Honours Project for Bush Heritage Australia in Western Queensland

Want to work on a significant conservation ecology project as an Honours or Masters student funded by Bush Heritage Australia?


Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is a significant exotic weed of arid and semi-arid rangelands throughout Australia. In Queensland it has been actively spread by pastoral land managers, either on cleared and raked paddocks, or oversown in unmodified vegetation. However it has invaded conservation reserves, or exists on conservation reserves that have been converted from pastoral lands. It is a substantial management issue as it dominates productive areas (alluvial and sandy soils), invades native vegetation (promoting fire and eventually smothering native species), and seeds quickly and prolifically after rain, often before other perennial tussock species.   This latter feature may provide an opportunity to map the distribution of the species at a property scale.

Project and proposed outcomes

On large properties (10,000-200,000 ha) mapping the distribution of a highly invasive and pervasive weed can provide a challenge.  Physical mapping by vehicle, foot or drone technology can be time consuming and biased. Weed management requires the prioritization of treatment areas and especially invasion fronts, and without a clear understanding of the spatial distribution a weed, management focus tends to revert to roadsides and easily accessible areas. Effectively management requires whole property mapping and multi-year management plans. This project is based on Edgbaston Reserve (9,300 ha) on the edge of the Mitchell Grass Dows and Desert Uplands bioregion.  The reserve protect a series of Great Artesian Basin springs that are home to a range of endemic fish, macroinvertebrates and plants. Edgbaston has Buffel grass throughout the property, especially in the productive soils, and it is spreading into the native tussock grasslands and the hummock grasslands around the springs. 

This project proposes to use the fast response of Buffel to rainfall to map known or potential Buffel distribution on a property scale.

The project outcomes can include examination of Pullen Pullen to try and identify Buffel signals.

To date three phenocams have been established at Edgbaston – one dominated by Buffel, one Buffel and Mitchell Grass (Astrebla spp) mixture and one dominated by Mitchell Grass. Three more cameras can be established – one in the Mitchell Grass area that is dominated by annual grasses (ie. Iseliema spp), one that is dominated by Spinifex (Triodia sp) and one mixed Buffel / Spinifex.


Funding - BHA can support travel to Longreach and Edgbaston to visit the field sites and undertake data collection.  Indicative budget for the student if $2,000 but further funds might be made available.

In-kind - BHA staff can also collect vegetation transect data if required to be collected on multiple occasions, and ground truth areas mapped as Buffel. BHA will provide 5-6 phenocams (three in situ already), and associated materials. 

Field Trips

  •  ~ July 2018 – set up additional 3 cameras, veg transects at existing and new sites
  •  ~ March 2019 (or following summer rainfall) – field trip to validate classification


Prof Stuart Phinn – s.phinn@uq.edu.au