• The University of Western Australia (M087), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus

Personal profile


My main research activities and interests are in the field of freshwater ecology in both tropical and temperate river systems and in the use of aquatic fauna (macroinvertebrates and fish) to assess aquatic health and drivers of ecological change. I have extensive background and experience in planning, coordinating and undertaking research projects on riverine landscapes within Western Australia.

I have been based in the Kimberley region in Northern Australia for over 15years and I am passionate about supporting the use of multiple knowledge systems to enhance sustainable management of Country. My focus is on wetlands and I am currently collaborating with Indigenous ranger groups across the Kimberley to adapt freshwater monitoring protocols to meet local needs and contexts. I also have a strong interest in developing and maintaining partnerships between research, community (particularly Indigenous) and government agencies as end users of research, providing a pathway for knowledge exchange and Indigenous, locally driven research to input into and support broader-scale management and research.

Current projects

Lead Researcher - Working together for wetlands: a joint Environs Kimberley, UWA and Kimberley Indigenous Ranger project 

This collaborative reseasrch aims to support Kimberley Indigenous Ranger groups to plan and implement wetland monitoring using a multiple evidence base of Indigenous knowledge systems and University-based sciences. Acknowledging that Kimberley wetlands are key ecosystems from a conservation perspective and interlinked with Kimberley Traditional Owner ways of knowing, being and doing, the monitoring seeks to answer questions generated by each group’s concerns, practices and knowledge. Funding sources include Lotterys, NESP Northern Hub and NESP Resilent Landscapes Hub


Researcher -Addressing Kakadu’s strategic research needs 

To address the challenge of managing Kakadu and supporting park managers (both Traditional Owners and Parks Australia staff) to maintain the World Heritage-listed natural and cultural values, this project is:

  • supporting the Kakadu Indigenous Research Committee to update Bininj/Mungguy research priorities and Kakadu research protocols
  • developing a draft research strategy for Kakadu National Park that addresses both short-term and long-term priorities


Key Researcher - Kimberley Indigenous Saltwater Science Project (KISSP) 

Invited to work with  a multidisciplinary team including seven Ranger groups across the Kimberley. The Indigenous led project produced a range of products to build capacity for collaborative management of Kimberley Saltwater Country including : Guidelines for collaborative Knowledge Work, A Regional Saltwater Monitoring Framework and Toolbox (highlighting research and knowledge gaps) and a Researchers Guide.

Lead Researcher - Developing a bilarra (wetland) monitoring program for the Yawuru Indigenous Protected Area 

Researchers from The University of Western Australia (UWA) worked with the Yawuru Country Managers and the Yawuru Environmental Services team to develop a bilarra (wetland) monitoring program for the Yawuru Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in the Kimberley region of north-western Western Australia. The monitoring program was developed to support the Country Managers to assess the sustainable cattle grazing operations on the IPA, and whether they are achieving their IPA objectives for protecting wetlands. The 4-year project involved a Multiple Evidence Based approach, which sees different knowledge systems, such as Indigenous (Yawuru) and university-based science, as all validly contributing to understanding the natural environment – in this case, bilarra.

National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub (NAERH) Managing savanna riparian zones subproject


Research Coordinator - Partnerships and tools to support biodiversity monitoring by Indigenous land and sea managers

A three year project with the Nyul Nyul Rangers provided an opportunity to trial a more equitable and collaborative approach to wetland research.  Through this research, we adopted multiple techniques (workshops, questionnaires, site visits, collaborative field sampling) to share wetland science, and support the Nyul Nyul community to share their knowledge and aspirations for wetlands and develop a freshwater monitoring program. This approach enabled the community to prioritise sites and issues for the research program, and together Nyul Nyul knowledge and western science techniques provided a comprehensive understanding of wetland change and condition.

Research Coordinator - Waterways Education Program

Developed and currently coordinate (since 2009) a Waterways Education Program in the Kimberley region. As I am based in Kununurra, this project has involved a partnership between UWA and the Department of Water (Kununurra regional office), that focuses on developing community (particularly Indigenous) skills and knowledge related to science, research and management. Providing a pathway for both locally driven research and community input into broader scale management and research.

