I have been to too many funerals – especially recently – and at times things are said about a deceased person that might be considered a little stretch
of the truth. Not so with Dave Blair, who sadly died in a tragic skiing accident in September 2019. Dave Blair was a valuable member of the National
Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub who worked extensively in the wet ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria.
He worked tirelessly in these forests for more than a decade.
David measuring a large old hollow-bearing tree in the Central Highlands of Victoria. Image: David Blair
One of my friends has on his email signature block “What will you do with your one precious life?” Well, Dave Blair did an enormous amount with his precious life. As Dave’s extraordinary partner Sera Blair said, “He wasn’t one to waste his life sitting on the couch watching Netflix”. This was reflected in the fact that Dave Blair was a terrific father and a wonderful family person; he loved his football, his climbing, his hiking, his camping. He was also an amazing photographer, an outstanding botanist, and a dedicated conservationist who loved forests. Dave Blair trained in forestry and then, just a few months ago, was awarded his PhD for a series of excellent studies of the impacts of disturbance on plants.
There was enormous respect for Dave Blair from so many people, even those with opposing views on forests (and there were a few of them). This was because he was a person of integrity, detail and reasoned argument. Indeed, Dave Blair was passionate about forests and he would have wanted for his legacy of hard and meticulous work on plants and vegetation to continue. The Australian National University and the Victorian Government have now ensured that this will happen. ANU has opened a post-doctoral fund for Dave Blair with the person filling the position responsible for focusing on writing up the meticulously collected vegetation datasets that he had collected.
At the same time, the Victorian Government has provided funding for the next five years to ensure ongoing field data collection at ANU long-term sites in the wet forests of Victoria.
David a long-term monitoring site prior to leading a possum watch for arboreal marsupials. Image: Tabitha Boyer
So, despite our sadness, the world is still a beautiful place – the forests nearby in which Dave Blair worked nearly every day are a testament to this. Just as the world is still a beautiful place, it also has many good people in it – and Dave Blair was undoubtedly one of the best of those. Thank you to Dave Blair for the truly colossal contribution he made to the world in so many ways!
David Blair’s life was also recognised in Parliament on 10 September 2019 by Senator Rice from Victoria: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Hansard_Display?bid=chamber/hansards/fa4eb7cb-4d6f-4c8d-9f9d-61609bc1003a/&sid=0200
ANU Node, Threatened Species Recovery Hub
Top image: David Blair hiking in Central Tasmania. Image: Sam Banks
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.
In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team is working closely with Parks Australia to help secure a future for the two lizards beyond captivity.
The silver-headed antechinus and black-tailed dusky antechinus are carnivorous marsupials found in high-elevation forests in parts of central-eastern and south-eastern Queensland. They were only described in the past six years, but they are already listed as Endangered. Knowing where they occur is essential for effective conservation, but current distribution knowledge is patchy. To address this, PhD candidate Stephane Batista in partnership with the Queensland Herbarium and Queensland Department of Environment and Science is modelling the habitat where these threatened species are likely to occur, and is using detection dogs to rapidly survey these sites.