NT Fulbright scholar to protect the north’s rivers 

2012 Fulbright Scholarship recipient CDU’s Professor Michael Douglas is passionate about protecting the rivers of northern Australia

A Charles Darwin University researcher, passionate about protecting the rivers of northern Australia, has been awarded a 2012 Fulbright Scholarship to work with world-leading river experts.

CDU Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Professor Michael Douglas is one of two recipients of the Fulbright Northern Territory Scholarship.

“Rivers are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet and most have suffered serious environmental degradation,” Professor Douglas said.

“Northern Australia, however, contains the largest network of healthy river systems in the world and maintaining their integrity is critical for the region’s future.”

As a 2012 Fulbright Scholar, Professor Douglas will collaborate with researchers at the University of Maryland and Oregon State University to establish a shared understanding of integrated catchment management between Australia and the United States. He also will work to develop a new research framework for river and coastal management in northern Australia.

“There are many threats to the North Australian river systems,” he said. “Weeds and introduced animals, such as cane toads, wild pigs, cattle and water buffalo continue to spread and degrade the natural systems.

“More intensive cattle grazing places greater pressure on waterholes and inappropriate fire regimes threaten the fragile riparian forests that stabilise the river banks. Mining has already had serious negative impacts in a few river systems but vast areas of the region are under active exploration and plans are well advanced for major gas processing plants on the Kimberley coast and in the estuaries of Darwin harbour.”

On his return, Professor Douglas will develop a framework to help solve critical threats to Australia’s tropical rivers and coasts.

The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, the program operates between the United States and 155 countries.

Professor Douglas is one of 25 talented Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2012.