Researcher: Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment: Assessing the ecological impacts of climate change and development across northern Australia. National Water Commission. Current.

Led by the University of Western Australia in collaboration with researchers from a variety of universities and research organisations, the project aimed to improve our understanding of water-dependent ecological assets across northern Australia and the risks to those assets arising from hydrologic changes due to water resource development or climate change.

Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge  NAWFA

Research Coordinator for Kimberlry Trials - Framework for Assessing River and Wetland Health in the Wet/dry Topics of Australia. National Water Commission. Completed 2011

The Framework for Assessing River and Wetland Health was trialled in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the framework in assessing river health in the wet/dry tropics, and contributing to north Australian river management. TRACK River and Wetland Health Framework

Research Coordinator : Long Term Ecological Research on a Pilbara River System – Implications for environmental water requirements and management. WA Department of Water Completed 2010

Research Partner: Feral Pig Monitoring and Eradication Program in the Fitzroy Region. State NRM Funding 

Funding overview


Cossart, R. and Dobbs, R.J. $255,513 Western Australian, State NRM funding round 2010/2011 – Kimberley waterways recovery and education (Indigenous) (Current)

Dobbs, R.J. and Cossart, R. $145,000 Caring for our Country Interim funding 2008/2009 – Development and Trial of a Kimberley Waterways Education Program (Finalised 2009)

Collaborative Project $100,000 Paruku: An environmental art and text project about a significant cultural place Donor Funding (Current)

Dobbs, R.J. $20,000 Various TRaCK Knowledge Adoption and Synthesis Projects TRaCK . Charles Darwin University (Current)

Dobbs, R.J., Cossart, R. and Close, P.G. $11,430 Development of a community monitoring program for Paruku, Lake Gregory, Kimberley. Kimberley Land Council. Paruku Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) (Current)

Close, P.G. and Dobbs, R.J. $12,000 Development of a training package for the National Water Commission project: Framework for the Assessment of River and Wetland health. Canberra University. (Finalised 2010)

Close, P.G., Pettit, N. and Dobbs, R.J. $60,000 Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment – High Conservation Value Aquatic Ecosystems: Fine scale assessment of ecological assets in the Fitzroy River (Northern Western Australia) and Daly River catchments. TRaCK – Griffith University. (Finalised 2010)

Dobbs, R.J. & Stelfox, L. $ 5000 Indigenous Engagement for; CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship 2010 - Aerial Electro-magnetic survey of the lower Fitzroy River for the National Water Commission Fitzroy River Integrated ground and surface water hydrology assessment project (Finalised 2010)

Teaching overview

Coordinator and Guest Lecturer for Various Units;
2008- 2016 Waterways Education Program for the Kimberley
2008 – 2009 Waterway Restoration and Conservation Course
2006 – 2007 Freshwater Ecology
2004 – 2006 Aquatic Biology (570.311)

Roles and responsibilities

My position with the University of Western Australia, based in the remote town of Kununurra is multidisciplinary and addresses a combination of ecological research, engagement (both indigenous, government and non government) and science extension components.
• Collaborative projects incorporating both Indigenous and Western Science Knowledge to inform monitoring and management of freshwater ecosystems in the Kimberley
• Ranger training and river health monitoring
• Macroinvertebrate Ecology
• Environmental water requirements
• River health and environmental flows
• Environmental monitoring and assessment (aquatic)
• Coordinate, initiate and manage regional research projects on riverine landscapes and provide expertise and input into key strategic state and national water programs and initiatives

• Coordinate Waterways Education Program in the Kimberley

• Undertake collaborative research with Indigenous Rangers and community groups

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Research expertise keywords

  • Freshwater ecology
  • Temperate and tropical rivers
  • Integration of Indigenous and scientific knowledge
  • Indigenous engagement


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