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Theme 3: Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Our objective is to advance the management of wildlife in ways that reduce human-wildlife conflict and improve agricultural and environmental sustainability.

Key areas of expertise include: invasive species management; threatened species conservation and recovery; wildlife surveillance and monitoring; human-wildlife conflict management; aversive geofencing devices; wildlife control tools and strategies; community-led wildlife management planning; wildlife capture and handling; intervention evaluation; product development; large-scale field trials and experimentation.

Staff, researchers, and students in our Centre actively work in multiple countries and collaborate with multiple institutions on a variety of wildlife around the world including elephants, rhinoceros, primates, macropods, large carnivores, livestock predators and competitors, rabbits, horses, rodents and much more.

Collaborators include other Australian and international universities, governments, non-government organisations, conservation groups, land management organisations, indigenous groups, agricultural industries, land holders, farmers, policy makers and decision makers, and service providers.

Another focus is poverty alleviation of agricultural and forests smallholders through collaborative international research aimed at increasing productivity, profitability and sustainability of forestry and agriculture systems, while substantially reducing carbon, energy and water footprints, and adapting to a more difficult climate. 

Projects

Project Leader:  Ben Allen 

Project Partners:  Northern Territory Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade | MLA

Lead an investigation into the effects of providing shade to cattle occupying treeless grassland habitats at one site on the Barkly Tableland.  The NT Government is subcontracting USQ to monitor interactions between dingoes and cattle at the site. 

Project Leader: David Berman

Research Partner: Australian Brumby Alliance

Visit sites in the Bogong High Plains, the eastern Victorian Alps and Kosciuszko National Park to assess the value of these sites and then methods used for future work. Visit other parts of the Australian Alps with a view to designing an improved natural experiment to assess the broad scale impact of wild horses in the Australian Alps. This work will also help refine methods for future work planned to measure the environmental impact in treated and untreated sites during a controlled experiment where the density of horses is manipulated by management. Design study of wild horse movement patterns. Design manipulative experiment to measure the relationship between environmental impacts of wild horses and wild horse density in the Australian Alps.

Project Leader: Benjamin Allen

Research Partners: Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government | University of Cape Town, South Africa

The conservation and management of K'gari wongari (Fraser Island dingoes) is highly contentious. Many former issues of public concern, e.g. dingo diet, health, movements, abundance etc, have largely been resolved following recent increased effort to systematically address these concerns through independent scientific evaluation and open-access publication of key datasets collected and maintained by the Department of Environmental Science, Queensland Government, through its Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships (QPWS&P) However, public and scientific concern remains about the genetic health and status of dingoes on the island, including the number of 'breeders' present. Formulating appropriate dingo management policy is more difficult without this information. The overall aim of the project is to provide the QPWS&P with robust and policy-reading information on the genetic health and status of dingoes on Fraser Iland - information that also meets stakeholder expectations and is widely supported by the scientific community. This will be achieved by following a stakeholder-led, expert-informed, and independent co-innovation approach that includes stakeholder and expert workshops, along with independent scientific analyses of existing DNA data held by QPWS&P.

Project Leader: Ben Allen 

Project Partners:  Southern Downs Regional Council 

This project is about the diet and movement of feral and unowned cats and wild dogs in peri-urban areas of the Southern Downs Regional Council.  USQ will work with local individuals and organisations (e.g. rural landholders, veterinary clinics) within the SDRC area to source cat stomach samples from captured and euthanized cats, and assess their contents to better understand what cats are eating in these areas, and their impacts on native fauna.  USQ will also trap and collar cats & dogs to monitor their movement behaviour to identify hotspots and assist the development of improved feral cat & wild dog management in the future. 

