Today, the Australian Government is announcing over $2 million for 17 researchers to discover more about Australia’s diverse plants, animals and fungi through taxonomic research over the next one to three years.
This funding—under the Australian Biological Resources Study’s National Taxonomy Research Grant Program—delivers research outcomes important for building our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Australia’s unique biodiversity.
Parks Australia’s Director of Biodiversity Science, Anthony Whalen, said taxonomy was an important and often overlooked discipline of science, working to describe and classify plants, animals and organisms.
“If we don’t know what species we have and where they are found, we can’t effectively undertake bushfire recovery and conservation work, or understand the scope and depth of Australia’s biodiversity,” Mr Whalen said.
“This all relies heavily on an up to date taxonomic knowledge.
“In previous years, this grant program has helped researchers discover and describe thousands of new species. It’s estimated that 75 per cent of Australia’s species are yet to be discovered or described, and the figure is likely to be higher for our marine environments.
“One of the key focus areas for this program is the support for tertiary students and early career researchers. I am particularly pleased these grants will assist young scientists to develop their careers, while at the same time learning more about our nation’s plants and animals.
“The discovery and documentation of Australia’s biodiversity also has direct application to the recovery and management of threatened species, identifying and understanding the risks of pest species and the discovery of biological resources that have may have medicinal benefits.”
Three examples of research projects funded under this round include:
- The leaf blotch miner moth group, which includes both native and invasive pest species that impact crops such as cotton, citrus, macadamia and oak. Andreas Zwick (CSIRO) has been awarded a grant to examine this important group of pests; restructuring the current classification to accommodate around 40 as-yet undescribed species. This work is important because illustrations, diagnostic keys and identification information is currently lacking, which hinders accurate and timely diagnosis of pest outbreaks in crops. Understanding evolutionary relationships between species would help target particular moth varieties for biocontrol or specific biosecurity actions.
- James Clugston (NSW Royal Botanic Gardens) is an early career researcher who has received a grant to examine members of the pea (or legume) family Fabaceae, significant for the ability of legumes to improve nitrogen capacity of Australian soils. James will use cutting-edge next generation molecular sequencing techniques to shed new light on the classification of Australia’s highly diverse and showy native pea species. The knowledge gained from this research will be used to make new interactive identification keys to allow the general public to more easily identify Australia’s native pea species.
- Jessica Marsh (South Australian Museum) is an early career researcher and has been awarded a grant to study tube-web spiders, which are a primitive group of spiders that live in silken tubes. They have a global distribution including native species found in Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria. The research will examine the biogeographic and evolutionary history of the Australian endemic species for the first time. Because of their sedentary nature, tube-web spiders are thought to be poor dispersers, leading to small distribution ranges and therefore likely to have high conservation value. The research will include description of 10-15 previously unknown species of tube-web spiders from southern Australia.
Parks Australia manages the National Taxonomy Research Grant Program and aims to enable research in taxonomy and its application to biodiversity conservation, particularly within Australia’s Commonwealth reserve estate.
More information about the program and how to apply for funding can be found via: environment.gov.au/science/abrs/grants
For further information please contact Mark Sawa 0416 911 968.