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 27: 1011-1020.
Neave, M., Abrahams, A.D., 2001. Impact of small mammal disturbances on sediment yield from grassland and shrubland ecosystems in the Chihuahuan Desert. Catena, 44: 285-303.