Daniel Murphy

Professor, PhD W.Aust.

  • The University of Western Australia (M087), 35 Stirling Highway, Room 2.212, Soil Science Building, Perth campus

    6009 Perth


  • Source: Scopus
  • Calculated using citation counts from Scopus for publications in the UWA Profiles and Research Repository
If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile


Daniel gained his interest in agriculture and the wider environment while a child living in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia. He obtained his PhD (Soil Science and Agricultural Microbiology) from the University of Western Australia (UWA) while based at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on an Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded scholarship. He then spent a number of years in the United Kingdom as a scientist at Rothamsted - home to the oldest existing agricultural trials in the world. 

Since returning to Australia, Daniel has held a number of positions at UWA including GRDC Post-doctoral Fellow, Associate Director of the UWA Institute of Agriculture, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Acting Head of Geography and Environmental Sciences and Inaugural Head of School for the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment (2017-2019).  

Daniel is currently Co-Director of SoilsWest where he conducts research and student supervision that addresses issues relating to the development of sustainable management practices for agriculture and mine-sites under rehabilitation. The biology and biochemistry of soil is a major focus of this research where staff and students employ a range of molecular, isotopic, biochemical and enzymatic tools to study microbial ecology and nutrient cycling and issues relating to microbial function and diversity. Research is primarily funded through the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation, the Australian Research Council, and industry partners.

Roles and responsibilities

Co-Director Soils West (since 2016).


Previous positions

1998 – 1999 Research Scientist
Soil Science Department, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, U.K.
The focus of this research was to use 15N isotopic pool dilution techniques to further develop a process-based understanding of nutrient cycling in agricultural, grassland and natural systems. The ratio of gross nitrification to ammonium immobilisation was assessed as an index of N loss against modelled and measured leaching rates. The same principles were also used to assess the concept of ‘N saturation’ across a European N deposition gradient. Research also addressed the movement and loss of dissolved organic matter.

1995 – 1998 Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Soil Science Department, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, U.K.
This was a joint appointment between Rothamsted and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER). Overall focus of this research was to develop detailed data sets on nutrient cycling and soil organic matter for model development (mechanistic; based on the turnover of soil organic matter fractions) and evaluation (SUNDIAL/Roth-C).

Teaching overview

I teach in curricula that address Agriculture, Natural Resources Management, Environmental Sciences, Land and Water Management and Land Rehabilitation. Integration of the biological, chemical and physical sciences to problem-solving in both managed and natural ecosystems is the common focus of my teaching. I believe that discipline-based research should be at the heart of university teaching.  Adaptation and a flexible response to a changing environment are perhaps some of the most important attributes our graduates require to succeed in life after completion of their university learning. Accordingly, my teaching role is to provide the theory and basic knowledge, along with practical experiences in problem-solving skills, so that graduates are well equipped to tackle the ever-changing world and workplace challenges that lay ahead. 


Advanced Soil Science (AGRI5571). This is an advanced unit linking soil chemistry and biology in the soil-water-plant-microbe continuum, emphasising interactions that govern soil health and fertility. It deals with nutrient cycling in soils with respect to nutrient offtake in agricultural products as well as losses to ground- and surface waters and air. Students gain an understanding of the chemical equilibria and processes in soil solution and at the solid surfaces as well as how soil microbiome abundance and diversity influence soil ecological services. NEW UNIT. Available from 2021.

Soil Plant Interactions (ENVT3060).  This unit seeks to examine the soil as an environment for the growth of plants, and to develop a basic understanding of plant nutrition. The unit integrates knowledge of biological components of soil fertility with the physical and chemical components of soil. The role of soil biota in cycling nutrients for plants and in the development of a suitable environment for plant growth is emphasised. These aspects are considered in the context of soil management to maintain sustainable agricultural, horticultural and forest production, to restore disturbed natural ecosystems and to understand processes in managed and natural ecosystems.

International Fieldwork in Thailand (SCIE2208). Students will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the agricultural and environmental challenges facing Thailand with their learning experiences enriched through lectures delivered by UWA and Thai staff and visits to agricultural stations, rural communities and/or national parks. A ‘buddy system' pairs up Australian with Thai students and all activities are done jointly. Students apply their learning in a setting very different to Australia whilst learning with and from Thai students. Integrated field-work gives students a unique insight into the different socioeconomic and environmental issues facing agriculture in Asia. Students spend one month preparing for their international experience – this includes the development of a non-verbal and non-written laboratory methods manual which the students will teach to their Thai buddies. This is followed by two intensive weeks (8 hours /day) at Naresuan University, Thailand. On their return, students submit a consultancy report on a topic of their choice. The course includes a topic-specific study that is supplemented and contextualized by local Thai staff. Field trips plus weekend cultural activities are included.  

Environmental Science and Technology (ENVT1104). This unit introduces students to the drivers and consequences of the most significant environmental challenges of our time, in addition to critically assessing the basis for potential solutions. Essential concepts in environmental physics, chemistry and biology are introduced throughout each module to develop essential knowledge and skills within the broader context of environmental science. This material forms the basis of more focused content delivered in Levels 2 and 3 of the Environmental Science and Geographical Science majors.



Humanity is challenged with climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, declining fertiliser reserves and a need to feed the world’s growing population. My research focuses on understanding how ecosystems can respond to these challenges and provides a framework to aid Australia to manage its’ agricultural and natural reserves.

Microbial nutrient cycling

Microbial ecology

Soil biological fertility

Carbon sequestration

Farming systems

Isotope application to soil research

Greenhouse gas emissions

Rhizosphere engineering



  • Chinese High-end Foreign Experts Visiting Professorship.    
  • Future Fellowship, Australian Research Council.
  • Vice Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund, University of Western Australia.
  • SUFONAMA, European Commission educational programme of excellence.
  • Grains Fellowship, Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Community engagement

Academic citizenship

I strive to promote science both within the University and to the wider community. I believe that all levels of staff should feel part of the University and be able to rely on a supportive work environment. To achieve this requires an appreciation of the importance of active leadership within the University and my philosophy is to lead by example. Informing the general public and inspiring the next generation of scientists is of high importance to me – as they are the ones who help solve future food security and global environmental challenges.

Industry keywords

  • Agriculture and Food
  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental
  • Mining and Resources

Research expertise keywords

  • Soil biology/biochemistry
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Function of soil organic matter
  • Microbial ecology
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems
  • Soil biological limitations to crop production
  • Soil quality
  • Mine site rehabilitation
  • Rhizosphere interactions
  • Ecosystem processes


Dive into the research topics where Daniel Murphy is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles


Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or