Meet the staff: Heidi Zimmer

Published in the May 2017 issue

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Heidi Zimmer

What is your job at Southern Cross University?

I work as a casual academic in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering in Lismore, with Associate Professor Doland Nichols on a new project in northwestern Vietnam on forest restoration.

Soil erosion is an important problem in those mountainous areas in Vietnam and Southern Cross University is partnering with the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Science to help local communities improve the economic and environmental value of their remnant forests, as part of a larger project to get more trees into this degraded landscape.

What got you into forestry? 

I grew up in East Gippsland, Victoria, where forestry is an important industry. I moved to Melbourne to study and for my Honours project I used dendrochronology (tree rings) to investigate the stand dynamics of tropical pine forests in northern Thailand.

My dendrochronological research continued with a Masters project in the high-elevation forests of Papua New Guinea, then I undertook my doctoral research on one of Australia’s most iconic threatened species, the Wollemi pine.

There are fewer than 100 Wollemi pines surviving in the wild in a single catchment in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney.

Where have you worked since then?

I have worked for the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research in Melbourne on the ecology and management of Victorian Volcanic Plains Grassland, Gippsland Plains Grassy Woodland, Callitris verrucosa, and on ecosystem recovery following the Black Saturday bushfires.

After my PhD, I spent a year living in Hanoi and working with the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Science on dipterocarp ecology, Acacia plantation forestry and improving forest research methods in Vietnam.

I am currently working for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage on extinction risk assessment for threatened species in NSW.

Tell us a little bit about your research?

I am interested in understanding how our natural environment works, and how we can manage it towards specific outcomes. I work both at the landscape scale with projects such as forest restoration in northwest Vietnam, and the species scale, such as understanding the ecology of the Wollemi pine to inform its conservation management.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I meet interesting people and get to travel exotic locations for field work – and because of this I can learn something new every day.

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