A head and shoulders photo of Helen Murphy.

Dr Helen Murphy, researching invasive plant dynamics after cyclones.

Dr Helen Murphy: understanding tropical forest dynamics and threats

Dr Helen Murphy is interested in the dynamics of tropical forests and the role of invasive species and climate change in their structure and functioning.

  • 1 May 2009 | Updated 17 January 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Helen Murphy is a senior research scientist with CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and is the Officer-in-Charge of Atherton’s Tropical Forest Research Centre in North Queensland, Australia.

Dr Murphy leads the Tropical Ecology team in Atherton.

Her team addresses species, population and community level processes driving tropical forest dynamics. 

The Tropical Ecology team manages a series of permanent 0.5 ha rainforest plots across the Wet Tropics where vegetation dynamics have been monitored for the past 40 years. 

The data from these plots, and from the new 25 ha  Rainforest Supersite, is being used to understand the impact of natural disturbances and climate change on tropical forest dynamics.

Dr Murphy’s research interests include the broad spatial and temporal scale patterns and processes driving species distributions and dynamics, including invasive species. 

Dr Murphy’s work on invasive species in the Wet Tropics includes a comprehensive research program aimed at identifying the impacts of current and future invasive weeds on biodiversity.

Her work aims to inform land-managers on pro-active and strategic approaches to optimise long-term management efficiency and costs.  

Current projects and research interests include:

  • understanding weed risks and responses in the Wet Tropics and improving weed management decision making
  • monitoring and analysis of long-term rainforest dynamics
  • determining adaptation strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on biodiversity
  • understanding drivers of the distribution and abundance of species
  • biomass supply for sustainable biofuel production systems in the tropics.

Dr Murphy's major research focus is on the dynamics of tropical forests and understanding threats to their structure and functioning


Dr Murphy joined CSIRO in May 2005 as a Weeds Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Postdoctoral Fellow after completing her doctoral research in Canada. 

Her doctoral research examined the applicability of classic theories and current frameworks for understanding regional-scale population dynamics of plants across their geographic range.

During her Doctorate she was lab instructor, tutor and occasional lecturer for students in biology, plant ecology and evolution.

Prior to undertaking her Doctorate, Dr Murphy worked as an environmental consultant in Townsville, Gladstone and Perth, Australia, primarily undertaking environmental impact assessment for major developments.

Academic qualifications

Dr Murphy has been awarded a:

  • Bachelor of Applied Science, Environmental Science, (Major in Environmental Science and Zoology, Honours Class 1), James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, 1996
  • Master of Environmental Law, Australian National University, 2001
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Biology; Plant Ecology/Landscape Ecology), University of Windsor, Canada, 2005.


Dr Murphy has received the following honours:

  • Australian National University Vacation Research Scholarship, 1995-1996
  • Century Zinc Limited Award, James Cook University – Best overall performance and ability in Level 4 studies leading to the degree of Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours), 1996
  • University of Windsor International Graduate Student Scholarship, 2001-2005
  • Shared Hierarchical Academic Computing Network (SHARCNET) PhD Fellowship May 2003 – May 2005
  • University of Windsor Graduate Excellence Award – Biological Sciences, May 2004
  • Canadian Botanical Association, J.S. Rowe Award, Honourable Mention 2005 – Best published paper in ecology by a student at a Canadian University.

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