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


November 30, 2021

Left to right: PhD students Shelby Ryan, Melanie Wells and Chloe Robinson. Photos: provided.

Three early-career researchers received funding for ecology projects in 2022 through the Australian Academy of Sciences Margaret Middleton Fund for Australian Native Endangered Vertebrate Animals.

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

The 2022 recipients are:

Shelby Ryan, University of Newcastle: Optimizing Emerging Drone Surveillance Technologies to Accurately Determine Koala Population Density

“I was completely delighted to receive 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-affected koala populations. “

Melanie Wells, University of Tasmania: Studying Penguin Health as a Sentinel of Tasmanian Ecosystem Health

Melanie Wells in the field. Photo: provided.

“I heard about the success of my candidacy while I was in the field, to say I was completely ecstatic is an understatement! Using small penguins as sentinels and Tasmania as a study site … this will allow me to address the main threatening processes for coastal communities such as the persistent toxicity of organic pollutants, climate change and the spread of pathogens from invasive species.

Chloe Robinson, UNSW Sydney: Is mammal reintroduction rebuilding arid food webs?

“My research on the impacts of native insectivorous mammals on mygalomorphic spiders. It is very expensive to do field trips remotely and now I will be able to go out three or four times a year and get some valuable seasonal data. I will be able to buy radio transmitters to track male tarantulas during mating season […] and I will also be able to build special IR cameras that can capture the movement of spiders and use them to observe individual spiders throughout the year.

About the fund

The Margaret Middleton Endangered Australian Native Vertebrate Fund was established in 2000 with Dr. Margaret Middleton, who has generously donated to this fund for many years. Dr Middleton was a long-time supporter of the Academy and early career scientists, with the fund supporting nearly 90 projects to date.

Applications for the 2023 awards will open in early 2022.


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