Environmental Compliance and Biodiversity Officer, Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited
Tell us about your organisation
Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited (CICL) is a member-owned cooperative which supplies irrigation and corporate services to our 295 members and other customers. We provide irrigation and drainage services to nearly 500 farms in the Murrumbidgee Valley in the Riverina region of New South Wales. Collectively these farms equate to around 450,000 ha of land owned by 350 businesses.
Our cooperative holds a number of water access licences with the New South Wales Government and accesses a regulated surface water supply from the Murrumbidgee River upstream of Gogeldrie Weir. We manage over 1200 km of water supply and drainage channels in the region, and help organise
and facilitate the delivery of environmental water to significant wetlands. Our irrigators grow a mixture of summer and winter irrigated crops with cotton, rice and corn being the main summer crops. I’ve been with CICL for over 25 years.
What Threatened Species Recovery Hub research have you been involved in?
CICL is a donor and partner of the Bitterns in Rice Project. The project is a joint effort between rice farmers and conservation scientists to help the strange and Endangered Australasian bittern. Each year between 500 and 1000 bitterns descend on the rice crops in Coleambally and other parts of the Riverina
to breed. This is remarkable as it is around half of Australia’s total population of the species and it is estimated that there are only 1500–4000 remaining in the world. CICL has been working with the Bitterns in Rice team to monitor bittern breeding in our area and to help develop recommendations for bittern-friendly rice farming.
Australasian bittern chicks in a rice field. Image: Matt Herring
What has been good about the collaboration?
It has definitely been an amazing learning experience and a great journey for me. I also believe it has opened many eyes in the local and wider community by highlighting the vital yet simple role that rice growers and irrigators can play in providing critically important habitat requirements on-farm for a threatened species.
What has it changed?
I’ve found this ecological research has changed the topics of discussion when I meet with local farmers these days. While the water price or water allocation are the highest priority, most will have something to say about bitterns or frogs and various other wildlife on their farm. It’s definitely a much more interesting conversation than it was 20 years ago. My involvement in the project has now given me added confidence in promoting it and I look forward to the next phase.
Top image: Mark Robb with an Australasian bittern. Image: Matt Herring
Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University discusses the importance of averting extinctions of less charismatic animals.
The 2019–20 wildfires have severely impacted animals of all major species groups. Here, national experts on mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and freshwater fish and crayfish present some of the key challenges for each group and how these will influence management and research priorities in the aftermath of the fires.
Cultural fire management is the way that Indigenous people have used fire to care for Country for thousands of years, and it continues today. The devastation wreaked by the 2019–20 bushfires across millions of hectares was a wake-up call for Australia and the world. Oliver Costello from the Firesticks Alliance explains how the fires demonstrated the need to listen to and care for Country.
Australia has one of the highest rates of plant endemism of any country globally. After the catastrophic fire season of 2019–20, Dr Rachael Gallagher and Professor David Keith are leading two teams to find out which species and ecological communities are most in need of immediate recovery.
The 2019–20 bushfires burnt over 12 million hectares of south-eastern and south-western Australia, causing abrupt losses of biodiversity at a scale never seen before. Over a billion animals were estimated to have died, but the figure is likely much higher. The Australian Government’s Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel is guiding the work of prioritising species and ecological communities for emergency interventions and determining what those actions should be. Hub Deputy Director and Expert Panel member Professor Sarah Legge takes us though the hows and whys of this prioritisation, and some of its challenges.