Projects


Farm Dams



We are  researching local farm dams to determine how different grazing practices can advantage farmers and wildlife alike. Simple practices like fencing and providing troughs can reduce the impact of cattle on small water bodies. Management of small water bodies has received comparatively less attention than our large dams and rivers but with over 2 million farm dams in Australia, improving their condition can have big consequences for conservation. The Project is drawing on the strength of the University of New England’s SMART farm’s ability to manipulate stock pressure and thereby compare management practices. The Project is supported by a recent Discovery Early Career Research Award from the Australian Researh Council.

 

 

Threatened frogs


Over 40% of Earth’s frogs are threatened with extinction so as a lab focusing on conservation, we work with frogs a lot. Much of our work has been with the amphibian chytrid fungus, an emerging infectious disease that has caused multicontinental declines. We have PhD students looking at Mahony’s toadlet, a recently described species in Australia for which little is known. For the past five years, we have also been working in various locations in Papua New Guinea to document its little-known frog fauna, and conduct surveillance for a globally emerging pathogens.  With over 6% of Earth’s amphibian biodiversity packed into less than 0.5% of the land area, it is a diverse region with many fasinating species.

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Upland Lagoons


The New England Tablelands are home to unique type of wetlands called upland lagoons. These wetlands occur as depressions that are often either wet or dry, and they are listed as an endangered ecological community. Nearly all of these lagoons occur on private properties which means that community education and support from landowners is crucial to their conservation. The Laboratory has teamed up with Dr Manu Saunders and Dr John Hunter with funding by the NSW Environmental Trust, to undertake a seven year project. Together, the team is monitoring lagoon quality with different land use histories to learn best management practices. The Project is also undertaking an educational and outreach campaign about the importance of the wetlands. By identifying the benefits to the community in looking after these unique resources the team hopes to secure their persistence in the landscape into the future.

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Riverine Wetlands




Reduction in rainfall and extraction of water has changed important events like the frequency and extent of riverine flows. From the boom and bust flow regime of Cooper Creek to the highly regulated Gwydir River, the laboratory is exploring the impact of flow on wildlife like freshwater turtles and frogs. The Cooper Creek is a wild river home to a single species of freshwater turtle. Postdoctoral researcher Donald McKnight has been recapturing turtles that were originally marked 20 years ago by collaborator Arthur Georges at the University of Canberra. This research is aiming to uncover how aquatic species, like turtles, tolerate periods without flow, and quantify the cost and benefit of floods and drought. Knowledge of how turtles influence the food web and respond to changing river conditions helps predict the effect of climate change and river regulation in the future.