Issue 7
Monday, 02 September 2019
Charles Darwin University
E-news
PhD candidate Ellen Ryan-Colton
PhD candidate Ellen Ryan-Colton

CDU scientist joins ‘alien species’ project

By Patrick Nelson

The detrimental effects of a weed likened by some as a “botanical cane toad” may be destined for greater exposure following the appointment of a Charles Darwin University researcher to a global science and policy group.   

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods PhD candidate and ecologist Ellen Ryan-Colton said her appointment as a fellow to the United Nations sponsored Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) may provide opportunities to elevate awareness of the impact of buffel grass to an international level.

Ms Ryan-Colton, who has been researching the cultural and environmental effects of the introduced buffel grass in the APY Lands of northern South Australia, said she would participate in IPBES’s global “assessment on invasive alien species and control”.

“The IPBES has already done major assessments on pollination and on land degradation and the next theme is invasive alien species, which has been a driver of significant biodiversity loss,” Ms Ryan-Colton said.

“About 70 scientists, academics and experts will be involved. I’ve been assigned to work on the chapter relating to the impact of invasive species, which will involve literature searches, drafting sections of the report and collaborating with others.

“There may be scope to include case studies. The panel expressed interest in my experience working with Aboriginal people as they consider that social and cultural impacts of invasive species are very important yet not well known. 

“I expect to learn a lot about what is happening with invasive plants and animals and their management around the world, and hopefully get an opportunity to raise awareness at an international level of the weed issues in Central Australia.”

Ms Ryan-Colton said the fellowship program allowed early-career scientists an opportunity to be mentored by leading experts as part of a capacity-building exercise.

“It will take about four years to progress through the drafting, review and stakeholder engagement stages.

“A summary will be presented to heads of government departments around the world with the expectation that our findings will inform better policy for long-term human well-being, conserving our environment and sustainable development.”