Dr Claire Farrell



Claire is a senior lecturer in green infrastructure, based at The University of Melbourne’s Burnley Campus. Her main research interest involves using plants to make cities more liveable.

Claire’s current research is on using green roofs for stormwater mitigation and improving biodiversity in Australian cities.

As green roofs are difficult places for plants to survive, much of her research has focused on the drought tolerance and water use strategies of native Australian plants, including granite outcrop vegetation.

Recently her research involves using natural ecosystems as mimics to design optimal green roofs. This includes investigating the role plant diversity has on the stormwater and cooling benefits of green roofs.

Other research interests include improving water and nutrient retention of green roof substrates, the potential use of vegetables in rain gardens and using Australian shrubs in designed plantings. See The Woody Meadow Project.

ResearchGate profile

Research grants

Woody Meadow Field Trials. Awarded by Trawalla Foundation 2015-2017

Mimicking natural ecosystems to improve green roof performance. ARC Linkage Grant 2013-2016

Does biodiversity matter: Using ecological theory to optimise rain garden performance. Awarded by National Garden Industry Australia 2010-2011.

Vegetable Raingardens – the benefits and performance. Awarded by Melbourne Water 2010-2013.

Recent green infrastructure publications


Szota, C., McCarthy, M.J., Sanders, G.J., Farrell, C., Fletcher, T.D., Arndt, S.K. & Livesley, S.J. (2018) Tree water-use strategies to improve stormwater retention performance of biofiltration systems. Water Research, 144, 285-295.

Du, P., Arndt, S.K. & Farrell, C. (2018) Relationships between plant drought response, traits, and climate of origin for green roof plant selection. Ecological Applications, doi:10.1002/eap.1782

Zhang, Z., Szota, C., Fletcher, T.D., Williams, N.S.G., Werdin, J. & Farrell, C. (2018) Influence of plant composition and water use strategies on green roof stormwater retention. Science of the Total Environment, 625, 775-781.


Szota, C., Farrell, C., Williams, N.S.G., Arndt, S.K. & Fletcher, T.D. (2017) Drought-avoiding plants with low water use can achieve high rainfall retention without jeopardising survival on green roofs. Science of the Total Environment, 603-604, 340-351.

Szota, C., Fletcher, T., Desbois, C., Rayner, J., Williams, N. & Farrell, C. (2017) Laboratory Tests of Substrate Physical Properties May Not Represent the Retention Capacity of Green Roof Substrates In Situ. Water, 9, 920.

Farrell, C., Szota, C. & Arndt, S.K. (2017) Does the turgor loss point characterize drought response in dryland plants? Plant, Cell & Environment, 40, 1500-1511.

Richards, P.J., Williams, N.S.G., Fletcher, T.D. & Farrell, C. (2017) Can raingardens produce food and retain stormwater? Effects of substrates and stormwater application method on plant water use, stormwater retention and yield. Ecological Engineering, 100, 165-174.


C Szota C.F., N Williams, TD Fletcher (2016) A practical tool for designing vegetated roofs to optimise rainfall retention (Un outil pratique pour optimiser la rétention des eaux pluviales dans les toitures végétalisées – Contrôle à la source). In: Novatech – planning and technologies for sustainable urban water management.  9th international conference, Lyon, France. http://documents.irevues.inist.fr/bitstream/handle/2042/60502/1B22-127SZO.pdf

C. Farrell, C.T.N. Cao, X.Q. Ang and J.P. Rayner, (2016) Use of water-retention additives to improve performance of green roof substrates. Acta Hort. (ISHS): 271-278. http://www.actahort.org/books/1108/1108_35.htm

Chambers D.P., Walker C., Williams K., Rayner J., Farrell C., Butt A.-M. & Rostan-Herbert D. (2016) Engaging Students with Environmental Sustainability at a Research Intensive University: Examples of Small Successes. In: Teaching Education for Sustainable Development at University Level, pp. 205-219. Springer International Publishing. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-32928-4_14

Rayner J.P., Farrell C., Raynor K.J., Murphy S.M. & Williams N.S. (2016) Plant establishment on a green roof under extreme hot and dry conditions: The importance of leaf succulence in plant selection. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 15, 6-14. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866715001569

Williams NSG, Rayner JP, Lee KE, Fletcher TD, Chen D, Szota C and F. C. (2016) Developing Australian green roofs: overview of a 5-year research program. Acta Hort (ISHS).: 345-352 http://www.actahort.org/books/1108/1108_46.htm


Farrell C, Szota C, Arndt SK. Urban Plantings: ‘Living Laboratories’ for Climate Change Response (2015) Trends in Plant Science 20(10): 597-599. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360138515002071S1360138515002071

Szota, C., C. Farrell, S.J. Livesley and T.D. Fletcher (2015). Salt tolerant plants increase nitrogen removal from biofiltration systems affected by saline stormwater. Water Research 83: 195-204.  doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.06.024.

Richards, P.J., C. Farrell, M. Tom, N.S. Williams and T.D. Fletcher (2015). Vegetable raingardens can produce food and reduce stormwater runoff. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 14: 646-654.  doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2015.06.007.


Cao, C.T., C. Farrell, P.E. Kristiansen and J.P. Rayner (2014) Biochar makes green roof substrates lighter and improves water supply to plants. Ecological Engineering 71: 368-374. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2014.06.017

Lee, K.E., K.J.H. Williams, L.D. Sargent, C. Farrell and N.S. Williams (2014) Living roof preference is influenced by plant characteristics and diversity. Landscape and Urban Planning 122: 152-159. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.09.011


Farrell, C., X.Q. Ang and J.P. Rayner, (2013a.) Water-retention additives increase plant available water in green roof substrates. Ecol. Eng, 52: 112-118.

Farrell, C., C. Szota, N.S.G. Williams and S.K. Arndt (2013b.) High water users can be drought tolerant: using physiological traits to improve green roof plant selection. Plant and soil 372: 177-193 Plant Soil, DOI 10.1007/s11104-013-1725-x.


Farrell, C., R.E. Mitchell, C. Szota, J.P. Rayner and N.S.G. Williams (2012) Green roofs for hot and dry climates: Interacting effects of plant water use, succulence and substrate. Ecol. Eng, 49: 270-276.

Connect with us