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National Environmental Science Program
April 2021 update
Welcome to the latest edition of NESP News. This month we introduce the leader of the new Resilient Landscapes Hub, Professor Michael Douglas from The University of Western Australia. He leads the current National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub and has previously headed up 2 other northern-focused research hubs. In the new hub, Professor Douglas will lead a national consortium of researchers concentrating on issues across terrestrial and freshwater habitats, such as bushfire recovery and feral animal and invasive species impacts. The hub’s major focus will be working with policymakers and land managers to find solutions to some of our biggest environmental challenges. It will showcase successes to inspire on-ground action across Australia. The hub will also lead the whole-of-NESP, cross-cutting threatened and migratory species and ecological communities mission.
Tropical Water Quality Hub
Tropical Water Quality Hub funding and results over 6 years. Photo: Reef and Rainforest Research Centre.
Event to showcase last 6 years of impact-driven research
Over 6 years, the Tropical Water Quality (TWQ) Hub has provided innovative research and delivered solutions that are already helping maintain and improve tropical water quality from catchments to the coast. Now is the time to wrap-up, consolidate what has been learnt, see how the research has been applied and what impact it has had in protecting and managing tropical water quality systems.
The upcoming NESP TWQ Hub Impacts and Achievements Conference will showcase how this Australian Government investment is enabling local, regional, state and national stakeholders to improve outcomes. Over 2 days, researchers and research end-users will present and discuss research impacts and associated case studies in anticipation of the new NESP Marine and Coastal Hub commencing.
The conference will be held 28 and 29 April in Cairns, Queensland. All presentations will be streamed and recorded for those unable to attend the event in person. For more information on registering to attend in person or view the event remotely, please visit the conference page.
Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub
A citizen scientist submitted this photo of a motorbike frog in Perth to the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hub's Urban Wildlife App. Photo: Citizen scientist, CAUL Urban Wildlife App.
Harnessing people power for urban-ecological research
Cities offer an opportunity to engage a large urban population with nature and biodiversity research through citizen science. The Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub's Urban Wildlife App allows citizen scientists to contribute data to research questions about the distribution and behaviour of wildlife in cities. The app has 4 modules, each focusing on these species groups: flying-foxes, frogs, beneficial insects, and possums and gliders.
Since its launch 4 years ago, the app has been used in multiple citizen science projects across the country, engaging more than 300 users. Users submitted more than 3,500 observations and researchers have identified 44 species so far.
An important distinction from other apps is that it allows data to be collected using the same protocols as scientists, ensuring the outcomes are scientifically rigorous and targeted to key research questions for each module. By using these methods, citizen scientists recorded important ecological interactions and information on how species use and move through cities and towns. They also revealed sources of conflict and mortality. These findings shed light on how urban spaces can be better managed to ensure they benefit wildlife and humans into the future.
Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
Screenshot of the Environmental DNA website. Photo: Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub.
New web game teaches kids about environmental DNA
A new website teaching Top End school-aged children about using environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect the endangered Gouldian Finch was launched at an event in Darwin in March 2021, attended by more than 50 people.
The website was developed in partnership with Inspired NT, Territory Natural Resource Management, Manyallaluk School and the Northern Territory Government. It introduces children to key facts about eDNA and Gouldian Finches, as well as important concepts and methods for the research. The children then play a game that tests their new scientific knowledge. The aim of the website is to teach school kids in the Top End (and beyond) about cutting-edge NESP research and get them excited about biodiversity conservation in their local environment.
The Gouldian Finch eDNA project, led by Professor Karen Gibb of Charles Darwin University, has for the first time, successfully developed and used an eDNA test to detect a threatened bird species.
Threatened Species Recovery Hub
Bushfire landscapes. Photo: Amy Mulcahy.
Genetic assessment of bushfire-impacted wildlife
Genetic diversity is hugely important in recovery and long-term persistence of bushfire-affected species. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub research project assembles important information about the genetics of vertebrate species identified as priorities for conservation action, following the 2019–20 bushfires. This supports decision-making by federal, state and territory government agencies.
The project report and appendix focus on species where genetic data, often so far unpublished, provide information that is relevant to prioritisation and management. These data include information on genetically divergent lineages that likely represent undescribed species. These populations may incorrectly be classed as subspecies, where separate management should be reassessed. The data also provide information on genetic diversity and structure relevant to conservation management.
Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub
Djungan Neal from the Djungan Prescribed Body Corporate, Damian Morgan-Bulled from the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Hilda Mosby from the Torres Strait Regional Authority participate in a panel session as part of the gathering. Photo: Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub.
Supporting the development of an Indigenous-led agenda on climate change knowledge and action
The National First Peoples Gathering on Climate Change 2021 was held over 5 days last month in Cairns, Queensland. In the largest meeting of its kind, Traditional Owners and climate scientists across Australia met to empower and enhance First Peoples-led response to climate change.
The gathering brought together more than 120 Traditional Owners representing more than 40 different First Peoples groups and climate scientists to share knowledge, co-design and develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. Conversations over the 5 days aimed to provide communities with the tools to respond to climate change-induced events like marine heatwaves, rising sea levels, bushfires, and heatwaves, which have a significant impact on First Peoples on Country, particularly in remote and isolated communities.
The Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub is humble and proud to have facilitated the event, which built on previous dialogues held in 2012 and 2018 in collaboration with the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.
Marine Biodiversity Hub
A still shot from the remote-operated vehicles surveys from 45 m depth at Outer Gibber Reef in the Hunter Marine Park. Species observed in this shot included Old Wives (Enoplosus armatus), Red Morwong (Cheilodactylus fuscus) and Stripey (Microcanthus strigatus). Photo: Joel Williams (NSW Fisheries).
Rocky reefs abound in Hunter Marine Park
The rocky reefs of the Hunter Marine Park off central New South Wales (NSW) are recognised as ‘key ecological features’ for their important role in sustaining regional marine life. Fishers and scuba divers can attest to the treasures of the shallower reefs (20–40 m deep), but deeper reefs in the park’s mesophotic zone in depths of ~40–150 m are relatively unknown.
Marine Biodiversity Hub surveys led by the NSW Government discovered 5.5 km2 of mesophotic reefs during high-resolution mapping across 125 km2 of the park’s seafloor. A towed video camera revealed a rich diversity of sessile (immobile) invertebrates on the reefs, including branching sponges, ascidians, sea stars and sea whips. Baited cameras also proved to be a reliable and cost-effective approach to sampling fish at these depths. Researchers saw large numbers of Pink Snapper and Blue Morwong among the 112 fish species recorded. They also observed several threatened and protected species, including the White Shark, Grey Nurse Shark and Humpback Whale. Species were distributed according to reef structure, depth and location. In deeper waters near the shelf edge (150–180 m depths), additional reef lies waiting to be mapped. This includes a feature known as Allmark Mountain, where fishers target Yellowtail Kingfish and Banded Rock Cod.
Data and information from the surveys contribute to the management of Hunter Marine Park, including development of a program to monitor these natural treasures.
Stay in touch and find out more about the interesting work happening across the Australian Government’s agriculture, water and environment portfolios: