Dingo research wins top science prize

By Wes Judd 7 November 2013
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An AG-supported study of the importance of dingoes has been awarded a Eureka prize.

An Australian Geographic supported study into the importance of dingoes has won the Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

AN AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC SPONSORED study which revealed the dingo’s vital role in Australian ecosystems has been awarded this year’s Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

Through this research, a team of Australian professors demonstrated the environmental significance of the dingo, a species at the centre of much debate in Australia. The findings suggest that dingoes aid in the survival of vulnerable species such as bilbies and hopping mice, by suppressing populations of introduced predators and large herbivores.

Dingo’s reputation on the rise

Nicknamed Team Dingo, the scientists included Chris Johnson of the University of Tasmania, Dr Michael Letnic of the University of New South Wales, Dr Arian Wallach of James Cook University in Queensland, Adam O’Neill of Evelyn Downs Station in South Australia, and Dr Euan Ritchie of Deakin University in Victoria.

“Though sometimes miscast as vermin, our research shows that dingoes are key elements in the struggle to reduce damage caused by foxes, feral cats and even kanagroos,” writes Euan on his blog.

“Ecosystems with dingoes have better vegetation and more diverse and abundant populations of small native mammals. In fact, a good dose of our native dog can sustain biodiversity and help land managers control invasive species.”

Something akin to the Academy Awards of science in Australia, the annual Eureka Prizes are presented by the Australian Museum in conjunction with the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. The awards honour excellence in the fields of research and innovation; leadership and commercialisation; science journalism and communication; and school science.

Text by Wes Judd.

See a gallery of the best science photography awarded for 2013