The dingo: from sinner to saviour – wins Eureka prize

For their innoEurekavative approach to conservation, Chris Johnson (University of Tasmania), Michael Letnic (University of New South Wales), Euan Ritchie (Deakin University), Arian Wallach (James Cook University) and Adam O’Neill (Evelyn Downs Station) won this year’s NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

Dingoes are key elements in the struggle to reduce damage caused by kangaroos, foxes and feral cats. Far from being vermin, Australia’s dingoes sustain biodiversity and can help land managers control invasive species.

The research team’s work shows that dingoes control kangaroo populations and supress foxes and feral cats. As a consequence they’ve found that ecosystems with dingoes have better vegetation condition and more diverse and abundant populations of small native mammals.

“Dingoes arouse passionate feelings. This research will change attitudes and help us appreciate their ecological role,” the Director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth said.

“The dingo looks like being rehabilitated as a useful member of the Australian environment and the researchers are already putting their work into practice in the management of Evelyn Downs Station near Coober Pedy, 850km north of Adelaide,” he said.

The team found that dingoes now occupy the top predator role once filled by the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine. They have become a lynchpin of the ecosystem, important to the health of other animals and plants.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of research and innovation, leadership and commercialisation, science journalism and communication, and school science. This year the 17 sponsored prizes include awards for agriculture, defence, infectious diseases and innovative use of technology.

There’s a short video made by Chris about his team’s work here.
Further information about the prizes is found here.