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APEC-Australia Women in Research
Fellowship 2022
Dr. Darshanaa Chellaiah

Economy: Malaysia

Host Institution: University of Sunshine Coast

Project Title: Impact of fire on ecosystem function in subtropical peat swamp forests of K´gari Island.

Project Outline:

K'gari (Fraser Island) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with global importance as the largest barrier sand island in the world. Subtropical peat swamps occur throughout the island, particularly on the western side. Despite their importance, they have barely been studied, with nothing known of the impact of the 2019-2020 fires on the integrity of this ecosystem. Previously, there have been studies on vegetation recovery

following the bushfires, but much remains unknown, particularly the impact of fires on the ecology and ecosystem services. We aim to investigate the influence of past fires on biotic and abiotic conditions that are crucial for nutrient cycling and ecosystem function. Specifically, we will assess the impact of the 2019-2020 bushfires on K´gari on peat and water chemico-physical conditions, and in turn how this influences organic matter sequestration relative to decomposition rates. This is crucial as peat swamps rely on leaf litter as their major source of nutrients, hence changes in sequestration/decomposition rates can severely alter their ecosystem structure and function. This is a pioneer study to obtain baseline data to increase understanding of the impact of fire to inform the management and conservation of subtropical peat swamps.

Reasons for applying for fellowship:

This fellowship will develop and strengthen my current knowledge of sustainable land management issues, as well as foster collaborations with a respected Australian institution and experts with interrelated and parallel studies related to wide-ranging sustainability topics which will develop my professional career.

Past Achievements:

  • Bröderna Edlunds Donationsfond (Nov 2020) – Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

  • Travel studentship for ICOPE (Apr 2018) – University of Cambridge & SMARTi, Indonesia

  • EOI for Genomics Seeding Grant (Oct 2015), PI – Monash University Genomics Facility

  • Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation (Sept 2015), PI – The Rufford Foundation

  • Higher Degree by Research Scholarship (Mar - Aug 2017) – Monash University Malaysia

  • MyBrain15 (Sept 2014 - Feb 2017) – Ministry of Education Malaysia

  • Higher Degree by Research Scholarship (Apr 2014 - Apr 2018) – Monash University Malaysia

  • Honours Academic Scholarship (Feb 2012) – Monash University Malaysia

Email address:

LinkedIn URL:

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