Dung beetle in spotlight

07 Apr, 2015 02:00 PM
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Dr Jean Drayton and the subject of her research, the dung beetle.
“Dung burial by dung beetles provides a multimillion dollar ecosystem service to the dairy industry.
Dr Jean Drayton and the subject of her research, the dung beetle.

JEAN Drayton, from the University of New England in New South Wales, was the recipient of the Dairy Australia Award announced at the 2015 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Canberra last month.

Dr Drayton, who holds a PhD in insect behavioural ecology from the Australian National University, will use the $22,000 award to research the impact of climate change on dung burial by dung beetles.

Dr Drayton said that while the benefits of dung burial by dung beetles to the Australian dairy industry are well known, there is very little information about the impact that climate change may have on this important ecosystem service.

The grant will help quantify the impact of a warming climate on the dung burial service that dung beetles provide.

It will also offer practical management solutions to address any reductions in dung burial that may arise with climate change, thereby helping to sustain this multi-million dollar ecosystem service into the future.

“Dung burial by dung beetles provides a multimillion dollar ecosystem service to the Australian dairy industry by accelerating dung decomposition,” Dr Drayton said.

“Dung beetles remove dung from pastures, enhance nutrient cycling, increase water penetration and soil aeration, destroy the breeding sites of fly pests, reduce the free living stages of gastro-intestinal parasites of livestock and increase carbon storage in soils.

“While there isn’t a monetary figure available for the Australian dairy industry, dung beetles are estimated to save the US cattle industry US$454 million each year.

“I would like to work closely with the dairy industry to make the project relevant to Australian dairyfarmers, communicate the results to farmers and help implement the findings to improve farm ecology in the future.”

Dairy Australia manufacturing capability and innovation program manager Dr Mani Iyer said that the award grant helped to propel talented young scientists into dairy industry careers.

“Dairy Australia is proud to be involved with identifying young and innovative talent,” she said.

“The award is a fantastic opportunity for passionate people, like Ms Drayton, to contribute to the future of the Australian dairy industry while showcasing their talent and building their career.”

The national competitive award is popular among young scientists.

Eleven winners from across agriculture, fisheries and forestry were awarded a grant of up to $22,000 each, by the Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, to fund an innovative research project that will benefit Australia’s primary industries.

The awards encourage science, innovation and new technology in primary industries and help to advance the careers of promising young innovators and scientists through national recognition of their research ideas.

For more information on the DAFF Science and Innovation Awards visit, www.daff.gov.au/scienceawards.

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