PhD student Aaron Greenville of the School of Biological Sciences, Sydney University was recently announced as the winner of a $7,000 science grant from Humane Society International.
The grant will assist with Mr Greenville’s research into the role that Australia’s top dog, the dingo, plays in the conservation of Australia’s mammals.
Each year, grants of up to $7,000 are offered by three partnering conservation organisations for research that will have significant outcomes for Australian conservation. Postgraduate students and Early Career Researchers (within 3 years of completing a PhD) are eligible to apply.
The awarding organisations are the Humane Society International, the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife and Paddy Pallin Foundation. The grants are administered by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.
The Dingo is unloved throughout much of Australia due to their predation on livestock. Dingoes have experienced population reductions throughout much of their range due to eradication programs and interbreeding with domestic dogs.
Dingoes, however, have an important role to play as a top-order predator. Top-order predators across the world play an important role in regulating populations of smaller predators, helping to maintain healthy and balanced ecosystems. Declines in top-order predators can cause dramatic changes across the landscape, and the consequences of this phenomenon are as yet unknown.
Mr Greenville is conducting research into the ability of dingoes to limit numbers of smaller predators, such as feral cats and introduced foxes, which prey on and cause declines within populations of many Australian native species. This project is part of a larger study investigating ecological interactions in arid Australia, and how external environmental factors, such as climate and wildfire, influence these interactions within the food chain.
Mr Greenville explained, “My research will investigate whether top predators such as dingoes limit smaller predators such as foxes and cats, and how these species interact.”
“It will also test if these interactions are influenced by changes in prey populations. In doing so, it will identify key times when predators are active so that control programs can be targeted to have the best effect,” said Mr Greenville.
“In order to do this, I will be employing new remote camera technology, and applying novel statistical techniques. The findings of the project will be of definite interest to conservation managers,” Mr Greenville said.
Mr Michael Kennedy of Humane Society International said, “Dingoes suffer a bad reputation across Australia, but they may just play a critically important role in maintaining ecosystem health and balance. We are proud to support Aaron’s research, as it will lead to tangible outcomes for conservation in this country.”
Ms Susanna Bradshaw, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife had this to say of the science grants: “This program is highly successful in encouraging different not-for-profits to work together to help achieve our joint vision for the conservation of Australia’s unique species.”
The next round of science grants for PhD and Early Career Researchers will open in May 2013. Visit www.rzsnsw.org.au for details.