UNE researcher receives national award for research into climate effects on the dung beetles

Published 09 March 2015

A University of New England researcher has been recognised for her research into dung beetles at the 2015 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Canberra this week.

Dr Jean Drayton from UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science received the $22,000 Dairy Australia Award which will go towards research into the impact climate change could have on dung burial by dung beetles to the Australian dairy industry.

Dr Drayton said that while the benefits to the Australian dairy industry on dung beetle dung decomposition are well known, there is very little information on the impact climate change may play on this important service. The grant will help quantify the impact climate change may have on the dung burial service dung beetles provide and also offer practical solutions to address any reductions in dung burial that may arise from global warming.

“Dung burial by dung beetles provides a multi-million dollar ecosystem service to the Australian dairy industry by accelerating dung decomposition. 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 dairy industry US$454 million each year.

“Once I have completed the research I would like to work closely with the dairy industry to communicate the results to farmers and help implement the findings to improve dung burials by dung beetles in the future,” Dr Drayton said.

UNE Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Heiko Daniel strongly congratulated Dr Drayton on receiving a 2015 Science and Innovation Award.

“Dr Drayton was recently awarded a UNE Postdoctoral Fellowship, and this achievement signifies the outstanding nature of the postdoctoral fellows that this program has attracted to the university,” Professor Daniel said.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr Drayton on this achievement, and wish her the best in her continued research.”

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.