Speaker Abstracts

Felicity Bradshaw

Connecting to Country
The Aboriginal custodians of lands that have been handed back to them by Australian law desire partnerships with Western methods of land management, in order to create economically sustainable employment for the well-being of their young people. Fundamental to this is the teaching of biological science in schools (particularly in these areas) that respects both Indigenous culture and Indigenous environmental knowledge.
Connecting to Country is a personal account of how Western science in Primary schools can be supported by the Indigenous understanding of Country. Language is important when communicating science and opportunity exists here to explore its use within the context of Traditional ecological knowledge.

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Rachel Standish
Rachel Standish

Undergraduate research at Roe 8: a report of findings from ecological and educational perspectives

Ecological restoration can be especially valuable in urban landscapes for its ability to restore nature, people, and the connections between the two. This has been the case for the rehabilitation of the Roe 8 corridor where the successes of the project reflect the complementary contributions of land managers, the local community, environmental consultants, undergraduate students, and scientists. Here, the successes in ecological restoration are due in part to agreement among stakeholders as to the immense indigenous cultural, ecological, and social values of the corridor, and the concern that a change of state government could mean losing support for its rehabilitation.
Here, I report on vegetation recovery since the clearing of banksia woodlands in February 2017. Murdoch undergraduate students collected data on regrowth of woody species in permanently marked plots in 2017, 2018 and 2019, tracking the first 2 years and 7 months of recovery. These data were compared to species richness and density of vegetation in nearby plots of reference banksia woodland to benchmark success. We found that recovery is on-track for regions of the corridor except places that were degraded at the time of clearing. I conclude with reflections on the project as an educator, a scientist, and advocate for banksia woodland conservation

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Ali Babington

Future-proof urban greening for Perth: Balancing environmental and social considerations in urban plantings

Woody meadows are naturalistic plantings of Australian shrubs that are coppiced every two to three years to create long-lasting, dense plantings that require minimal maintenance. They are intended to replace typical low priority (mostly lawn or mulch) council plantings, to increase plant diversity in urban areas. My PhD will investigate how traits (characteristics) of shrubs impact drought resistance, response to coppicing and public perception of woody meadows. This poster will focus on the human perception of woody meadows and I will address the research question: how do plant traits influence the human perception of woody meadow plants and plantings? I plan to ask people to rate computer generated images of woody meadows that systemically change one aspect, such as structure. Understanding preferences for this novel urban greening initiative will improve future designs to maximise human engagement. Overall, this research aims to increase plant trait knowledge, from both an environmental and social perspective, to optimise the design of woody meadows and improve urban greening.

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Angela Sanders

Large and small-scale land restoration in a biodiversity hotspot, Western Australia

Bush Heritage Australia is restoring former agricultural land at scale in the southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot. This presents many challenges and opportunities for adaptive management. Small-scale restoration has been ongoing in the Fitz-Stirling area on the south coast of WA since 2004. More recently large-scale restoration is occurring at Eurardy Reserve near the west coast north of Geraldton. Two very different habitats, both floristically diverse with a mosaic of soil types.
The more recent Fitz-Stirling restoration has been designed specifically to provide fauna habitat and we have conducted intensive monitoring to track its development. We now record 77% of expected bird species found in reference site in the restored sites.
The Eurardy restoration is designed to restore a large 1350 ha area that was cleared for cropping, to return some of the floristic diversity, including the important ground layer of annual herbs, and create habitat that favours native species over introduced invasive animals.
We present our successes and challenges arising from these two projects.

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Dr Ben Miller
Russell Miller

Degradation or Restoration? Interactions between prescribed burning and weed management in urban bushland

Grassy weeds are a major threat in urban bushlands – impacting vegetation condition, native plant regeneration, and ground-dwelling fauna – and a conundrum for managers. Critically, grassy weeds such as perennial veld (Ehrharta calycina), can alter the patterns and availability of fuels for fire, essentially increasing likelihood of bushfire spread under a broader range of conditions. In a cycle of degradation, invasive grass occurrence may both promote fire, and, their spread is enhanced by fire. However, combining fire and weed management may help to reverse these trends, with benefits for fire risk and biodiversity.
Here we report on a long-term study examining interactions between prescribed burning and weed management in urban bushlands. Established by Kings Park Science in 2014, the study now includes a number of sites in several urban and near-urban reserves in Perth and Geraldton, with partners from DBCA, BGPA, Murdoch University and local government (Cities of Cockburn, Canning, Greater Geraldton). We report on changes in plant community composition, richness, weed species cover and fuel attributes prior to and following weed and fire management treatments.

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Dr Jane Chambers
Vicky Hartill

Turtle Trackers – Where to next?

To reduce mortality rates in Bibra Lake’s native turtle population, in 2019 the City of Cockburn in partnership with Murdoch University, Parks & Wildlife Services, Native ARC and The Wetlands Centre launched the Turtle Trackers citizen science program to help protect nesting females, their nests and eggs during the peak of the nesting season.  
Volunteers were recruited and tasked with tracking nesting female turtles around Bibra Lake from September to November, logging information about turtle sightings and behaviour, and helping to install nesting cages to protect hatchlings. Following two seasons, the program is sparking interest from nearby councils, land management groups and the broader community. The program has shown positive signs in supporting the turtle population, but to see lasting results there’s still a long road ahead. Learn about the successes and challenges of the Turtle Trackers over the last two years, and how this program plans to grow.

