James Cook University
Research Field: Environmental Science and Management
Dr Grech’s research uses spatial technologies, such as geographic information systems (GIS), geostatistics, network analysis, biophysical models and reserve design software, to inform the conservation of Australia’s coastal environment. Specifically, it develops new methodologies for cumulative impact assessment (CIA), and explores the implications of CIA in environmental decision-making, policy and practice. An example of this would be her early research predicted the risk to dugongs and coastal seagrasses from multiple human activities, paving the way for the improved assessment of cumulative impacts within the Great Barrier Reef and beyond.
Her current research combines advanced biophysical models with network analysis to address two questions: what is the role of connectivity in seagrass replenishment and recovery after disturbance, and what is the cumulative impact of multiple disturbances on seagrass connectivity? She has discovered that seagrasses in the central Great Barrier Reef are densely connected and have a high capacity to recover from multiple disturbances because meadows have a ready supply of propagules from both near and far away. The implication of this discovery is that management should focus on improving environmental conditions, such as water quality, that are vital to supporting natural seagrass recruitment and recovery processes.