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Southern Cross GeoScience

Dr Kathryn Taffs

Kathryn Taffs


Doctor of Philosophy, University of Adelaide: Surface Water Hydrological Change in the Upper South East of South Australia, 1998.

Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (Teaching and Learning), Southern Cross University, 2007.

First Class Honours, University of Adelaide: Monitoring variation of groundwater depth in Messent Conservation Park using Landsat TM Imagery, 1992.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Adelaide (major in Geography), 1991.


Research interests / background:

Kathryn is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Environmental Science and Management. She teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and actively researches in the fields of palaeoecology and wetland ecology.

Kathryn's research focuses on the study of changes in wetland biota and the environment over time. Using palaeolimnological techniques wetland studies can be extended with the further dimension of geologic time. Management of wetland environments is dependent upon an understanding of how an ecosystem has responded to climate and human induced changes in the past. With an understanding of past wetland dynamics, realistic remediation targets for ecosystem rehabilitation can be established and incorporated into management plans.

Kathryn's research concentrates on the use of pollen and diatom microfossils in addition to geochemical data to reconstruct the environmental history of wetland ecosystems and estuaries over time. Projects are underway on coastal environments of eastern Australia and Ontario, Canada and vary from coastal lakes and ICOLLs to large estuaries and freshwater lakes. Some specific projects in progress are:

  • the history of eutrophication of ICOLLS in eastern Australia
  • the environmental history of eastern Australian estuaries with emphasis on trophic status
  • the establishment of a diatom based calibration set for coastal eastern Australia
  • the recovery of Ontario lakes from acid rain.

All projects investigate the history of wetland ecosystems and aim to improve the ecosystem health and stability by setting realistic remediation targets that can be incorporated into conservation strategies. Existing projects vary from the establishment and description of estuarine algal communities to incorporation of this data in palaeolimnological reconstructions. Other projects examine environmental degradation and recovery in lake and estuaries of the east coast of Australia.

Other Activities

  • UNESCO World Heritage Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee of the Gondwanan Forests of Australia
  • Reconstructing change in Australian estuaries (ARC Environmental Futures Network)
  • Recent Human Impact on Australian Ecosystems (OZPACS) (ARC Environmental Futures Network)
  • Southern Cross University Student Appeals committee

Awards and Honours

  • SCU VC citation for outstanding contribution to student learning (2009)
  • Queens University Visiting Scholar Fellowship, Ontario, Canada (2008)
  • Southern Cross University Vice-Chancellors Teaching and Learning Fellowship (2008)
  • School of Environmental Science and Management Early Career Research Award (2006)
  • Awarded a University Blue for Touch (1994).

Research grants awarded in the last five years

  • $6,624. INQUA. Diatom Taxonomy Workshop: Coastal Diatoms of the Southern Hemisphere. 2009-2010.
  • $950,000. ARC LEIF. The future of palaeoclimate and archaeological research in Australia: next generation instrumentation for chronology and environmental reconstruction. 2009-2011.
  • $6,488. AINSE. An investigation into the history of eutrophication in eastern Australian coastal systems using a palaeolimnological approach. 2008.
  • $11,230. AINSE. An investigation into the history of eutrophication in eastern Australian coastal systems using a palaeolimnological approach. 2007.
  • $18,000. Hydrosphere Consulting. Monitoring and recovery of Salty Lagoon. 2007-2010.
  • $9,480. AINSE. The environmental history of three ICOLLs in northern NSW, Australia. 2006.
  • $9,150. AINSE. Environmental change on the coastal peat plains of Byron Bay, northern NSW, Australia. 2005.
  • $80,000. ECASS. Eutrophication of eastern Australian coastal systems: a palaeolimnological approach. 2005-2008.


Journal articles


Hembrow, S.C., Taffs, K.H., Atahan, P., Parr, J., Zawadzki, A. and Heijnis, H., 2014. Diatom community response to climate variability over the past 37,000 years in the sub-tropics of the Southern Hemisphere. Science of the Total Environment, 468-469: 774-784. (2012 ERAID 3551 - FOR MD)

Logan B., Taffs K. (2014). Seasonal water quality sampling in estuaries, what can it tell us? A case example of eastern Australian sub tropical estuaries. Marine and Freshwater research, 65(2) 153 - 163. (2012 ERAID 3285 - FOR MD)


Logan, B. and Taffs, K. (accepted). Point water sampling in east Australian sub tropical estuaries: what can it tell us?. Marine and Freshwater research.

Logan, B. and Taffs, K.H. (2013). Relationship between diatoms and water quality (TN, TP) in sun-tropical east Australian estuaries. Journal of Paleolimnology. DOI 10.1007/s10933-013-9708-8.


