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.
The explorer Ludwig Leichhardt travelled with Aboriginal people in south-east Queensland during 1843–44. Leichhardt’s record of Aboriginal taxonomy in Yagara, Wakka, Kabi, and other languages was related to the current taxonomy of the eucalypts of south-east Queensland. Most of the taxonomic entities could be associated across cultures and verifies the intimate understanding of Aboriginal peoples with tree species that are difficult to distinguish in the field. Leichhardt’s record together with that of Gairabau, a Dungidau man from south-east Queensland verifies a broad array of uses for eucalypts including as gum for chewing, dying, and medicine; ash rubbed into the skin for soothing young mothers, where bees, honey and wax can be found, hollow logs for fish-traps, hard timber for weapons and utensils, bark for shelter, canoes, embalming, and containers – some species contained water, others were used to create smoke for sending signals, some species indicated an unsuitable camp-site, and others indicated the likelihood of finding koalas and possum as game. Flowering and the shedding of bark are signs for the bush calendar.
Determining the factors that drive the distributions of threatened species is often critical for informing effective conservation management actions. Species distribution models can be used to distinguish common habitat features shared by limited historical records and identify other areas where a species might persist. In this study, we built a species distribution model for the Endangered and cryptic Kangaroo Island dunnart (Sminthopsis fuliginosus aitkeni). We fitted generalised linear models using incidental records and presence-absence data from surveys between 1969 and 2018. In the models we included the variables rainfall, percentage native vegetation in the surrounding 2 km2, and post-fire vegetation age. The modelling suggested that rainfall and to a lesser extent post-fire vegetation age are good predictors of dunnart occurrence, with dunnart occurrence greatest in areas of high rainfall (>600 mm) and vegetation age classes <30 years post fire. Potentially suitable habitat for the KI dunnart was predicted to be on the central-western side of Kangaroo Island. These results suggest that careful fire management could benefit the dunnart, and that decreased rainfall (as projected by Australian climate models), will be a threat in the long term. Extensive recent fires on western Kangaroo Island suggest that climate-related threats are already being realised.