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Publications archive - Biodiversity

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Review of the Project: The Development of a Cane Toad Biological Control (February 2003)

D. Hazell, R. Nott and M. F. Shannon
Department of the Environment and Heritage, August 2003


Term of Reference 4

The Administration Of Financial Planning And Project Management With Particular Reference To The Effectiveness Of Current Arrangements In Ensuring The Best Possible Use Of Available Financial And Staffing Arrangements.

Current Project Management Arrangements

Proponent reports and panel interviews indicate the administration of financial planning and project management is effective. Available financial, human and physical resources have been applied with due diligence. The co-location of facilities and staff does not appear to have hindered the project. This indicates a high level of integration within the project team and its management.

Panel interviews and progress reports indicate:

Current Financial Administration Arrangements

The strategic and timely application of human resources, lab facilities, and new technology indicates rigorous financial administration within the project. This has been demonstrated through:

Possible Future Project Management Barriers Influenced By Current Arrangements

The project achieved all its milestones within the contracted deadlines except for testing the attenuated virus in indicator species. This projected 4-month task was executed over 12 months resulting in an 8-month delay. The task was not critical to subsequent activities.

According the proponent's Major Project Review (November 2002), the delay was caused by:

The first batch of experimental cane toads supplied from the wild suffered health problems in the laboratory at CSIRO, Canberra. According to the panel interviews a subsequent breeding colony of Bufo marinus was established on time (January 2002) but is currently stressed by a fungus. This is the second batch of toads to encounter health problems. Stakeholder interviews, panel discussions and progress reports indicate that establishing and especially maintaining a toad colony in the lab remains a difficult task.

All these factors point to a problem with the supply and propagation of test species. If maintaining a Cane Toad colony and individuals of Litoria infrafrenata proves to be difficult then presumably the maintenance of other frog species may also be problematic. Possible problems associated with the external supply of testing frogs indicate that these issues may delay future testing milestones. According to the proponent's Major Project Review (Nov 2002, p12), 'It is essential that the cane toad-breeding colony is maintained in Canberra to supply material for the discovery and testing of potential biocontrol targets.'

This is especially significant in the medium-term (3 years) where the proponent's planning has a milestone delivering the testing of recombinant/attenuated viruses in a number of indicator species as well as Cane Toad tadpoles. Assuming the project achieved its 3-year target, the project infrastructure for raising and maintaining test animals will be substantial and may need additional resources. The panel did not inspect facilities at AAHL so a definitive assessment is not possible at this time.

As stated in TOR 1 this may be achieved with a single Cane Toad breeding facility that consolidates the team's infrastructure and resources. More importantly, discussions with stakeholders indicate that a rigorous testing program will be required for fish, amphibians and reptiles should a ranavirus be used as the delivery mechanism for the subject gene.

Those discussions also indicate that lab testing is profoundly easier than testing under wild or natural conditions. In the long-term (>3 years), this consideration may be one of the more difficult project management obstacles to overcome. Notwithstanding the project logistics, the permit requirements associated with the release of a genetically modified virus will be problematic and complex. Many of these problems will relate to the security, quality and diversity (ie extent of testing among different species) of any future testing program.

Looking at the proponent's plans and considering the panel's discussions with stakeholders there appears to be several critical areas requiring complimentary research for this project. These include the following:

Findings from Term of Reference 4

  1. Project management and financial administration is effective.
  2. Testing is likely to be a significant management obstacle.
  3. Complimentary research activities need to be coordinated with the project.
  4. The establishment of these complimentary projects cannot be effectively achieved within a 1-year but could be executed within 3 years.