For more than 40 years our lab in Darwin has been carrying out environmental and agricultural research in the Top End of the Northern Territory. Our ecological and socio-economic research aims to underpin sustainable land management and regional development in the north.
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Anna Richards: Hi, my name’s Anna Richards. I’m a soil and carbon ecologist with CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences in Darwin. Our lab is the only CSIRO lab in north-western Australia. For more than 40 years we’ve been carrying out environmental and agricultural research in the Top End.
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This beautiful site is home to Ecosystem Sciences and the Darwin Science Education Centre. About 30 staff, students and industrial trainees are currently based in Darwin. We also share our site with the N.T Government’s Flora and Fauna Division, the Parks and Wildlife Commission’s Wildlife Management Group, and the Tiwi Land Council.
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So what do we do up here? Well, our mission is to conduct integrated ecological and socio-economic research to underpin sustainable land management and regional development in the north.
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Our research focuses on four major areas:
1. Firstly, Savanna burning. This work looks at the full range of biophysical and socioeconomic issues relating to savanna fire management for biodiversity conservation and Greenhouse gas abatement, especially on Aboriginal lands.
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Our fire research underpinned one of the first methodologies approved under the Carbon Farming Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in northern Australia.
2. Secondly, Indigenous natural resource management.
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Female: So you went fishing yesterday?
Female: Did you catch anything?
Female: Five turtle and…
CSIRO has strong and productive partnerships with Aboriginal communities right across the Top End. This work includes fire management, invasive species management, aquatic resource conservation, biodiversity monitoring, and marine planning. The development of a suite of calendars of Indigenous seasonal knowledge with six language groups across the north has been a recent highlight.
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3. Thirdly, Invertebrate biodiversity.
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The Darwin lab has internationally leading expertise in ants, the world’s dominant faunal group in terms of biomass and energy flow.
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We hold the world’s most extensive collection of Australian ants, with nearly 6,000 species! This collection supports most of the ecological work done on ants in Australia. We’ve has also been working on the ecology and management of pest ants, such as the Yellow Crazy ant in Arnhem Land, for more than ten years.
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Our ant biodiversity lab is also home to many of our students. About 20 international students, mostly from France, spend three to six months staying with us on-site and working on a range of projects. They make a vital contribution to our research capability.
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4. Finally, Rangeland ecology.
Rangelands cover about 85% of the continent. Pastoralism is the main land use but there’s increasing interest in new economic opportunities, such as carbon sequestration. We’re also exploring opportunities for the development of the northern beef industry to improve productivity and profitability.
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We’re lucky to have one of the largest and best preserved areas of remnant tropical savanna woodland in the Darwin suburbs. Our ten hectare patch of bush has been the focus of more than 40 collaborative research projects in the last 16 years.
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So that’s it from me – thanks for joining me on the tour. We hope you now have a much better understanding of what we do up here in the Top End of the Northern Territory!
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