A new research hub in Western Australia will provide leadership in threatened species research, and play a crucial role in helping Australia deal with extreme events such as bushfires.
Based at the University of Western Australia (UWA), the Resilient Landscapes Hub is one of four new research centres funded through the National Environmental Science Program.
Hub Leader Professor Michael Douglas, who is also Director of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) consortium at UWA, told create it will focus on key issues that affect the resilience of our land and freshwaters.
“This includes building resilience to, and recovery after, extreme events such as wildfire and drought, and pervasive pressures such as weeds and feral animals,” he said.
“We will also tackle ways to improve environmental monitoring and biodiversity surveys through the use of new technologies and Indigenous knowledge.
“A focus will be on trialling regional approaches to environmental policy, environmental planning and assessment. Our hub will work with the other hubs to focus efforts on improving outcomes for threatened species and ecological communities and for migratory species.”
The new hub will carry out practical and applied research that will make a difference on the ground, Douglas said. It will have a national outlook but include research in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Western Desert and South West of WA.
“We will be working with policy makers and on-ground managers to trial solutions and then showcase these solutions to inspire action among others,” he said.
“This could include making use of new advances in genetic technologies to uncover the presence of rare species, detection the first incursions of invasive species or improve the control of feral animals such as cane toads.
“We will focus on taking these technologies through to the stage where they can be practical tools to help Indigenous rangers or farmers improve outcomes for biodiversity.”
The UWA facility will be part of a national ecosystem of research hubs. Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley also announced the Marine and Coastal Hub (located at the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre in Cairns and the University of Tasmania), the Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub (University of New South Wales) and the Climate Systems Hub (CSIRO).
“The research agenda for our hub will be driven by the needs and priorities of a range of land managers and environmental decision makers,” Douglas said.
“It will be built on genuine partnerships between researchers and the people who will be using that research — and this extends throughout the research process from co-designing the research projects to joint trials of implementing outcomes and evaluating how effective they’ve been.
“Our hub will be the go-to place to access the most up-to-date information, tools and examples of how research is supporting practical solutions to key environmental challenges.”
The focus on resilient landscapes means that researchers will also consult extensively with Traditional Owners, said Douglas’ colleague, Professor Stephen van Leeuwen, BHP Curtin Indigenous Chair at Curtin University.
“The hub will establish Indigenous inclusion and participation strategies that recognise the connection of Indigenous Australians to the operations of the hub,” he said.
“These strategies will buttress all of the hub’s activities and will be informed, designed and operated with the consent of Indigenous partners. Consent that has been obtained through collaborative approaches encompassing local, regional and national engagement.”