I have been to too many funerals – especially recently – and at times things are said about a deceased person that might be considered a little stretch
of the truth. Not so with Dave Blair, who sadly died in a tragic skiing accident in September 2019. Dave Blair was a valuable member of the National
Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub who worked extensively in the wet ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria.
He worked tirelessly in these forests for more than a decade.
David measuring a large old hollow-bearing tree in the Central Highlands of Victoria. Image: David Blair
One of my friends has on his email signature block “What will you do with your one precious life?” Well, Dave Blair did an enormous amount with his precious life. As Dave’s extraordinary partner Sera Blair said, “He wasn’t one to waste his life sitting on the couch watching Netflix”. This was reflected in the fact that Dave Blair was a terrific father and a wonderful family person; he loved his football, his climbing, his hiking, his camping. He was also an amazing photographer, an outstanding botanist, and a dedicated conservationist who loved forests. Dave Blair trained in forestry and then, just a few months ago, was awarded his PhD for a series of excellent studies of the impacts of disturbance on plants.
There was enormous respect for Dave Blair from so many people, even those with opposing views on forests (and there were a few of them). This was because he was a person of integrity, detail and reasoned argument. Indeed, Dave Blair was passionate about forests and he would have wanted for his legacy of hard and meticulous work on plants and vegetation to continue. The Australian National University and the Victorian Government have now ensured that this will happen. ANU has opened a post-doctoral fund for Dave Blair with the person filling the position responsible for focusing on writing up the meticulously collected vegetation datasets that he had collected.
At the same time, the Victorian Government has provided funding for the next five years to ensure ongoing field data collection at ANU long-term sites in the wet forests of Victoria.
David a long-term monitoring site prior to leading a possum watch for arboreal marsupials. Image: Tabitha Boyer
So, despite our sadness, the world is still a beautiful place – the forests nearby in which Dave Blair worked nearly every day are a testament to this. Just as the world is still a beautiful place, it also has many good people in it – and Dave Blair was undoubtedly one of the best of those. Thank you to Dave Blair for the truly colossal contribution he made to the world in so many ways!
David Blair’s life was also recognised in Parliament on 10 September 2019 by Senator Rice from Victoria: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Hansard_Display?bid=chamber/hansards/fa4eb7cb-4d6f-4c8d-9f9d-61609bc1003a/&sid=0200
ANU Node, Threatened Species Recovery Hub
Top image: David Blair hiking in Central Tasmania. Image: Sam Banks
We are receiving an additional $2 million to deliver science to support wildlife and habitat recovery efforts following Australia’s bushfire crisis. The rapid rollout of work now faces the added and acute challenge of COVID-19.
Predation by cats is a key threat to at least 123 threatened species in Australia. Better understanding and reducing the impact of feral cats on susceptible wildlife has been a major area of research for the hub.
One of the post-fire challenges to population recovery that many native species will face is increased risk of predation, including by introduced foxes and cats.
Chief Science Officer John Kanowski and Regional Ecologist SW Michael Smith from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy discuss the far-reaching work their team is doing to protect vulnerable mammals from introduced predators.
Oliver Tester from the Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner tells us about the Australian Government’s action on feral cats.