2015 The Nature Conservancy Australia Applied Science Award winner

The Nature Conservancy Australia in conjunction with The Ecological Society for Australia (ESA) are proud to announce this year’s winner of The Nature Conservancy Applied Conservation Award, Michael Sievers of The Melbourne University, for his project “Opening the trap door: Artificial wetlands as ecological traps for frogs”

Established in 2008, the award funds a postgraduate scholarship in the field of applied conservation science to assist them to undertake innovative research into significant conservation issues. The aim of Michael’s project is to assess the effect artificial wetlands around Melbourne are having as habitats for frogs, specifically, the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis).

Wetlands around cities are changing at an unprecedented rate. More than 450 artificial wetlands have been established around Melbourne; over 80 percent of these have been built since 2000.

Although they superficially resemble natural habitats, these man-made environments are primarily designed to treat stormwater pollution, conserving the environment and the wildlife is often a secondary or missing component. There is considerable evidence that animals inhabit artificial wetlands, the ecological consequences of choosing these habitats are less well known.

Michael will conduct a series of field and lab based studies to assess if artificial wetlands may be acting as ecological traps and if so, why and what can be done to improve these new habitats.

An ecological trap is a habitat that an animal finds equally or more attractive than other available habitat, despite experiencing reduced fitness whilst occupying it. Artificial wetlands may function as traps if some cues of habitat quality perceived by animals are present (e.g. native vegetation) along with unperceived factors reducing fitness (e.g. pollutants).

The Nature Conservancy Australia’s Director of Conservation, Dr James Fitzsimons is pleased to support Michael’s research because “it will help inform and improve artificial wetland design and how we manage them.”

In some cases, animals can even flourish in highly disturbed, human-altered systems such as invasive species. However, more often than not, animals appear to be struggle in these environments. Among the animal groups of greatest conservation concern, amphibians clearly stand out as the most imperiled, with 41% of species facing the threat of extinction.

Michael’s project will focus on Melbourne’s native frogs; with the primary goal to determine the effects inhabiting artificial wetlands has on their health, survival and reproduction throughout juvenile and adult life-history stages. He will also aim to determine whether frogs can detect and respond adaptively to wetland quality. Having the capacity to understand and predict how frogs will respond to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) will be crucial for active management and, if need be, eliminating ecological traps from the landscape.

You can keep up to date with this project at http://msievers100.wordpress.com

Media enquiries or interview requests:

The Nature Conservancy: Inga Feitsma 0408 657741 or inga.feitsma@tnc.org

Ecological Society of Australia : Gail Spina 0409 279 068 or executiveofficer@ecolsoc.org.au

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a leading conservation organisation working around the world in more than 35 countries to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. Since 2000, The Nature Conservancy has collaborated with a wide array of partners to support conservation efforts across more than 126 million hectares of Australia’s lands and waters. This includes securing 29 high priority additions to the National Reserve System, including some of the largest private protected areas in Australia. The Nature Conservancy has also assisted Indigenous groups with the protection of 19.6 million hectares of Indigenous Protected Areas across northern and central Australia, and we’re working to conserve the Great Western Woodlands, the world’s largest intact temperate woodland. Visit The Nature Conservancy at www.natureaustralia.org.au

Event date: 
Friday, April 22, 2016