Tag Archives: ecology

Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Jane Elith is one of the most influential environmental scientists in the world, though she rarely ventures into the field.

Jane Elith (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)
In the field of environment and ecology, Jane is the 11th most cited author worldwide over the past 10 years. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear

She develops and assesses species distribution models, which are used by governments, land and catchment managers and conservationists around the world—in short, for applying the lessons of ecology.

Continue reading Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Who cares about the blobfish?

Hugh Possingham and his team are making conservation more efficient. They’re helping to save less fashionable threatened species by getting more bang for the bucks donated to cute and cuddly species.

The team of ecologists and mathematicians in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions (CEED) worked with the New Zealand government to assess how to better spend money that is donated to conservation. They’ve shown that by protecting habitats shared by several different species, the money donated to charismatic ones can be stretched further to save other species as well.

Could this koala help save less cute species? 9credit: Liana Joseph
Could this koala help save less cute species? (credit: Liana Joseph)

“The way we currently attempt to save species is inefficient, choosing species that are popular or charismatic, like koalas and tigers, over those that are less well known or even ugly, like the blobfish,” says Hugh, ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of CEED.

Continue reading Who cares about the blobfish?

Predicting change, brains, trains and mental health

State Awards

“Trait-based ecology” enables Macquarie University’s Mark Westoby to explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance and to understand the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use. He received the $55,000 NSW Scientist of the Year.

Nanocapsules for drugs delivery: Frank Caruso is making miniature capsules that could better deliver drugs for cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. He won one of the 2014 Victoria Prizes for Science & Innovation worth $50,000.

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Live streaming for healthy waterways

Water sampling devices are keeping watch around the clock for toxic discharges into Melbourne’s creeks and stormwater drains, thanks to Victorian researchers at the Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identification and Management (CAPIM), based at the University of Melbourne.

Victorian researchers are developing real-time sensors of water quality. Credit: iStockphoto

And, they are also developing a new range of aquatic critter-containing sensors.

The Autonomous Live Animal Response Monitors (ALARM) will house live molluscs, insects or shrimps and transmit images and data to scientists via the web, in the ultimate test of a creek’s health. Continue reading Live streaming for healthy waterways

The complex life of coral

Dr Tracy Ainsworth’s research is changing our understanding of the tiny coral animals that built Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. Tracy and her colleagues at James Cook University in Townsville have found that the process of coral bleaching is a far more complex than previously thought, and begins at temperatures lower than previously considered. And she’s done so by applying skills in modern cell biology which she picked up working in neuroscience laboratories.

Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

Her achievements won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship in 2011, which she is using to study the low light, deep water reefs that underlie tropical surface reefs at depths of 100 metres or more.
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The mathematics of conservation

The Earth is losing species and ecosystems fast, but figuring out the best response is not easy when information, time and money are scarce.

Dr Eve McDonald Madden helps saves species—with maths. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
Dr Eve McDonald Madden helps saves species—with maths. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

Dr Eve McDonald-Madden is using maths to help governments and others make tough decisions on how best to use limited resources to preserve ecosystems under threat.

The young Australian scientist helps to save species, not by going out into the field, but by analysing the data other people have collected on endangered species. Continue reading The mathematics of conservation

Antarctica under threat

Climate change will impose a complex web of threats and interactions on the plants and animals living in the ice-free areas of Antarctica.

Increased temperatures may promote growth and reproduction, but may also contribute to drought and associated effects. These scenarios are explored in a new book, Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator, co-edited by Australian Antarctic Division biologist, Dr. Dana Bergstrom.

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