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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

15 July 2004

Vital biodiversity research receives $1.8 million Australian Government funding


Research on the identification of sea anemones, emerald moths, fungi and algal species are among over 50 projects to receive a share in more than $1.8 million funding from the Australian Government's Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS).

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage today announced the funding for taxonomic studies on Australia's unique plants, animals and other organisms. The announcement was made at a reception for media finalists in the 2004 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes for outstanding science and science communication.

Dr Stone said the ABRS grants are awarded annually under the ABRS Participatory Program to scientists in universities, museums and herbaria, and to private researchers.

"This national grants program provides critical support for taxonomists to describe and classify little-known plants, animals and micro-organisms," Dr Stone said.

"The research focuses on the large number of species that are still very poorly known or completely undocumented."

Several projects will contribute valuable information for coastal and marine programs, including a grant of $59,000 for the Queensland Museum to describe and document new species of sea anemones.

"Less than 50% of these fascinating animals are currently known, yet they have great potential as bio-indicators for Australia's marine regions," Dr Stone said.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science will receive $20,000 for a study of microbial diversity in seabed thermal vents and oil seeps in the Timor Sea, while the University of Sydney will receive nearly $18,000 for studies on zooanthellae (microalgae) living within coral species on the Great Barrier Reef.

"This critical work on the Reef will lead to an increased understanding of coral tolerance and susceptibility to environmental stresses such as bleaching," Dr Stone said.

The University of Tasmania will use its $47,500 grant to study Emerald Moths in Australia. The moths are found in diverse habitats ranging from forests to arid areas, and may serve as surrogate indicators of vegetation change.

Dr Stone said that an important new element in the Participatory Program this year is the allocation of around $75,000 of the available funds to directly support the research and production of identification keys and electronic catalogues.

"These research tools will be extremely useful for students, environmental managers and other scientists for a wide range of ecological studies," Dr Stone said.

Dr Stone congratulated the grant recipients and said she was looking forward to seeing the results of their hard work.

"These studies are helping the Australian Government deliver on its national research priorities, and they also underpin important natural resource management programs," she said.

"With the support of the ABRS, the studies will help Australians better understand the richness and complexity of our natural assets and lay the groundwork for improved conservation strategies."

For further information on the ABRS, visit http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/

For a list of projects, visit http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/admin/grants/grants-04-05.html

Commonwealth of Australia