Project Leader: Benjamin Allen

Research Partners: EcoKnowledge Pty Ltd | Queensland Government | National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka | Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka | Rhodes University, South Africa | Lapala Wilderness Reserve, South Africa

Recent advances in virtual fencing technology now enable the possibility of deploying wearable devices, e.g. satellite-linked tracking collars, that can be programmed to emit stimuli aversive enough to prevent animals moving into or out of user-defined restricted areas, such as conservation reserves, agricultural land, or urban areas. This project is about the development and testing of such Aversive Goefencing Devices on a variety of wildlife species in conflict with humans. Target species include Asian elephants, dingoes, African wild dogs, lion, chacma baboon, dromedary camels, and domestic goats. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop effective Aversive Geofencing Devices that can be used to conserve high-value wildlife species and reduce human-wildlife conflict.

Project Leader: Benjamin Allen

Research Partners: Ceres Tag | Sensand Technologies | Northern Territory Government | Meat and Livestock Australia | Southern Downs Regional Council | Nelson Mandela University, South Africa | Malilangwe Conservation Trust, Zimbabwe | Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Namibia | Mokolodi Nature Reserve, Botswana

Recent development of low-cost, solar-powered, direct-to-satellite ear tags for beef cattle have created an opportunity for lifetime monitoring of whole populations of wildlife. Tracking wildlife is now no longer limited by equipment costs, but by capture costs. This project is about testing and proving the capability of Ceres Tags on a variety of carnivore and herbivore species around the world, from feral cats to rhinoceros, and the development of appropriate data management systems for wildlife managers, researchers and technology developers.The ultimate goal of the project is to revolutionise the wildlife tracking industry and support the conservation and management of wildlife and livestock around the world.

Project Leader:  Ben Allen 

Project Partners:  Galilee Trust Fund 

The object of the project is to assess the effects of grazing, fire and invasive species on population trends of Yakka Skinks and Squatter Pigeons at key sites in the southern Galilee Basin.  This work will be augmented by genetic analysis of Yakka Skink populations and acoustic monitoring of Squatter Pigeons (and other birds).  The research will provide key information on two of the Galilee Basin Conservation and Research Fund's target MNES, quantify the effects of key threats (fire, grazing and invasive species) to their populations, identify sites of high conservation value, and provide outcomes that support land management activities that are aligned with maintaining MNES habitat. 

Project Leader: Tek Maraseni

Research Partner: International Tropical Timber Organisation Japan

In collaboration with the government departments of Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, this study carries out a teak value chain analysis of smallholders to increase their access to markets. The specific objectives of USQ component of the project include: (1) Review the literature on teak timber value chain in Mekong River Basin; (2) Develop a conceptual framework and questionnaires for all actors, key informants and experts of teak timber value chain; (3) Train researchers on interviewing techniques and strategies and preliminary data analysis methods; (4) Synthesize semi-process data/information and write a journal article and report; and (5) Present activity outcomes, results and findings to the Project Technical Committee and international forums. 

Project Leader: Benjamin Allen

Research Partners: Queensland Government

Vehicle collisions with wildlife represent a substantial risk to motorists, and can also represent a substantial threat to wildlife species of conservation concern. Consequently, dedicated wildlife crossings and/or underpasses are used on many major roads and highways to facilitate safe wildlife movement from one side of the road to the other, but the effectiveness of these underpasses remain poorly understood. This project will experimentally assess the effectiveness of dedicated wildlife underpasses and compare these to storm water culverts and an open viaduct along the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing in southeast Queensland, Australia - a major piece of road infrastructure in the region, officially opened in September 2019. The goal of the project is to quantify wildlife use of the different types of crossings and provide guidance on appropriate design of roads to improve safety for wildlife and motorists.

Project Leader: Tek Maraseni

Research Partner: Griffith Uni

This collaborative project of Griffith University (Australia), Kathmandu Forestry College (Nepal) and Red Panda Network (Nepal) focuses on the following areas: (2) Forest governance; (2) Ecosystem service and natural capital valuation; (3) Improving RPN’s information base on forests; (4) Stakeholder engagement and capacity building; and (5) Development of payments for ecosystems services, benefit sharing and incentives mechanisms for primary forest and habitat conservation, particularly in Red Panda area.