Strong collaborations with conservation policy makers, planners and on-ground practitioners ensure that research is addressing on-ground needs. Our research program also includes fascinating work on social and economic opportunities to conserve threatened species, including how best to engage people and communities and how traditional Indigenous and western knowledge systems can work together to better inform conservation actions.
For most people, threatened species recovery is about doing something to save a threatened species – planting habitat trees, translocating individual animals and managing threats like foxes and cats. The ‘doing’ is important but what is often not seen is the organisation behind the doing. How are decisions made? Which bits of the ‘doing’ is given the priority? And how do we make sure we ‘learn’ as we ‘do’? The TSR Hub is working with the Australian Government on drawing together what we know about best practice for recovery teams.
Conservation management works best when it is based on robust evidence. If we’re trying to manage a threatening factor, such as a pest or a weed species, we really should know how many there are, how they’re distributed, and how many we should control to make a difference. Feral cats are constantly cited as a major threat to Australia’s native wildlife, so TSR researchers look at how many are out there.
Monitoring the status and trends of threatened species is vital to informing management and policy decisions. And yet, monitoring of threatened species rarely occurs, and when it does - it is usually not carried out effectively. Why is this, and how can we remedy the situation? This was the central issue underpinning a two-day workshop that brought together 30 conservation managers, policy makers and scientists from all over Australia.
The western swamp tortoise has all the ingredients of a fairy tale. It’s the Goldilocks of tortoises needing water that isn’t too hot but isn’t too cold to survive. It’s the Rip Van Winkle of reptiles in that it seemed to vanish from sight for over 100 years during which time it was thought extinct – but then it was rediscovered. And it’s the Houdini of endangered wildlife in that it came close to oblivion in the 1980s with numbers fewer than 50 but, thanks to concerted efforts at recovery, it escaped extinction and there are over ten times that number now.
At the end of the day, species are saved by people. The way these people organise themselves - like the rules they follow, the networks they form, the way they make decisions - is critical to the success of any species recovery program. The way people organise themselves is known as governance and Angela Guerrero is working with the TSR Hub to understand what forms of governance help a recovery effort (and what forms may hinder it.)
Swift parrots are in trouble. Their numbers have been in decline over many years. The loss of nesting habitat has been an important driver behind this trend but in recent years it’s been discovered sugar gliders have made the problem worse by invading their tree hollows and eating adult and baby birds. However, there is a glimmer of hope. Experiments with purpose-built nest boxes and chainsaw carved tree hollows have this year demonstrated that swift parrots can use them for breeding.
Over 100 policy-makers, land managers and researchers gathered at the National Portrait Gallery’s Liangis Theatre to engage with key findings from across the Hub’s six research themes. Some of our newest early career scientists presented alongside leading international researchers. Presenters grappled with how research could be put to most effective use in protecting and recovering Australia’s threatened species.
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.
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.
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.
Fourteen feral cats captured in the wild have been re-released to measure their predation on native animals.
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.
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.
Researchers from Project 3.2 are currently undertaking a survey of Australian managers, professional practitioners and academics involved with threatened species monitoring to better understand the value, monitoring framework and decisions, challenges and key elements of effective threatened species monitoring in Australia.
As Australian cities and suburbs continue to expand, new developments exert pressure on the species and habitats that exist on their margins. But do smaller species stand a chance against big developers? Researchers are looking for ways to level the playing field.
“If there was an Ark for Australia's most endangered species, what animals and plants would get a berth?” That was the question interviewer Gregg Borschmann put to the Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s Associate Professor Brendan Wintle and Professor David Keith when they took part in a panel discussion at the Australian Museum as part of National Science Week.
Experienced practitioners from diverse organisations came together to discuss threatened species monitoring at the workshop entitled ‘Enhancing Monitoring for Threatened Species to Improve Conservation Outcomes.’
Rachel Morgain has recently started as Knowledge Broker with the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub. She comes to the Hub with experience working at the interface of research and policy, through roles with the Australian Government and most recently at the Australian Academy of Science.
Dejan Stojanovic is in the field, checking on the 300+ nesting boxes he and his team spent a large part of their winter installing in known swift parrot territory.
And perhaps the most distinctive thing about Edge Pledge is its “challenge generator” – a website that asks each user to answer a few questions to determine their personality type, then uses this information to suggest a selection of appropriate challenges. Friends and colleagues “vote” on which challenge they favour; the challenge that gains the most in donations “wins” and can shortly begin.
TSR Hub researchers Professor Hugh Possingham and Dr Elisa Bayraktarov are collaborating with James O’Connor, Glenn Ehmke and Joris Driessen from Birdlife Australia to create the “Dow Jones” for threatened species. They are creating an index that reports on annual changes in Australia’s threatened species populations.
Cutting-edge science that can help shape policy and management decisions and protect Australia’s threatened species will be on show at the National Portrait Gallery on Monday 17 October.
A new national plant translocation database could be on the horizon, after researchers gathered to map out the sources of existing translocation data at a recent workshop.
Increasing collaboration across the Hub was a feature of the annual project leaders’ meeting held in Brisbane last month. Each of the project leaders presented a short synopsis on the progress of their research, and the ideas and conversations each sparked were significant.
Australasian bitterns are the subject of many great mysteries – where do they go during the colder months? How do they make that famous booming call? Could they really be the source of inspiration behind Australia’s mythical Bunyip tales?
Australia is home to thousands of unique plant species, yet faces many challenges in protecting them. University of Queensland post-doctoral research fellow Jennifer Silcock is interviewing threatened-plant experts nationwide to determine which plants should be placed on the Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s national Red Hot List.
Twenty-four western swamp tortoises hit the headlines last month as they settled in to new homes in swamps south of Perth. The tortoises were moved to a new range in an attempt to protect the species from the effects of climate change and their story featured in several news outlets including the ABC, Science magazine, the Guardian and Australian Geographic
Little is known about the impact of the diseases carried by invasive species that spread throughout the food chains of our native animals. TSR Hub researcher Dr Nelika Hughes from The University of Melbourne is looking closely at one such disease – toxoplasmosis – a parasitic disease that was introduced to Australia in cats.
Hundreds of thousands of Australian species are so poorly known that their risk of extinction cannot be determined. These species cannot be categorised as threatened or not under Australia’s EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act, and are therefore afforded no conservation protection under the legislation.
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.
Anticipating the threats posed by cane toads to the islands of Western Australia’s Kimberley region, improving outcomes for threatened sea turtles and seabirds on the Whitsunday islands, and the challenges and opportunities of rewilding Dirk Hartog Island were just a few of the critical discussions held at a recent TSR Hub workshop.
PhD student Billy Ross is using motion-sensing 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.
A survey of Australia’s feral cat managers will ensure that all efforts to control Australia’s feral cat population are being captured.