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Politics and the environment: focus on the things we can change

If you don’t have politics on your mind this month, then you must have either fallen down a well sometime in early September or you’re Dejan Stojanovic and you’ve been out counting the first ever nest-box-bred-in-the-wild swift parrot chicks in beautiful Tasmanian forests on Bruny Island. More on swifties later.

Big things are happening in politics, both here and abroad that will have a material influence on the environmental outlook and the future for threatened species in our country.

The new President of the US has promised to step back from the Paris Agreement. How much this undermines global action on emissions remains to be seen. He has appointed Myron Ebell to lead the US EPA transition team. Here is an Ebell quote about climate science from his time working for the American Petroleum Institute: “Victory will be achieved when...uncertainties become part of the conventional wisdom.” It’s going to be a tough few years for our colleagues in US environmental agencies. Credit to our Prime Minister for ratifying the Paris Agreement.

On the day of the US election, the NSW Government passed controversial new vegetation clearing laws that seem likely to increase rates of clearing throughout the state. The spike in land clearing that occurred over the past 18 months in Queensland following relaxation of clearing laws in that state (now back to ~300 000ha/yr) doesn’t bode well for woodland habitats in NSW.

These BIG changes can be painful and even demoralising for scientists and managers who are working hard to improve environmental policy and management on the ground and in the offices of public agencies, universities and conservation organisations. So, how do we stay optimistic and energised in pursuit of better outcomes for threatened species and ecosystems?

Here’s a tip: focus on what we can do, the contribution we can make, and draw inspiration from the successes we do have. Start by getting onto the ABC Catalyst website and watching Dejan and TeamSwiftParrot have some success with their inspirational swift parrot conservation research and management. It’s the best conservation story of the year, and I promise it’ll help you get through the rest of the week:

Though you may be left asking: How can an orange and red face look so good on an endangered parrot and so not on a new President?

Brendan Wintle

Acting Hub Director

Photo: Sclerolaena walkeri fruits, by Peter McRae

Showcase captured for all

Just a snapshot of the breadth of research taking place within out Hub was presented to a packed house of departmental and other stakeholders in Canberra last month.

Designed to display the cutting edge science that can help shape policy and management decisions and protect Australia’s threatened species, the open session was addressed by 10 of our researchers.

Read more.

Rabbits off the menu for feral cats

Fourteen feral cats captured in the wild have been re-released to measure their predation on native animals.

The cats wear collars that track their whereabouts and activities through video, GPS and VHF beacons as part of the NESP TSR Hub’s Integrated management of feral herbivores and feral predators (Project 1.1).

Read more.

Developing a policy for the unknown

Scientists suspect that hundreds of thousands of Australian species remain undiscovered or poorly known and that many of these species are at as great a risk of extinction as those formally listed as threatened. Poorly-known but imperilled species present a formidable challenge to researchers and conservation managers for many reasons.

Read more.

Plant conservation talk in the park for Hub researchers

Three TSR Hub researchers will present their work to the 11th Australasian Plant Conservation Conference (APCC) at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne this week.

The APCC will focus on “New Approaches to Plant Conservation Challenges in the Modern World.”

Read more.

The value of a good chat

Until a few years ago hardly anyone had heard of the Yellow Chats on the Kakadu floodplains. National Park staff had so many other species to worry about and none of the local birdwatchers took a special interest in it. At least this is what Gill Ainsworth found during her PhD on the social value of Australia’s threatened birds.

Read more.

Award will enhance the reputation of conservation science

The Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year is awarded to scientists at early or mid-career investigation stages in their careers. It’s recognition of the contribution Australian scientists make on the global stage to ecology and environmental sciences and this year was won by Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson.

Read more.

Hub researchers in the news

October was a busy month for TSR Hub researchers in the media, with several researchers appearing in the news – both online and on the airwaves.

Dr Dejan Stojanovic from the TSR Hub’s Tackling threats to endangered hollow-nesting birds (Project 2.2 - led by Professor Rob Heinsohn) shared early signs of success with Melissa Davey from the Guardian. Threatened swift parrots have made use of nesting boxes installed by scientists and volunteers and the project was boosted by a successful crowd funding campaign.

In a further example of art supporting science, artist Chips Mackinolty has lent his distinct style to highlight the plight of the Alligator River yellow chat. Proceeds raised from the sale of Chips’ prints will go to a project supervised by TSR Hub researcher Stephen Garnett. Professor Garnett will use the money to fund Indigenous co-researchers and purchase tracking equipment.

Read more.

Introducing Jaana Dielenberg: TSR Hub Science Communication Manager

This week we welcome Jaana Dielenberg to the TSR Hub team, as our Science Communication Manager. Jaana has a long background in environmental management, firstly in operational and planning roles and for the last eight years in communication and engagement. She moved to Brisbane this year from Darwin, where she lead the science communication and engagement activities of the NERP Northern Australia Hub for four years. Prior to that she worked in Victoria in waterway management.

Jaana will be based at the University of Queensland, but will be working closely with our Hub Knowledge Broker, Rachel Morgain, and Magazine Editor, David Salt, as well as our Indigenous Liaison Officer who will commence shortly.

To contact Jaana, email or phone 07 3365 2450

Read more.

The Threatened Species Recovery Hub is supported through funding from the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme.

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