Thanks to all of you for following us and encouraging us to keep blogging :-)
Next target 500! As we move forward what would you like to see more of on this blog?
As you may know, we conduct a significant amount of research on predators and the roles they play in ecosystems at Deakin University. Predators are increasingly being recognized for the important ecosystem services they provide, often promoting increased biodiversity in areas where they exist. Unfortunately, predators are often persecuted and vilified (e.g. recent shark culls in WA) without regard for the important roles they play. Our own Euan Ritchie has a considerable research background in predators and in particular dingoes. He talks here on The Project about dingoes and why we need to change our thinking. Well done Euan!
It is sad to imagine large areas of Australia without dingoes, and the services they provide!
Euan also maintains a highly informative ecology blog at http://euanritchie.org
Latham’s Snipe case a win for locals
In the Environment Defenders Office’s (EDO) most recent case, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has ruled that a developer of a proposed subdivision on the Powling Street wetland complex in Port Fairy must make concessions for a shy migratory bird. Under the ruling, eight lots in the proposed Powling Street subdivison must be transferred to the local council, which saves one of the three ephemeral wetlands and provides an important buffer for the adjoining migratory bird habitat. VCAT also took the effects of climate change and predicted future sea level rise into consideration.
The decision will also help protect other wetland birds, and their young, such as this Red-capped Plover chick.
Beetles of Polynesia I: A is for Ampagia
Ampagioid weevils (like these Ampagia) are uncommon and are distributed from Southeast Asia/Australia and throughout the south Pacific. They are apparently most diverse on remote islands with many having one or more endemic species (Australia’s Lord Howe Island has at least five, around 10% of the described world fauna). The weevil at the top is Ampagia cribrellicollis Marshall from Samoa.
The image below is the elytron (‘wing’) from a new subfossil species from Rimatara, French Polynesia. No Ampagia (or the related Ampagioides) have so far been described from Rimatara (even though the late great weevilologist Elwood Zimmerman worked on this group in the region) and it is possible that this species is globally extinct. The rarity of modern specimens of the genus (wherever they occur) makes it difficult, however, to reliably assess the likelihood that the subfossil species is extinct.
I have been recently reminded about how much value we Australians place on natural places, especially during breaks like the Easter one. I have just returned from the Murray River, and it is literally packed with campers who seek recreational opportunities, or some time in the bush. It is a wonderful river, but one under enormous ecological stress, not only in terms of water allocations, but also in terms of shore-based processes like recreation. If you get the chance, a low impact camp on the banks of this mighty river is terrific experience!
We really need to rethink our approach to logging in Victoria.
Can we continue to destroy these amazing forest giants? Are our logging practices outdated and environmentally unsound? Leaving a few large trees isolated within logging coupes and then burning the area around them can not be sustainable or good for the wildlife needing critical resources provided by old trees. Even more so if the trees left behind die or fall down due to increased wind.
This image was sourced from My Environment Inc on Twitter as @My_Environment and FB as MyEnvironment Inc
What does urbanization look like from space?
Urbanization is one of the most destructive modifications that humans make to the environment. Modifying landscapes for a limited set of human requirements has had dramatic impacts on biodiversity across the World. A significant amount of research both at Deakin University and around the World is now focusing on urbanization and the impact it has on biodiversity.
But how can we look at urbanization at a broad landscape scale? One way is to use satellite imagery of urban environments and classify the images against different land-uses or types. There are many different satellites that orbit the earth taking different spectral images at differing resolutions. The above image was developed from the SPOT (Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre) 5 satellite and a 10 meter resolution (the map above is at 20m resolution to limit the file size). Using the different band widths of information, the original imagery was converted to a NDVI layer (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) which represents the amount of green vegetation in an area. This layer was then classified using a vast series of known locations across urban Melbourne. Ultimately, the resultant image (above) has classified all this information down to five different land-use type.
The final satellite map provides a really good way of looking at urbanization on a broad landscape scale. It is also an incredibly useful map to use in modelling of how particular species respond to urbanization.
This layer was developed by Dr Bronwyn Issac as part of her PhD project investigating the response of powerful owls to urbanization.
The magical Tufted Coquette! This beautiful hummingbird can be found sipping nectar in South America.
Amazing images of a very cool animal!
Congratulations Kasun Ekanayake (Deakin PhD student studying ravens) who has just won a prestigious Bill Borthwick Student Scholarship.
Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) has established the annual scholarships for tertiary students to assist in the costs of research relating to public land in Victoria, including terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.
The scholarships were announced in March 2011 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of the Land Conservation Council (LCC). They honour the vision of the Hon. Bill Borthwick, Victoria’s first Minister for Conservation and Deputy Premier from 1981 to 1982, and a central figure in establishing the LCC to advise government on the use of Victoria’s public land.
Well done Kasun! The scholarship was highly competitive, and it is an honour to have obtained one. Another previous Deakin winner, Thomas Schneider, now works at Deakin’s Burwood campus as a Technical Officer.
Stink bugs are spreading across Ontario. The first official detection of brown marmorated stink bugs came in 2012 when a homeowner found one in Hamilton. Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture has now confirmed the invasive species has been spotted south of Chatham, about an hour east of Windsor. The bug has also been found in Toronto (2012), Vaughan (2013), Windsor (2013), Niagara-on-the Lake (2013), London (2013), Fort Erie (2014), and Ottawa (2014), to name just a few municipalities. A 2013 survey found breeding populations in localized areas in Hamilton While the bugs do not bite humans, they will release a foul smell when handled or otherwise disturbed. The bugs are a concern to the agriculture industry because they feed on fruit and vegetables. “This is a very serious agricultural pest,” said Hannah Fraser, an entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. “It can cause severe injury and crop losses.” Ontario’s climate doesn’t negatively affect the stink bug.