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Jodi Frawley

Jodi Frawley is an environmental historian and Research Fellow in the Creative Industries Faculty. Her research is located in the emerging interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities drawing on environmental history, heritage planning and cultural studies to research the different ways that local communities experience environmental change. Jodi completed her PhD at University of Sydney and has held research positions at the University of Technology, Sydney, Griffith University and Queensland Environmental Protection Authority. She has also worked as a professional historian for the Murray Darling Basin Authority, NSW Department of Primary Industries and a number of Brisbane based architectural firms.

As the impacts of climate change become apparent many familiar environments will drastically alter, leaving communities facing a myriad of structural adjustments. Droughts are likely to be longer and Australia’s coastal regions are likely to be wetter due to more intense cyclone and storm events. Predicted sea level rise will substantially change the coastlines effecting urban, rural and regional communities. Providing research into the histories of biological and cultural responses to changing conditions will contribute to the adaptive strategies available as resources for future environmental planning. Jodi’s research embraces mixed methodologies of history and cultural studies, especially more-than-human approaches, as a way to overcome the limits of current thinking about adaptation to environmental change.

  • Research area one: Sustainable Fishing
  • Research area two: Invasive species
  • Research area three: Transnational networks of botanical exchange

Research area one: Sustainable fishing

Ensuring sustainable fishing for the future relies on understanding the changes to fish populations, habitats, and cultures of fishing in the past. This research considers the historical intersections of ideas about conservation, popular cultures of fishing and fisheries science as they play out in fishing communities in freshwater and estuarine environments in Australia.

Jodi is chief investigator on an ARC funded project about the history of fishing along eastern Australia (DE130100634). She is collaborating with the Conservation Action Unit of NSW DPI and the Fish Habitat Network. Together they are making links with local fishing communities in the Richmond and Clarence Rivers, with a view to collecting oral history testimony from recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fishers in those river reaches. This research also extends to Queensland, where she is focusing on the Fraser Island – Great Sandy Strait – Mary River region.

In 2010-11, Jodi was research associate for Talking Fish project that collected 102 oral histories of fishing in the Murray-Darling Basin to contribute historical research to scientific understandings of conservation and aquatic ecology. She has generated new research in, firstly, the previously unrecognised engagement of Australian scientists in the arena of popular culture and ecology, for example in fishing and observing river environments. Secondly, the new research has been directed to the detailed biographies and field experience of a number of twentieth century Australian biologists in fisheries research whose work has previously not been well recorded. An ebook, Talking Fish: making connections with the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin  was published in 2012, in addition to a monograph series that focused on the following river reaches: Namoi; Katarapko; Goulburn; Upper Murrumbidgee; Murray; The Darling and the Great Anabranch; Brewarrina to Burke; Ovens; and Coorong and Lower Lakes.

Research area two: Invasion ecologies

Postcolonial settler societies are invasion ecologies. A list of invasive species in and of Australia includes rabbits, foxes, burrs, wattles, cane toads and geckoes. All have environmental histories that date to the arrival of European colonists in 1788, each with an ecologically specific tale of damage, degradation and dynamism. Each species also demonstrates the ways the politics of non-human species and things in settler societies disrupt urban and regional planning, challenging ideas about control or mastery over the environment. Jodi’s research in this area is primarily focused on the history of prickly pear in Australia showing the importance of storytelling in shaping the way we think about plants and our relationships with them.  She is interested in how the structures of stories, their metaphors, rhetorical devices and stereotyped tropes, hid multispecies interrelations and contributed to a failure to approach environmental management as a complex entanglement of humans and non-humans. She convened a conference with Professor Iain McCalman in 2011 that gave rise to the edited collection Rethinking Invasion Ecologies from the Environmental Humanities (Routledge, London). It brings together scholars from history, geography, English, film studies and cultural studies to address invasion ecologies from multiple humanities perspectives.

Research area three: Transnational networks of botanical exchange

Botanic Gardens are crucial nodes in transnational networks of botanical exchange that changed local environments with the movement of plants, plant material and plant information. This research brings an actor-network approach to bear on theories of transnationalism, which enables the research to go beyond the overused national and imperial frameworks normally used to consider such scientific institutions. Jodi works on cultural histories of particular plants, prickly pear, mangoes, street trees, fodder plants, wattle and saltbush to demonstrate the importance of transnational networks in a globalizing world. Each of these plant species, or group of plants, were moved into and out of Australia in an effort to deliberately change environments for new settlers. This work establishes the links between nations (South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and United States); botanical institutions (botanic gardens, government departments and museums) empires (British, French, Dutch and German) in addition to a whole range of individual lay and scientifically trained people. Jodi produced a report for the Queensland Heritage Council on this topic called ‘The Queensland Botanic Gardens Context Study’ and is currently working on a book titled Recalcitrant Plants.