Hembrow, S.C. and Taffs, K.H. (2012). Water quality changes in a Fraser Island perched lake: Lake McKenzie. Preliminary data investigating the causes of biological change on lake water quality. Australian Geographer, 43(3): 291-302. DOI:10.1080/00049182.2012.706207


Logan B., Taffs K. (In press) Eutrophication history of east Australian estuaries: development of a diatom-based transfer function. Journal of Paleolimnology. Accepted Manuscript (ERA ranking A)

Logan B., Taffs K.H. (In press) The Burrum River estuary: Identifying reference sites for Australian subtropical estuarine systems using paleolimnological methods. Journal of Paleolimnology. Accepted Manuscript (ERA ranking A)

Logan B., Taffs K.H., Eyre B.D., Zawadzki A (In press). Assessing changes in nutrient status in the Richmond River estuary, Australia, using paleolimnological methods. Journal of Palaeolimnology. Accepted Manuscript (ERA ranking A)


Logan B., Taffs K.H., Cunningham L. (2010) Applying paleolimnological techniques in estuaries: a cautionary case study from Moreton Bay, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 61(9) 1039-1047. (ERA ranking B)

Taffs K., Logan B., Parr J.F., Jacobsen G.E. (2010) The evolution of a coastal peatland at Byron Bay, Australia: Multi-proxy evidence from the microfossil record. Terra Australis 32: 429-432. (ERA ranking C)


Taffs, K.H., Logan, B., Parr, J. and Jacobsen, G. (In Press). The evolution of a coastal peatland at Byron Bay, Australia. Multi-proxy evidence from the fossil record. Terra Australis.

Saunders, K.M. and Taffs, K.H. (2009). Palaeoecology: a tool to improve the management of Australian estuaries. Journal of Environmental Management, 90: 2730-2736.


Taffs, K.H., Farago, L., Heijins, H. and Jacobsen, G. (2008). A diatom based Holocene record of human impact from a coastal environment, eastern Australia. Journal of Paleolimnology. 39(1): 71-82.


Taffs, K.H., Parr, J.F. and Bolton, K. (2006). Using Palaeobotanical techniques to guide peatland restoration. A case study from Byron Bay, Australia. Ecological Management and Restoration, 7(2): 132-135.


Taffs, K.H. and Cullen, M.C. (2005). The distribution and abundance of marine debris on isolated beaches of northern New South Wales, Australia. Australian Journal of Environmental Management. 12(4): 244-250.


Parr, J.F., Taffs, K.H. and Lane, C.M.(2004). A microwave digestion technique for the extraction of fossil diatoms from coastal lake and swamp sediments. Journal of Palaeolimnology. 31(3): 383-390.


Boyd, W. and Taffs, K. (2003). Mapping the Environment. A professional development manual. Pearsons Sprint Print, Sydney.

Book Chapters

Taffs, K.H. and Saunders, K.M. (in press). Introduction. Paleolimnological techniques in estuaries. Developments in paleoenvironmental research, Springer Press.

Taffs, K.H., Saunders, K.M. and Logan, B. (in press). Diatoms. Developments in paleoenvironmental research, Springer Press.

Taffs, K.H. (in press). Case Study: Tuckean Swamp, New South Wales, Australia. Developments in paleoenvironmental research, Springer Press.

Taffs, K.H. (2010). The Last 200 years - A European History of the CERRA properties. The Natural History of the Gondwanan Forests of Australia. . Surrey Beatty.19pp.

Parr, J., Kerr, G., Arthur, J. and Taffs, K.H. (2007). Impact of fire on Peatlands in north-eastern NSW, Australia: implications for the interpretation of microfossil assemblages and fire histories. BAR International Series S1870 47-53. In: Matrices Interdisciplinarios en Estudios Fitollitico y de Otros Microfosiles. Eds. M. A. Korstanje and M del P. Babot.

Conference Papers

Logan, B. and Taffs, K.H. 2009. Historical nutrient status in the Richmond River in the absence of monitoring data. NSW Coastal Conference. Ballina, November 4-7 2009.

Taffs, K.H. 2007. Differentiating records of recent climate change from anthropogenic impact in the coastal margin: an example from eastern Australia. Quaternary International, 167: 410.

Parr, J.F., Kerr, G., Arthur, J., Bolton, K., Jacobson, G., and Taffs, K.H. 2005. Reconstructing fire histories: methods, interpretation and common on-ground problems across fire history research in Australia. Australasian Archaeometry Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, December 12-15, p. 54.

W.E. Boyd, K. Taffs, W. Laird (2004). Mapping the Environment: Reflections on a self-guided geography teaching book and its interrelationships with internal and external delivery of a University course. Institute of Australian Geographers Conference, Adelaide, April 13-16, p. 4.

Taffs, K.H. (2004). Estuary, Swamp, Estuary. Environmental history of Tuckean Swamp. ECSA Estuary Change, Ballina, NSW, June 20-25, p. 254.

Taffs, K.H., Parr, J. and Bolton, K. (2003). Chronology and Palaeoecology of an acidic wetland peat in north-eastern NSW. ESA Ecology Conference, Armidale, NSW, December 7-10, p. 149.

Parr, J., Taffs, K., Kerr, G. and Arthur, J. (2003). Fires and their implications for acidic peatlands, north-eastern NSW. ESA Ecology Conference, Armidale, NSW, December 7-10, p. 125.

Consultancy Reports

Taffs, K.H. (2008). Implementation of a monitoring program for the recovery of Salty Lagoon, Evans Head, NSW. WP Consultants and Richmond Valley Council.

Taffs, K.H. (2007). A monitoring program for the recovery of Salty Lagoon, Evans Head, NSW. WP Consultants and Richmond Valley Council.

Parr, J. and Taffs, K.H. (2007). Forensics Report. Forensics Department, NSW Police, Australia.

Parr, J. and Taffs, K.H. (2006). The use of diatomaceous Earth for the improvement of agricultural productivity.

Parr, J. and Taffs, K. (2002) West Byron wetland vegetation history report. Byron Bay Council.

Taffs, K.H. (2003). Palaeoenvironmental history of Sydney Basin using diatoms as palaeoenvironmental indicators. University of New England.