Predator Free 2050 Limited supporting breakthrough science for predator eradication

March 30, 2022 5:00 am

Predator Free 2050 Limited (PF2050 Ltd) today announced it is investing $6.7 million into research projects aiming to enable the Predator Free 2050 mission to eradicate invasive rats, stoats and possums from the whole of New Zealand, to help reverse the decline in our native biodiversity.

PF2050 Ltd Science Director Professor Dan Tompkins said the funding is starting to tackle some of the biggest hurdles that need overcoming for mission success.

“When we look at our current approaches for predator management, and what these can achieve both now and likely in the future, we see some capability gaps. Most critical is the need for new approaches for predator eradication at greater scale in New Zealand’s backcountry,” Prof Tompkins said.

“This latest round of funding focusses on advancing breakthrough science solutions that could really help, and we’re excited to see the opportunities that these initial steps will open up. We are supporting teams researching rat genetic control, stoat breeding, predator fertility control, predator detection and autonomous robotics, while continuing to drive the scaling-up of eradication with the technologies that we already have”.

Funding from Vote Conservation and the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme is being provided over 2.5 years for:

  • ‘Tactical genetic control of rats’ ($2.25m): a multi-agency project coordinated by the Genomics Aotearoa collaborative research platform, investigating whether recent overseas advances in producing mice of only one sex can be adapted for new potential approaches for rat eradication.
  • ‘Can we turn stoat breeding off?’ ’ ($200k): co-funding a Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden project at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, exploring the stoat genome to understand their breeding genetics, and whether mechanisms identified could be used for control.
  • ‘Sterilization of pests for conservation’’ ($325k): co-funding an MBIE Smart Ideas project at the University of Otago, developing a new oral bait application for the permanent sterilization of mammalian pests, for non-toxin population control with no impact on native species.
  • ‘Predator monitoring using eDNA’’ ($200k): co-funding an MBIE Smart Ideas project at the University of Otago, testing and developing the detection of mammalian pest DNA in water as a new cost-effective, efficient, sensitive, and reliable approach for surveying their populations.
  • ‘Detecting the last predator’’ ($1.2m): co-funding a Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge project, developing a dynamic, learning network of mobile rechargeable robotic and sensor modules to detect ‘the last predator’ in forest environments.
  • ‘Embedded R&D’’ ($2.5m): carried out by Zero Invasive Predators to integrate the cutting edge tools that are becoming available now, such as thermal cameras with onboard A.I. ‘image recognition’ and ‘swarm satellite’ communications, to scale eradication up to 40,000 hectares.

These six projects are supporting new skilled employment including Vision Mātauranga fellowships and enabling multiple agencies to engage in breakthrough science research for PF2050.
They join nine existing investments under the 2020-2024 Predator Free 2050 Limited Research Strategy, covering capability development, predator behaviour, carbon accounting, and possum gene-editing.

“The portfolio of research needed to make the science breakthroughs essential for Predator Free 2050 success a reality is really starting to build,” Prof Tompkins said.
PF2050 Ltd will continue to update the public with the results of the projects as they progress.

More information on PF2050 Ltd’s research projects can be found on the PF2050 Ltd’s Current Research Projects page.

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