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A research hub of the future?

Published 16 Jun 2016 

Hamelin Station Reserve is already a hive of research activity. Its location and unique ecological values have put it on the scientific map. But this is just the beginning.

Malle trees and spinifex. Photo by Cineport Media.At Hamelin, it’s not unusual to find one or other of the nation’s leading conservationists hard at work to unlock the secrets of this unique property.

Bush Heritage Ecologists Vanessa Westcott and Ben Parkhurst are in the dry Hamelin landscape, studying the state of Hamelin’s flora and fauna. Science Fellow Dr Erica Suosaari leads students from Perth’s Curtin University and the University of Florida around Hamelin Pool, examining ground water and its impact on stromatolite formation. Healthy Landscape Manager Greg Suosaari is charting the property’s water points and working on the best ways to minimise the impacts of feral herbivores that remain on the property. Hamelin is already the focus of intense scientific work. But this is just the beginning.

Tamal Rose. Photo by Marie Lochman.Early planning is underway to establish Hamelin as a hub for the science community and an example of sophisticated and creative community engagement. It is planned that Hamelin Station and the immediate surrounds will become an invaluable learning hub for the next generation of scientists, land management practitioners, and everyday Australians who care about science and conservation.

The property is equipped with a quality accommodation facility that could support scientists, students, volunteers and other research partners. With careful planning and management, such experts would be able to base themselves at Hamelin and collaborate on projects that support critical ecological and conservation research.

Ultimately we want to create a place where Traditional Owners, conservationists and governments can come together, to learn how to manage this land – and to celebrate our success.

Curtin University student Danielle Peoples writes observations in her notebook.It’s Executive Manager Luke Bayley’s vision to establish Hamelin as a research and science hub that serves two important purposes: helping researchers understand the rare ecosystems of Hamelin Pool and Shark Bay, and demonstrating and fostering research into management practices that will regenerate and sustain Australia’s rangeland country. Hamelin would also offer an opportunity to engage the community in this important work.

“We want to demonstrate and share the management practices, techniques and monitoring regimes that we and others have developed that enable us to look after outback environments,” says Luke.

“This type of knowledge sharing will be invaluable, offering important insights and building momentum that should have far-reaching benefits to land regeneration and management efforts across Australia.”

Spinifex Hopping Mouse. Photo by Jiri Lochman.Careful planning will be required, and strategic partnerships will be needed to make the vision possible. Discussions are already underway with Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife, which manages the adjacent Shark Bay World Heritage Area, and we see opportunities to work together to share the unique ecology of this landscape with Australian and international visitors.

“There’s potential to partner with national and international universities and research organisations that could be involved in developing Hamelin as a hub for the scientific community. There is a long way to go, but the early planning is definitely underway.”

Working in Hamelin’s favour is its proximity to the World Heritage Area, making it a natural destination point for researchers and travellers alike.

“We’re on the doorstep of the World Heritage Area, which attracts a huge number of people from around the world and across Australia each year,” Luke says. “They actually drive through Hamelin to get there, so there’s an opportunity for us to reach out to those people and talk about the work Bush Heritage is doing and the ecology of the region and get them excited and involved in what we are doing. We are thinking big and at this point the sky’s the limit.”

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