The Fellowships are part of the Australian Government’s $100 million Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) initiative. The CERF Fellowships enable acknowledged world-class, Australian and international scientists to work within an Australian research institution on an activity relevant to an identified CERF priority research area.
Researchers contribute to developing fresh and cutting edge approaches to public good environmental issues. These Fellowships advance our understanding of current and emerging challenges facing the conservation and use of our environmental assets.
Five Fellowships have been funded. They have been allocated $1.036 million (incl GST) over three years.
The following CERF Fellowships have been funded:
- Drought and aquatic ecosystems: impacts and responses ($150,000). Principal researcher: Professor Phillip (Sam) Lake, Monash University.
Drought is a normal component of climate, especially in Australia. Drought research has centred on climatic, meteorological and hydrological aspects along with impacts on agricultural and social systems. Research on the impacts of drought on aquatic ecosystems (freshwater, inland and estuarine) has been neglected. There is scattered literature on the effects of drought on aquatic ecosystems: species, communities and ecological processes. The aim of this project is to review the literature on impacts of drought on aquatic ecosystems, and to integrate this with the climatological, meteorological and hydrological knowledge of drought.
- Waterholes in a changing climate: hydrological vulnerability and implications for ecological services and cultural values ($155,345). Principal researcher: Dr Stephen Hamilton (Michigan State University, USA), Griffith University.
Waterholes are critical refugia for aquatic biodiversity in dryland rivers and are highly valued by local communities, yet are vulnerable to increasing water demands and effects of climate change. This study of hydrological and ecological features of waterholes across the tropics seeks to understand how they would respond to these pressures. It builds on research conducted in the Lake Eyre Basin, augmented with remote sensing and water level monitoring, and complements work undertaken by Australian researchers in the TRaCK CERF hub. Results will help establish priorities for conservation and management of these important ecosystems.
- Developing a basis for a Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) in Australia and a systematic approach to environmental monitoring ($182,349). Principal researcher: Prof Gene Likens (Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY)Australian National University.
Many countries worldwide have established Long-Term Ecological Research Networks (LTER's). These are critical to collecting key ecological data and monitoring and reporting the impacts of environmental change. Australia has a small informal network of just 6 voluntary LTER sites and no formal LTER network. This creates many major deficiencies in Australia's environmental management and environmental reporting. This Fellowship is helping identify the key components needed to develop a world-class LTER program for Australia and is also providing advice on what is required for the development of an informed and effective environmental monitoring framework in Australia.
- Ecosystem model analysis to address fisheries management issues in south eastern Australia and the implications of climate change ($168,960). Principal researcher: Dr Reginald Watson (University of British Columbia, BC) University of Tasmania.
Commercial and recreational fisheries and marine ecotourism (e.g. diving, marine mammals) provide significant social and economic contributions to Australian coastal communities. Impacts, such as climate change, can alter the productivity of marine ecosystems and consequently pose significant threats to industries and communities dependent on sustainable use of marine resources. This fellowship brings together expertise from some of the world’s leading marine ecosystem modelling groups to assemble existing datasets across different Institutions, with the aim of developing and adapting ecosystem models for the Australian marine environment. This will lead to enhanced skills in management of our marine resources.
- Development of an Autonomous (Acoustic) Biodiversity Monitoring System ($0.38 million). Principal researcher: Dr Andrew Taylor, University of New South Wales.
This Fellowship is developing a new bio-acoustic monitoring system - the surveying animals based on recorded sounds - that can be easily used by people without a technical background. The research is recording and categorising a broad range of sounds, including birds, bats, insects and other acoustically active animals and developing software that will allow users to identify and label sounds easily and efficiently. It is developing a Web interface that will provide data in formats accessible to non-technical users and suitable for analysis or uploading to a database.