2011 winner of The Nature Conservancy Applied Conservation Award

Congratulations to Gill Ainsworth from Charles Darwin University on winning the $9000 Nature Conservancy Applied Conservation Award for 2011. Gill's research topic is ‘Social Values of Australian Threatened Birds—Black Cockatoo Case Study’


Check out the animated film Gil made based on her data "A Tale of Two Cockatoos"!



The aim of this research is to understand how Baudin’s and Carnaby’s Black-cockatoos (Calyptorhincus baudinii and Calyptorhincus latirostris respectively) are valued by society and how this affects efforts to conserve them. The project has grown out of an awareness that, however much we know about the biology of threatened species, we need to understand human behaviour if conservation is to be successful.

Baudin’s and Carnaby’s Black-cockatoos are listed respectively as vulnerable and endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and listed as 'rare or likely to become extinct' under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (DSEWPaC 2011). Both suffer from habitat loss and Baudin’s are sometimes persecuted for eating fruit. Both are now in deep trouble but the effort and funds expended to save Carnaby’s far exceeds that being made to save the very similar Baudin’s.

Both Baudin’s and Carnaby’s black cockatoos serve as flagships for a range of species in Western Australia but why is one species being favoured over the other? Does society as a whole value them differently or are the values of individual decision-makers influencing investment? A number of possibilities exist: their biology differs; Carnaby’s is known by more people because it visits Perth; and Baudin’s causes economic harm. However, there has been no proper investigation into why levels of investment in time and money differ so much between the species. Efforts to conserve these cockatoos, and many other species, will be helped if we can understand the values and motivations of those connected with each species – as volunteers helping them, farmers hating them, or government officials with responsibility for conserving them.

The case study outlined in this proposal will build on work I have been doing for the first part of my PhD where I have identified 10 attitudinal categories that can be applied at the species level. This case study is a major component of my PhD research and is the third of three sets of paired comparisons I am conducting in 2011 to delve more deeply into the role values and attitudes play in affecting conservation outcomes. A particular benefit of my PhD research will be a much needed integration of human-dimensions information into threatened bird management programs (Clark & Wallace 2001; Miller 2003).


ESA gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of The Nature Conservancy and the Thomas Foundation in generously funding this significant applied student award.