Dr Jill Landsberg’s contribution to
knowledge and management of Australian ecosystems were many and
profound; a champion for the landscapes she loved and people who
lived in them
Members of the Tropical Savannas CRC community
were saddened to learn of the death of Dr Jill Landsberg on 24 May,
2005, in Cairns.
Jill battled cancer over the preceding 12
months with bravery and dignity, and was inspirational in her last
few weeks as she has been throughout her life.
Jill joined the Tropical Savannas CRC as the Leader of the
Community and Industry Natural Resources Management Theme
towards the end of 2001. She came to the CRC bringing a wealth of
experience in rangeland science, a huge enthusiasm for the task, a
passion for the environment, a love of the people that occupy our
landscapes, and an impressive intellect and competence.
We were truly fortunate to have had such a person working in our
midst, and our community has benefited enormously.
Jill started her professional life with a degree in pharmacy,
then education, and worked as a high school teacher from 1976 to
1979, before following her love of the environment into a research
career. Working in the Botany Department at the University of
Queensland as a research assistant, she completed a first class
Honours in botany in 1982 at UQ, and a PhD in plant ecology in 1986
at the Australian National University. By 1990 she had completed
two research fellowships, and began a 10-year career with CSIRO
Wildlife & Ecology in Canberra.
Jill’s contributions to knowledge and management of
Australian ecosystems were many and profound, resulting in her
recognition by the Ecological Society of Australia through the
award of the ESA Gold Medal in May this year. Her work on dieback
of forest and woodland trees in the late 1980s established a
conceptual understanding of the problem that underpins much of the
current work in the area. A decade of research on rangeland grazing
and biodiversity was characterized by collaboration and engagement
with all stakeholders, discovery of solutions to real problems and
some profound changes in our understanding of
This definitive work resulted in national and international
recognition, and perhaps more importantly, real progress towards
ecologically sustainable pastoralism in the rangelands. Some of her
recent work on threatened species and vegetation management drew on
a diversity of experience and perspectives, and always combined
rigorous scientific foundation with high levels of relevance and
application to contemporary management issues.
In 2000, she moved to north Queensland, where she worked as a
conservation scientist with the Queensland Government, most
recently with the Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries.
Over the past four years, Jill held a shared position between the
Queensland Government and the Tropical Savannas CRC. Jill’s
leadership role with the CRC had a strong influence on the impact
of our research, and its relevance to the needs of community and
A strong team player, Jill was a seemingly inexhaustible source
of drive and enthusiasm for many new initiatives. She was always
the first to volunteer, and the last to criticize. She was great
fun to work with; she inspired, she encouraged and she always
shared the credit. Her lively intelligence might have been
intimidating in another person, but Jill always leavened her sharp
insight and dry wit with empathy and kindness. She could find the
grain of humour in any situation, and point it out to those of us
not so quick on the uptake.
A keen caver, explorer, bushwalker and naturalist, Jill was an
effective champion for the environment and landscapes that she
loved, and a shining example of the way that science can make a
positive difference to those environments. But she was also blessed
with a rare mix of compassion and common sense, and had a strong
empathy with the people who live and work on the land.
Her significant contribution to conservation and management of
the rangelands was grounded in that compassion. Jill placed a high
value on the experience and insight of people in all walks of life,
respected knowledge in all its forms, and argued fiercely for what
she held to be true. She was an ardent advocate for reconciliation,
and her politics were those of generosity and mutual
All of us in the Tropical Savannas CRC community share the loss
with Jill’s husband Dave Gillieson, members of her immediate
family and the many close friends whose lives Jill has touched over
the years. On behalf of that community, I extend our heartfelt
A memorial service to celebrate Jill’s rich life and
legacy to Australian science and environments, was held on the
Cairns Campus of James Cook University on 8 July.