We undertake research to support the recovery of Australia’s threatened species and ecological communities.
To do this we work closely with over 200 on-ground partners across the country, including government agencies, national parks, conservation groups, Indigenous land managers, farmers and community groups.
Our network includes around 150 of Australia’s leading environmental scientists who are delivering more than 100 research projects over six years (ending 2021).
We are supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program.
Recovery and conservation of threatened species require adequate institutional responses. We tested an approach to systematically identify and measure how an institutional framework acknowledges threats and required responses for the recovery of endangered species. We measured institutional functional fit with a drivers-pressure-state-impacts-response (DPSIR) model integrated with a quantitative text mining method and qualitative analysis of statutory instruments to examine regulatory responses that support the recovery of 2 endangered species native to Australia, the bridled nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) and the Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus). The key components of the DPSIR model were present in the institutional framework at statutory and operational levels, but some institutional gaps remained in the protection and recovery of the Eastern Bristlebird, including feral predator control, weed control, and grazing management in some locations. However, regulatory frameworks varied in their geographic scope and the application and implementation of many instruments remained optional. Quantitative text mining can be used to quickly navigate a large volume of regulatory documents, but challenges remain in selection of terms, queries of co-occurrence, and interpretation of word frequency counts. To inform policy, we recommend that quantitative assessments of institutional fit be complemented with qualitative analysis and interpreted in light of the sociopolitical and institutional context.
Invertebrates dominate the animal world in terms of abundance, diversity and biomass, and play critical roles in maintaining ecosystem function. Despite their obvious importance, disproportionate research attention remains focused on vertebrates, with knowledge and understanding of invertebrate ecology still lacking. Due to their inherent advantages, usage of camera traps in ecology has risen dramatically over the last three decades, especially for research on mammals. However, few studies have used cameras to reliably detect fauna such as invertebrates or used cameras to examine specific aspects of invertebrate ecology. Previous research investigating the interaction between wolf spiders (Lycosidae: Lycosa spp.) and the lesser hairy-footed dunnart (Sminthopsis youngsoni) found that camera traps provide a viable method for examining temporal activity patterns and interactions between these species. Here, we re-examine lycosid activity to determine whether these patterns vary with different environmental conditions, specifically between burned and unburned habitats and the crests and bases of sand dunes, and whether cameras are able to detect other invertebrate fauna. Twenty-four cameras were deployed over a 3-month period in an arid region in central Australia, capturing 2,356 confirmed images of seven invertebrate taxa, including 155 time-lapse images of lycosids. Overall, there was no clear difference in temporal activity with respect to dune position or fire history, but twice as many lycosids were detected in unburned compared to burned areas. Despite some limitations, camera traps appear to have considerable utility as a tool for determining the diel activity patterns and habitat use of larger arthropods such as wolf spiders, and we recommend greater uptake in their usage in future.
Whole genome analysis of a novel species of enterococci, Enterococcus lacertideformus, causing multi-systemic and invariably fatal disease in critically endangered Christmas Island reptiles was undertaken to determine the genetic elements and potential mechanisms conferring its pathogenic nature, biofilm-forming capabilities, immune recognition avoidance, and inability to grow in vitro. Comparative genomic analyses with related and clinically significant enterococci were further undertaken to infer the evolutionary history of the bacterium and identify genes both novel and absent. The genome had a G + C content of 35.1%, consisted of a circular chromosome, no plasmids, and was 2,419,934 bp in length (2,321 genes, 47 tRNAs, and 13 rRNAs). Multi-locus sequence typing (MLST), and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis of multiple E. lacertideformus samples revealed they were effectively indistinguishable from one another and highly clonal. E. lacertideformus was found to be located within the Enterococcus faecium species clade and was closely related to Enterococcus villorum F1129D based on 16S rDNA and MLST house-keeping gene analysis. Antimicrobial resistance (DfreE, EfrB, tetM, bcrRABD, and sat4) and virulence genes (Fss3 and ClpP), and genes conferring tolerance to metals and biocides (n = 9) were identified. The detection of relatively few genes encoding antimicrobial resistance and virulence indicates that this bacterium may have had no exposure to recently developed and clinically significant antibiotics. Genes potentially imparting beneficial functional properties were identified, including prophages, insertion elements, integrative conjugative elements, and genomic islands. Functional CRISPR-Cas arrays, and a defective prophage region were identified in the genome. The study also revealed many genomic loci unique to E. lacertideformus which contained genes enriched in cell wall/membrane/envelop biogenesis, and carbohydrate metabolism and transport functionality. This finding and the detection of putative enterococcal biofilm determinants (EfaAfs, srtC, and scm) may underpin the novel biofilm phenotype observed for this bacterium. Comparative analysis of E. lacertideformus with phylogenetically related and clinically significant enterococci (E. villorum F1129D, Enterococcus hirae R17, E. faecium AUS0085, and Enterococcus faecalis OG1RF) revealed an absence of genes (n = 54) in E. lacertideformus, that encode metabolic functionality, which potentially hinders nutrient acquisition and/or utilization by the bacterium and precludes growth in vitro. These data provide genetic insights into the previously determined phenotype and pathogenic nature of the bacterium.