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Using a Tree as a Giant Diffuser for Macro Photography

A great post on how to use natural features to enhance photography. I think it is probably especially relevant for trying to photograph grassland and grassy woodland flora as we enter Spring in the Southern Hemisphere…

The Prairie Ecologist

I want to start by acknowledging the irony in this post.  As someone who has spent a lot of time killing trees in prairies and urging others to do the same, it’s pretty funny that this post is all about the positive aspects of having a big tree in a prairie wetland.  In my defense, I’ve never said there shouldn’t be ANY trees in prairies, and I’m writing this particular post as a photographer, not an ecologist.  Matt H and other tree lovers – this one’s for you. 

I was out on the edge of one of our restored wetlands last week as the sun was coming up.  The wind was calm, the weather was cool, and I was hoping for some nice close-up photos of flowers and insects.  Most photographers know that first light is a great time for photography because the sunlight is soft and warm as the sun pops over…

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A Night on the Town at Mulligans Flat

“The explosion of the bettong leaving the bag and bounding back to nature provides a mixture of relief and amazement”

Last night I had the pleasure of being part of the Mulligans Flat – Goorooyarroo Woodlands Experiment; an internationally significant research program seeking to experimentally rebuild an ecosystem, with a focus on reintroducing each of the faunal components of the trophic system (and examining the flow-on, restorative ecosystem engineer affects).

I was merely a scribe in part of an annual monitoring program for the reintroduction of the Eastern Bettong to mainland Australia – but what a fantastic experience…  Read more

Turn a science degree into a license to make a difference

When discussing my career choice recently I was reflecting with friends how a whole generation of young Australians wanted to be marine biologists. I think it had something to do with Alby Mangles, Harry Butler and the Leyland Bros snorkeling together on the Great Barrier Reef, or Totally Wild. I got as far as choosing between terrestrial ecology and marine ecology for my honours thesis, and I chose terrestrial ecology because I liked scuba diving too much to make it my job…[more on that later]

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Looking forward for the National Landcare Program

So, an Australian Environment and Communications Senate Standing Committee is examining the “history, effectiveness, performance and future of the National Landcare Program”…

Looking backwards

There is a fair bit of material to draw upon about the history, effectiveness and performance of the Landcare program. There have been reviews previously, including by the Australian National Audit Office (it wasn’t pretty), other Senate Committees, the Departments themselves and the occasional think-piece from academia and stakeholders. Of course there will be the necessary attempts to understand the tangled nature of the Landcare movement, where the money has gone, and what has been achieved. This reflection is important, very important, but only really important as an enabler to help shape a positive future for the Australian landscape – its biodiversity and its people.

Previous reports have hinted at the need for further work in developing our approach to landscape investment

Previous reports have hinted at the need for further work in developing our approach to landscape investment

So what of the future? This is the bit where vision and leadership is required – and who better to help forge that vision than those elected to represent the States and Territories of our federated nation.

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Mulligans flat sanctuary: The return of Bettongs

Other species reintroductions are being planned “beyond bettongs” – bush stone-curlew, antechinus, native mice and then quolls…

Biodiversity Conservation

The beautiful grassy woodlands of Mulligans flat The beautiful grassy woodlands of Mulligans flat

It’s rare to find a sanctuary for native flora and fauna in the capital city of a country, but Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary is one of those rarities. This sanctuary encloses over 400 hectares of critically endangered yellow box and red gum grassy woodland. But it’s the little guys who call the woodlands home that are the centre of this epic conservation effort. Eastern Bettong’s (Bettongia gaimardi) are positively cute, but they are also an ecological important for soil aeration as they dig for truffles and other fungi. Bettongs are woodland-dwelling, rabbit-sized kangaroo like marsupials. These little creatures were once local inhabitants of South-eastern Australia but where driven to extinction by our introduced predators and land alteration causing a scarcity of native grassy woodlands, one of their natural habitats. Until the mulligans flat project the Bettongs only existed in Tasmania.

This has been…

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Focusing on the bottom line to improve landscape health

We need a better business case for landscape repair…

The Australian landscape we were handed has much room for improvement; from aesthetic, biodiversity and production perspectives. Much of the work to be done needs a partnership approach between landholders – mostly primary producer businesses – and investors – mostly government agencies investing for public good.

In packaging landscape improvement opportunities we need to consider the investor audience, which given the scale of investment required, and shared equity in returns, there are really only two options to do this efficiently – government and large private landholders or institutional investors. To connect with these audiences effectively we need to use their language and decision making frameworks.

If we view the landscape as ‘green infrastructure’ requiring investment and maintenance like any asset, and package investment opportunities in a ‘business case’ framework, we may be better-placed to connect with decision makers. A further ‘small-p’ political consideration is needed when packaging the investment opportunity for governments and institutional investors – it needs to attractive to them and their constituents – voters and shareholders respectively.

How do we make that happen?

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Trusting Conservation Partnerships

“National Parks will always be fundamental to landscape conservation, but very few are created in Australia these days. Innovative Trust arrangements, bespoke for the local or regional needs, are becoming more common”.

Conservation costs money. From routine land management practices that provide safe places for community to restoration and reintroduction of missing species and to research and monitoring – it all requires financial support. The original model for conservation was, aligned with the definition of the term, to create a National Park and have it managed by a government agency.

The rate of formal State-managed National Park creation has slowed appreciably in the last decade, as other conservation instruments or approaches have been used to secure similar outcomes. The variety of common models for maintaining and improving high quality environmental assets, now includes:

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