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Julian Kruger

Rehabilitating Roe 8: Monitoring, management and collaboration using Emapper

Emapper is a Western Australian owned ecological management and restoration platform developed to host spatially enabled environmental data to monitor, guide and improve restoration performance. Emapper uses remote sensing data to produce vegetation, landform, biodiversity and wetland metrics as mapping layers, quantitative reporting outputs and advanced analytics.
Emapper has undertaken three consecutive years of restoration monitoring across the Rehabilitating Roe 8 project site using aerial imagery captured by manned aircraft in 2018 and 2019, and by drone in 2020. Photogrammetric processing and spatial analysis produce rehabilitation performance metrics for vegetation health, cover and height. Emapper’s innovative approach allows comprehensive understanding of restoration progress throughout the entire project area, removing the limitations associated with traditional on-ground sampling methods due to variation in vegetation across the landscape.
Restoration managers have found Emapper to be a powerful tool to monitor progress of the rehabilitation and plan upcoming works programs to improve performance and achieve program objectives. Results on Emapper can be shared between Rehabilitating Roe 8 project partners, allowing for easier collaboration and planning for any remediation measures.

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Kit Prendergast

Networks of plants and pollinators in urbanised habitats in a biodiversity hotspot

Urbanisation may disrupt the interactions between pollinators such as bees and the flowering plants that they visit. We used a network approach, which goes beyond simple metrics of abundance and species richness, to understand how the structure of plant-pollinator communities were affected by urbanisation. We compared pollination networks between seven native vegetation (bushland) remnants and seven residential gardens in the urbanised southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot. Extinction slope, network robustness and nestedness were higher for bushland remnants, suggesting these networks had greater integrity, but if disrupted, more cascading extinctions could occur.
Pollinator-level niche overlap was higher in residential gardens, suggesting greater competition for resources. The only species-level property that differed between habitats, normalised degree, was higher in bushland remnants. In conclusion, pollination networks in managed residential gardens are not structurally equivalent with those in bushland remnants. Removal of remnant native vegetation for residential development may disrupt the integrity of plant-pollinator assemblages.

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Merryn Pryor

The Great Cocky Count

Southwest Western Australia is home to three species of threatened black-cockatoos – Carnaby’s, Baudin’s and Forest Red-tailed. BirdLife Australia has been working on black-cockatoo recovery actions since 2001 with the aim of protecting and conserving these unique birds and their critical habitat. One of the key components of Birdlife’s black-cockatoo recovery actions over the last decade has been the annual Great Cocky Count (GCC). The GCC is a citizen science survey held on a single day in Autumn each year across southwest Western Australia, from Geraldton to Esperance. Volunteers are allocated known or potential roost sites, and count and record black-cockatoos at dusk as they fly in to roost for the night.
The GCC is currently the most reliable way to estimate black-cockatoo numbers in WA and has been instrumental in monitoring changes in population numbers and movements of the three species over the last 10 years. The Great Cocky Count is a great example of the effectiveness of engaging the community in citizen science programs to provide meaningful and tangible information and results.

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Stephen Beatty

Why care about native freshwater fish (and the challenges of managing invasive species)?

Native freshwater fishes are among the most diverse and threatened vertebrate groups on Earth.  This presentation will explore the value of these amazing and often unheralded species focussing on the highly endemic species in south-western Australia.  Unfortunately, introduced fishes are arguably the major threat to freshwater fishes globally and their establishment in lakes and wetlands around Perth is increasing exponentially. Community education of the impacts of releasing unwanted pet fish is the key to slowing this trend. Steve will discuss this challenge and present case studies of introduced fish removal programs from the Swan Coastal Plain.

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Tom Mansfield

Biological bulldozer meets ecosystem engineer: effects of dieback on habitat use and fungal food of a digging mammal

This PhD project aims to understand how Phytophthora dieback infestation in the jarrah forest impact quenda, and whether habitat use and fungal food sources of quenda differs between infested and uninfested forest. The study sites lie within the northern jarrah forest, in the Shire of Mundaring, Western Australia. The extent that quenda habitat has been impacted will be assessed with vegetation surveys. These data will be linked to quenda digging surveys to assess their activities as ‘ecosystem engineers’. Quenda will be tracked throughout reserves with GPS units to determine whether their home ranges are affected by the infestation. Finally, advanced e-DNA analyses will be used to quantify fungal communities, which will be related to quenda movement and digging activity.
My research will help to understand the impacts of habitat alteration on native fauna. Native digging mammal populations are severely diminished in the south-west of Western Australia, due to habitat clearing, and quenda are one of the only species still common in the landscape. This study will be important in assessing the resilience of quendas to habitat degradation and help provide an understanding of what we can do to provide good quality habitat for their long-term persistence.

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Wayne Walters

Coastal Restoration and Adopt A Beach in the Perth Region

Perth NRM’s Coastal and Marine Program works collaboratively with land managers, community groups and other partners to deliver robust nature-based solutions to environmental problems facing our coasts. This presentation will demonstrate how diversifying engagement and providing support to Coastcare groups has enabled us to deliver projects that have sound and sustainable outcomes for both the coast and the community. Schools engagement is an important element in developing a successful community coastal stewardship programs. The second half of the presentation will work through the Adopt A Beach “Connect à Engage à Act” model to create meaningful engagement for schools with a conservation outcome

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