Dr Gallagher is an ecologist specialising in the functional biogeography of the Australian flora. She combines location data from digitised herbarium specimens (which describe the spatial occurrence of Australia’s ~20,000 native plant species) with information on their functional traits to map and analyse patterns of plant function in the Australian landscape. All plants compete for the same resources (light, water, nutrients), but have evolved myriad different strategies to efficiently exploit them. Strategy variation can be related to environmental attributes, such as soil or climate conditions, and extrapolated to better understand which ecological tactics will be favoured under changing environmental conditions. Her research is particularly important for predicting plant responses to global change.
Rachael has presented about plants and their place in society to local groups (e.g. Rotary Club of Gosford), community forums (e.g. The North Coast Weeds Forum) and school groups (e.g. Boronia She also joined the CSIRO Scientists in Schools program working with disadvantaged schools on the NSW Central Coast. She has run a number of forums designed to communicate and convert my research findings into climate change adaptation strategies for ecological practitioners such as Landcare co-ordinators and volunteers, and local and state government officers.