UQ CIEF Grant awarded to the Performance Lab

- by Robbie Wilson

Last week I travelled back to Groote Eylandt to sign off on a collaborative research project with the Anindilyakwa Land Council worth $375,000 over the next two years. This supports an important project and recognizes our strengthening relationship with the people of Groote Eylandt with whom we've been working for the last five years. 

Indigenous dugong painting on Groote Eylandt

Indigenous dugong painting on Groote Eylandt

For our UQ-CIEF grant we'll be exploring the possible toxic effects of manganese from the local mining operations on the wildlife of Groote Eylandt. Groote hosts one of the world’s largest Mn mines - and despite considerable financials rewards for the local community, many locals are becoming increasingly concerned about the long-term impacts of Mn contamination for their environment. The toxic effects of Mn usually manifest in animals by affecting their cognitive and motor function, which places our research group in a unique position to tackle this research.

We'll examine the pattern of Mn accumulation in the local wildlife and then test whether any increased Mn affects motor function in our primary study animal, the northern quoll. This species offers a perfect model system because it is highly abundant across the island – both close and far from the mining operations – and we can easily adapt tests of motor control from protocols used in biomedical studies of rats and mice.

Groote Eylandt field work

Ami (PhD student) and Skye (Researcher) will be the main team members working on this project but, as always, everyone in the lab will contribute to the smooth running of the work. There is never a shortage of volunteers offering help!! We’re all excited about continuing our work with the Indigenous Rangers of Groote Eylandt and we hope they get as much out of our collaboration as we all do. My feeling is that you haven’t graduated as an Australian ecologist (or zoologist) until you’ve wandered through the bush with a real local and seen the land through their eyes. 

Thanks again to the Anindilyakwan people for their on-going trust and acceptance of our research team. We look forward to the season ahead.


I spent a late afternoon wandering rocky landscapes and avoiding crocodiles