David Attenborough Field Research Station to help save last refuge for endangered mammals

David Attenborough Field Research Station to help save last refuge for endangered mammals
Sanctuary
Charnley River – Artesian Range
Field Programs
Science: surveys and research | Feral cat and fox control | Fire management
Wildlife
Golden-backed Tree-rat | Black Grasswren | Monjon | Northern Quoll | Wyulda

“Australia's wildlife is wonderful and unique - and much of it is now seriously endangered.  Here, in the Artesian Range, Australian Wildlife Conservancy is helping protect a range of species, including several threatened mammals, which are making their last stand in this small section of the north-west Kimberley.

 

I am truly honoured that this important field station has been given my name and wish AWC’s dedicated team of field ecologists and land managers every success in delivering science-based conservation in such a remote but important region.”

 

- Sir David Attenborough 

April 2015: WA Environment Minister, the Hon Albert Jacob MLA, today launched one of Australia’s most important scientific outposts with the opening of the David Attenborough Field Research Station in a remote section of the north-west Kimberley. The launch of this important new base for Kimberley science is reported on the front page of The Australian today: click here to read the article.

Located in the heart of the Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary, managed by Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), the David Attenborough Field Research Station is strategically positioned at the frontline in a battle to save some of Australia’s most endangered mammals from extinction. 

Unveiling Of The David Attenborough Field Research Station E Young Copyright AWC

AWC Chief Executive Atticus Fleming, Traditional Owners Joe Ash and Penny Bidd, WA Environment Minister the Hon Albert Jacob MLA and AWC Chairman Graeme Morgan.

The Field Station, surrounded by rugged sandstone ranges and deep rainforest filled gorges, lies in the heart of the only part of mainland Australia to have suffered no mammal extinctions since European settlement.   

“This small area of the north-west Kimberley is the last mainland refuge for threatened and endemic mammals such as the Golden Bandicoot, the Monjon (world’s smallest rock-wallaby) and the Golden-backed Tree-rat.  Many of these animals were formerly widespread across northern Australia but have now contracted to this narrow strip of the Kimberley because of wildfire and feral animals, especially feral cats,” said AWC Chief Executive, Atticus Fleming. 

David Attenborough Field Research Station In The Kimberley E Young Copyright AWC Copy

The David Attenborough Field Research Station is embedded deep in the Artesian Range.

AWC’s new facility will operate as a base for a small team of dedicated scientists and land managers working in a race against time to protect this extraordinary area and its threatened wildlife from the wave of extinctions that has engulfed the rest of Australia. 

The Field Station is accessible only by helicopter, meaning that all materials have been slung in by chopper as part of a carefully choreographed operation to establish a facility in harmony with its spectacular, subtropical surrounds.  

“AWC staff operating in the Artesian Range face extreme conditions including cyclones and severe heat and humidity.  This Field Station will provide a vital base from which to safely and effectively undertake some of the most important science and conservation work in the country.” 

The Research Station has been named in honour of Sir David Attenborough in recognition of his role in inspiring science-based conservation across the planet for more than 60 years.   

Joey Clarke With A Black Grasswren Copyright AWC IMG 8341

AWC Honours Graduate Joey Clarke with a Black Grasswren

Work underway in the Artesian Range is already breaking new ground:

  • The first detailed study of the endangered Golden-backed Tree-rat has been undertaken, highlighting the importance of careful fire management in the complex habitats at the Artesian Range for the survival of the species.  The Golden-backed Tree-rat was once found across a large proportion of northern Australia: in recent decades it has disappeared from over 80% of its mainland distribution (including Kakadu National Park).
  • Research has begun on the elusive Monjon, the world’s smallest rock-wallaby, a Kimberley endemic which is abundant around the Field Station.
  • Ground-breaking research on the Black Grasswren, another Kimberley endemic, has included a detailed study of the relationship between fire patterns and the bird’s ranging behaviour.  
  • The first survey to measure feral cat densities in the north-western Kimberley has been undertaken by AWC in the Artesian Range.  Feral cats are present at very low densities: no feral cats were recorded in a survey involving more than 1,000 camera trap nights.  

Golden -backed Tree -rat Release In Artesian Range - Copyright AWC 

Golden-backed Tree-rat

The David Attenborough Field Research Station was funded by donations from AWC supporters around Australia and the WA Government, through the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy. AWC thanks all of its supporters and the WA Government for making it possible to establish the David Attenborough Field Research Station. We are particularly grateful to the WA Environment Minister, the Hon Albert Jacob MLA, and the senior traditional owner for the Artesian Range, Penny Bidd, and her family for participating in the opening ceremony. 

Australian Wildlife Conservancy is the leading science-based non-government organisation in Australia. 

  • AWC manages 3 million hectares around Australia, protecting wildlife in iconic locations such as the Kimberley, the Top End, Cape York and Lake Eyre. 
  • AWC protects more wildlife species than any other non-government organisation including 83% of all bird species and 67% of all mammal species.
  • Around 80% of AWC’s staff are based in the field; 25% of AWC staff are ecologists.   AWC ecologists have published over 100 peer-reviewed papers in the last 5 years. 

Watch spectacular footage of the Artesian Range in The Land that Time Forgot (courtesy Channel 7):  see below or click here.

 

For more information:  contact Atticus Fleming (0419 693 987) or Erica Young (0448 091 757).


Additional background:

  • Construction was completed in early 2015.
  • Functionally and aesthetically, the Field Station is designed for the subtropical environment and the escarpment location in which it is built. It can accommodate around 6 researchers.
  • The Field Station includes the following features:
    • Office and laboratory benches
    • Kitchen
    • Solar power
    • Storage space for field equipment
    • L-shaped design with covered deck for outdoor living
    • 4 tent platforms form part of the facility.
    • Running water for shower and core facility.
    • Composting toilet
    • Research conducted to date by AWC in the Artesian Range:
      • Black Grasswrens
        • First capture and banding
        • First data on their use of habitat and the impact of fire
  • Golden-backed Tree-rats
    • First detailed study of movements, habitat use and diet
    • Showed importance of complex habitats for the species and the need for careful fire management to maintain such habitats
    • More individuals captured than in any other study
  • Wyulda
    • First deployment of GPS units on this species
    • First detailed study of movements and habitat use
    • More individuals captured than in any other study
  • Monjon and Wyulda taxonomy
    • DNA samples taken to help resolve taxonomy, especially important given the confusion around Kimberley small rock-wallabies
  • Golden Bandicoot pilot studies
    • Preliminary radiotracking undertaken; a hair identification database established to distinguish them from Northern Brown Bandicoots.
  • Feral cat densities:  
    • The first survey to measure feral cat densities in the north-western Kimberley has been undertaken by AWC in the Artesian Range.  Feral cats are present at very low densities: no feral cats were recorded in a survey involving more than 1,000 camera trap nights.