Feature

AWC – Driven by science

14 Aug. 2019
© Brad Leue/AWC

Against the backdrop of a global extinction crisis, AWC continues to deliver significant positive conservation outcomes for our threatened wildlife and their habitats.  

The winning formula behind AWC’s proven conservation success is our commitment to practical land management which is informed by, and integrated with, rigorous science. 

 

Scientific data governs all our endeavours across almost 6.5 million hectares. From our proven management strategies for feral herbivores, feral predators, weeds, and fire to our EcoHealth monitoring and wildlife translocations, our every move is driven by scientific knowledge.

 

A culture of science 

Science is central to who we are and what we achieve; and with 80 per cent of our staff in the field, this culture literally comes from the (boots-on-the) ground, up. 

We currently employ just under 6professional ecologists, while our internship program provides intensive training in fieldwork for eight to 10 ecology honours graduates every year. 

Expertise in conservation management is held by both ecologists and land management staff, who work together to implement successful conservation strategies. Land management staff generally implement fire, weed and feral animal control; while ecologists are tasked with conducting inventory, monitoring and research.  

© Brad Leue/AWC
AWC Ecologists and Land Managers work closely together, sharing their areas of expertise to implement successful, scientifically rigorous, conservation strategies.

 

EcoHealth monitoring 

EcoHealth, our robust scientific monitoring framework that is applied consistently across a broad array of landscapes, habitats and species, allows us to measure the ecological health of the land and wildlife we protect. Across the continent, this body of work amounts to the most extensive biodiversity survey program in Australia, involving more than 220,000 trap nights every year.  

The primary purpose of EcoHealth monitoring is to provide AWC ecologists and managers with information on the status and trends of key species and threatsArmed with this knowledge, managers can make informed decisions about how best to achieve conservation goals and allocate resource, as well as measure the impact of our actions over time. 

As technology advances, so, too, do our capabilities. The development of remotely-triggered cameras and drones has allowed us to greatly increase monitoring efforts across remote landscapes, whereas such surveys once were a lot more labour intensive and limited to a few sites at any time.

Brushtail Possum At New Site Min2 © AWC
A Brushtail Possum is caught on a remote camera trap in the Kimberley.

 

Collaboration and influence 

At AWC we recognise that we are part of something much bigger. Playing an integral role in Australian conservation research, wactively collaborate with external researchers from most Australian universities, CSIRO and some international research groups. 

At present, AWC staff are participating in 40 active research projects. Major research themes include the ecology of threatened wildlife, the ecology of feral predators – a key threat to wildlife – and how to best implement management to improve the conservation of threatened wildlife. Some examples of current important scientific research include: 

  • Studies of the response of native plants and animals, and ecological processes, to the reintroduction of locally-extinct mammals to fenced areas on AWC’s sanctuaries 
  • Research on the ecology of feral cats and foxes, and their response to control, aimed ultimately at facilitating the safe release of threatened mammals outside fenced areas 
  • Research attempting to train Northern Quolls to avoid eating cane toads currently invading the Kimberley, using the concept of ‘conditioned taste aversion’. 

The integration of science with land management at AWC means that science informs our on-ground actions, enables us to measure our progress, continuously refine our approach and direct resources to where we can generate the most positive conservation outcomes. 

Dr John Kanowski, Chief Science Officer, and Dr Liana Joseph, National Science Manager, explain the role of science in greater detail in our latest issue of Wildlife Matters. Click the link below to read their article: Investing in Science to Inform Conservation Management.

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