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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

17 June 2005

$1.8 million for vital biodiversity research


Research on sea sponges, frogs, seaweed and spider orchids are among 57 projects to share $1.8 million in funding from the Australian Government, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Greg Hunt announced today.

"Australia is home to two million species of plants and animals, with 80 per cent found nowhere else in the world," Mr Hunt said.

"If we're to conserve our rich biodiversity, it is vital that we build our scientific knowledge. This national grants program provides critical support for taxonomists to describe and classify little known plants, animals and micro-organisms. This work is also fundamental to the use of plants and animals in medicines and vaccines."

The funding is made through the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), an Australian Government research agency which leads the world in providing species information for biodiversity management. The grants are awarded annually under the ABRS Participatory Program to private researchers and to scientists in universities, museums and herbaria.

"The research we're funding focuses on the large number of species that are still very poorly known or completely undocumented," Mr Hunt said.

Several projects will contribute valuable information for coastal and marine programs, including a grant of $55,000 for the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to describe and document new species of sea sponges.

"Less than 40 per cent of the estimated 800 species of northern Australian sponges are currently known, yet there's an urgent need for accurate identification to protect Australia from exotic invasive species and for potential pharmacological use in anti-viral and anti-tumour agents," Mr Hunt said.

The Murdoch University of Western Australia will receive $35,000 to produce an interactive identification key for Australian seaweed.

"This will be of great value in ecological research, and also in monitoring and quarantine procedures to protect Australia from invasive seaweed species," Mr Hunt said.

A further $31,000 will go to the University of Adelaide to conduct new studies on frogs that are further threatened by disease and climate change.

The Victoria University will use it $20,000 grant to combine molecular and genetic methods to study spider orchids, many of which are threatened with extinction.

For a full list of the ABRS grants, visit www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/whats-new

Media enquiries:
Fiona Murphy (Mr Hunt's office) 0423 577 045

Commonwealth of Australia