There are more fires each year in northern Australia than anywhere else in the country. Dr Richards is part of the CSIRO team in Darwin examining biophysical, economic, policy and cultural issues relating to savanna fire management in northern Australia. Research into reducing the extent and severity of such fires could impact on greenhouse gas abatement both in Australia and globally. It also has the potential to transform regional economies, such as providing new livelihood opportunities for remote Aboriginal communities.
Until now, scientists have known little about the impact of fire management options on the amount of carbon stored in soil. Anna’s expertise in understanding below-ground processes has helped develop a model of soil carbon sequestration under different fire regimes and she has shown that burning the bush every four to six years is best for storing carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Anna’s community engagement activities range from being involved in CSIRO’s partnership with the Tiwi College which trains VET students in scientific literacy, to the ‘Scientists in Schools’ program partnering with Sanderson Middle School in Darwin; and from presenting to the Top End Native Plant Society and the University of the Third Age to achieving media coverage. Her ability to communicate science to a general audience saw her selection amongst 16 Australia-wide to participate in Fresh Science 2011 in Melbourne.