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Applying the acid test 

If one casually reads through issues of conservation science journals over the past twenty years – journals like Conservation Biology and Biological Conservation – it is easy to be cynical about the on-ground value of research.

The articles in these journals are often studies of the ecology, physiology, genetics or behaviour of a threatened species – they contain novel and potentially useful information. But what is the real 'value' of that information in terms of the benefit it could deliver to the threatened species concerned through new or altered actions on the ground?

The TSR Hub is all about carrying out research that delivers outcomes for threatened species. If our research is to deliver outcomes, we must ask ourselves some critical questions.

What is the chance that our research could discover a new management action, or enable us to make a better choice between existing management options? Is the new action socially, technically and economically feasible? If we adopt that new action, is the benefit to the species substantial? This is ‘value of information’ thinking: the thinking that assesses the likely net benefit of research in terms of outcomes.

This thinking leads us to actions that range from on-ground activities such as managing an invasive species or altering fire regimes, all the way through to education, community engagement and policy that delivers better land stewardship.

The next time you read a research article in a conservation journal, apply the acid test. Ask yourself whether or not that new knowledge could deliver a better outcome on the ground. This is the test that we apply to all of our TSR Hub research.

Professor Hugh Possingham

Cover image: Pilbara mesas by Billy Ross

Island life

Hub researchers and environmental managers gathered at the University of Queensland to discuss the challenges of managing Australian islands for threatened species.

Led by Associate Professor Salit Kark, Dr Justine Shaw and Dr April Reside, the workshop focussed on improving outcomes for threatened species on the Whitsunday islands, as well as Dirk Hartog Island and the islands of the Kimberley region.

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Quoll quest

PhD student Billy Ross is using camera traps to establish baseline data on the number of northern quolls and feral cats in the Pilbara, to determine whether cat-baiting can prevent the threatened mammals’ extinction.

Mr Ross' research is designed to support the work of Western Austalia's Department of Parks and Wildlife and forms part of the Hub’s Project 1.1, which aims to develop management tools to reduce the impact of feral species on threatened mammals.

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Minding malleefowl

Researchers from the TSR Hub’s Project 3.3 will establish as many as 41 malleefowl monitoring sites across southern Australia in one of the largest adaptive management experiments ever attempted in Australia.

The sites will be grouped into clusters of similar climate and vegetation, to provide as clear a comparison as possible, and will be monitored each year by managers and local volunteers for both malleefowl and predator activity.

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Cat controllers

A survey of Australia’s feral cat managers will ensure that all efforts to control Australia’s feral cat population are being captured. The research will help to gauge the progress made towards an ambitious target to remove as many as two million feral cats from the Australian environment by the year 2020, set by Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews in 2015.

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Media savvy marsupials

Eleven southern brown bandicoots have become unlikely media heroes since being reintroduced to Booderee National Park. Promotion from Parks Australia and the TSR Hub saw Parks senior project officer Nick Dexter interviewed on Radio National and ABC Regional NSW Statewide Drive. ANU researcher Chris MacGregor was featured in the Illawarra Mercury and local media.

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

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Threatened Species Recovery Hub

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The University of Queensland
St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia