Predator Free 2050 Limited driving the science for predator eradication
September 28, 2023 12:00 pm
Predator Free 2050 Limited (PF2050 Limited) announced it is investing a further $1.15 million into four new research projects, as the Company progresses towards the end of its ‘Research Strategy 2020-24’.
Both achieving in and maintaining the Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) goal of eradicating invasive predators from the whole of Aotearoa New Zealand, to help reverse the decline in our native biodiversity, is a complex undertaking. “To be resilient and successful, the ‘priority research’ tackling the most critical hurdles faced needs to be strategically supported by other elements,” says PF2050 Limited Science Director Professor Dan Tompkins. “In these new projects, we are funding more ‘capability development’ to grow the science talent needed, ‘enabling elements’ to help support the mission in the long haul, and ‘insurance research’ to improve current approaches, in addition to more ‘priority research’ on new approaches.”
Funding from Vote Conservation and the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme is being provided through to June 2024. Alongside other co-funders, the University of Adelaide is receiving $499,274 for ‘priority research’, to develop a new ‘genetic pest control’ approach in mice that could potentially be applied to rats in the future, in their project ‘FAST drive: a synthetic mammalian meiotic drive system for genetic biocontrol’. If successful, this work could eventually lead to step-change advances in our ability to eradicate rats at landscape scale though means both non-toxic and more humane (fertility control). For ‘capability development’, early-career researcher Emma Feenstra is receiving $248,889 for postdoctoral studies into ‘Following a dog’s nose towards Predator Free 2050′, hosted by Manaaki Whenua.
Dogs are great at sniffing out the last surviving predators in an elimination operation, but how can we quantify their efforts in a reliable way? This is essential to determine when detection dogs will play a key part in PF2050. For ‘insurance research’, Envico Technologies Limited are receiving $140,000 to better enable the use of species-selective toxins for predator control, aiming to demonstrate an alternative approach for their aerial application. If successful, this work would contribute towards reducing our reliance on aerial broad-spectrum toxin applications, for which there are some concerns about non-target impacts.
Finally, for ‘enabling elements’, Zero Invasive Predators Limited are receiving $250,000 to support measuring the carbon benefits of possum elimination and other browser management, in their project ‘Measuring the impact of invasive browser management on carbon storage in forests’. If invasive mammal management can improve carbon sequestration, such work will not only benefit biodiversity but could also help New Zealand meet its international obligations for combating climate change. “From our oversight of both the needs of PF2050 and the new science ideas coming to the fore, we can ensure that the research with the best potential for impact is funded,” says Professor Tompkins.
These new projects are joining a further 14 ongoing Research Strategy investments. More information can be found on PF2050 Limited’s Current Research Projects Current Research Projects and Capability Development webpages.
Header Image: NIWA and ZIP team members measuring atmospheric CO2 in the field. Note this is a portable instrument that was used to demonstrate the technique, rather than the more permanent instruments that will soon have set up.