Margaret Middleton Fund recipients to protect penguins, koalas and arid food webs

November 30, 2021
From left: PhD candidates Shelby Ryan, Melanie Wells and Chloe Robinson. Photos: supplied.

Three early-career researchers have been awarded funding for ecology projects in 2022 thanks to the Australian Academy of Science’s Margaret Middleton Fund for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals.

The fund provides grants to support emerging researchers with ecology projects that have tangible conservation outcomes for endangered native vertebrates.

The 2022 recipients are:

Shelby Ryan, University of Newcastle: Optimising emerging drone monitoring technologies to accurately determine population density of koalas

“I was completely ecstatic on receiving the news of my successful application. This support is critical to the success of my research to collect rapid and robust data on declining and bushfire-impacted koala populations.”

Melanie Wells, University of Tasmania: Investigating the health of little penguins as a sentinel of Tasmanian ecosystem health

Melanie Wells in the field. Photo: supplied.

“I received news of success for my application while I was in the field, to say I was completely ecstatic is an understatement! Using little penguins as sentinels and Tasmania as a study site … it will allow me to address key threatening processes to coastal communities such as persistent organic pollutant toxicity, climate change and the dissemination of pathogens from invasive species.”

Chloe Robinson, UNSW Sydney: Does mammal reintroduction reconstruct arid food webs?

“My research into the impacts of native insectivorous mammals on mygalomorph spiders. It is very costly to go on remote field trips and now I will be able to go out three or four times a year and get valuable seasonal data. I will be able to purchase radio transmitters to track male tarantulas during the mating season […] and I will also be able to build special IR cameras that will be able to pick up spider motion, and use these to observe individual spiders throughout the year.”

About the fund

The Margaret Middleton Fund for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals was established in 2000 with Dr Margaret Middleton, who donated generously to this fund for many years. Dr Middleton was a long-time supporter of the Academy and early-career scientists, with the fund supporting almost 90 projects to date.

Applications for the 2023 awards will open in early 2022.

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