Flow-MER Annual Forum

Venue: Old Parliament House, Canberra
15th & 16th August 2023

The 2023 Flow-MER Annual Forum is focusing on sharing what we have learnt from our work, so that it can be practically applied by environmental water managers. The Flow-MER team will acknowledge and celebrate the insights and knowledge we have gained and reflect on how this can inform future investment and practice. Importantly, we will explore how the program can best provide the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) with the information needed to inform the upcoming Basin Plan Review.

Day 1 (15th August) will explore how we can better use Flow-MER information and invites discussion between water managers and scientists. There will also be select presentations that highlight our collaborative work and celebrate the work of up-and-coming scientists. There will be group discussions to explore complex issues and how we better address them.

Day 2 (16th August) will focus on uncovering what information CEWH needs to report to the Murray–Darling Basin Plan Review. We will explore what we can answer, what we cannot and where there are opportunities for change to provide information for this vital initiative. This day includes some plenary talks but will primarily focus on small group discussion.

Please see the full agenda below.

‘None of us is as smart as all of us.’

Ken Blanchard

Day One: Tues, 15th August

Facilitators: Dr Nikki Thurgate & Dr Siwan Lovett





Registration desk opens


Welcome to the Annual Forum
Acknowledgement of Country
Welcome from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
Program for the day
Plenary – Status of Flow-MER three years in with findings informing e-water policy and practice.

Dr Nikki Thurgate

Dr Simon Banks
Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (DCCEEW)

Dr Carmel Pollino
Research Director – Water Security, CSIRO Environment


Flow MER Spotlight Session
Shining a spotlight on results and experiences over the past three years that highlight collaboration, communication, long-term and unexpected outcomes.

Dr Nikki Thurgate


A day by the Warriku
Sharing observations and learnings from a Culture to Science Day held on the banks of the Warriku (Warrego) River that brought together different ways of knowing and understanding our rivers.

Dr Mark Southwell


Waterbirds on the wing
How satellite tracking waterbird movements from the Murray-Darling Basin is informing water and wetland management.

Dr Heather McGinness
Species Diversity


Drones doing the dirty work
New ways of monitoring can challenge our standard protocols, but also provide incredible insights, unexpected outcomes and opportunities for collaboration.

Dr Geoff Vietz
Lower Goulburn


Using our outputs to inform basin-scale management and guide future research.

Dr Zeb Tonkin


Dancing to the beat of the Murray-Darling Basin
– Effective management in the Basin requires an ear for music as well as coordination to bust a move at the right time!

Dr Shane Brooks


Novel assessment of trajectories of change in Murray-Darling Basin riverine tree ecosystems

Dr Tanya Doody


Flow-MER firsts
– Discussing the principles and science underpinning communications and engagement, and how to ensure our MER is relevant and impactful.

Dr Siwan Lovett
Comms & Engagement


Morning tea on the move


Let’s talk

Move into facilitated small group discussions with the following prompts to be explored drawing on participant experience and knowledge:

  • How can what you have heard/used inform e-water adaptive management?
  • How do we evaluate e-water ‘success’?
  • How can we share MER outcomes in ways that inform e-water adaptive management?
  • What would you investigate/add to extend the impact of our MER work?
  • Who/what is missing from our discussion today about how to continue to improve e-water adaptive management?

Dr Siwan Lovett & table facilitators


Report back and general discussion

Dr Siwan Lovett




Flow-MER Fresh Eyes

Dr Nikki Thurgate


Seeing through mud
Using mobile hydroacoustic sonar to monitor environmental watering outcomes.

Sam Lewis


Vegetation responses to flows with a novel drone-based monitoring technique

Thom Gower
Lower Goulburn


Timing of environmental water delivery influences extinction risk for chytrid infected amphibian populations

Anna Turner


Enhancing monitoring and e-flow management: Insights from Flow-MER interviews and surveys

Xiaoyan (Diana) Dai
Lower Goulburn


Debrief discussion

  • What have you heard that is new?
  • How could it be applied to your work?
  • What more do you need to learn about what you have heard to make it useful?

Dr Siwan Lovett


Afternoon tea


Flow-MER Fresh Eyes (continued)

Dr Siwan Lovett


Spatial and temporal assessment of floodplain vegetation response to floods

Dr Sicong (Steve) Gao


Managing for non-stationarity in floodplain-wetland systems:
Resilient variability in non-woody vegetation responses.

Cherie Campbell


When all else fails, just go with the flow: unintended lessons from an experiment in the Goulburn River

Dr Wim Bovill
Lower Goulburn


Getting the Biggest Bang for Your Duck:
The influence of hydrology on trophic dynamics and resource provision in a managed wetland to inform optimal water management.

Lindsey Frost


Ontogenetic (simple to more complex) diet shifts by Murray cod in the lower River Murray

George Giatis
Lower Murray


Debrief discussion

  • What have you heard that is new?
  • How could it be applied to your work?
  • What more do you need to learn about what you have heard to make it useful?




Let’s celebrate – Drinks & Dinner

Day Two: Wed, 16th August
Flow-MER – Informing the Basin Plan Review

Facilitators: Dr Siwan Lovett & Andy Lowes




Morning meetings
Room available for meetings until morning tea. No set agenda.
Please invite your colleagues for discussion. The room will be open and we will be together for the first time in a while!


Morning tea


Professor Ross Thompson
University of Canberra – Director of the Centre for Applied Water Science and co-Director of the Institute for Applied Ecology


Hilary Johnson
Branch Head – Engagement, Monitoring and Southern Delivery Branch, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (DCCEEW)


Dr Tony McCleod
Acting Executive Director, Basin Strategy and Knowledge Murray-Darling Basin Authority


Dr Michelle Bald
Director, Evaluation and Reporting. Murray-Darling Basin Authority




Group Discussion:
How can Flow-MER inform the Basin Plan review?

Questions relate to Combined Matters 2 and 7 from the Basin Plan

  1. To what extent were environmental objectives and outcomes outlined in Chapter 5 of the Basin Plan achieved, at the Basin scale, with reference to:
      • Giving effect to relevant international agreements?
      • Healthy and resilient ecosystems with rivers and creeks regularly connected to their floodplains and, ultimately, the ocean?
      • Protection and restoration of water-dependent ecosystems and functions with strengthened resilience to a changing climate
      • Coordination between managers of environmental water?
  2. To what extent have there been improvements in the following:
      • Flow regimes and relevant flow components
      • Hydrologic connectivity between river and floodplain and connected valleys
      • Condition of environmental assets and ecosystems
      • Condition of Coorong and Lower lakes ecosystems and Murray Mouth opening regime
      • Condition of water dependent species (vegetation, native fish, waterbirds)
      • Resilience of ecosystems and functions to a changing climate
  3. How has the Basin Plan contributed to changes in environmental conditions in the Murray-Darling Basin?


Afternoon tea


Groups report back followed by facilitated discussion


Closing remarks and Forum end


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