Future Leaders: Arid Recovery

Learning in a living laboratory

Impact in brief

Each year, Arid Recovery gives three to four interns the opportunity to gain practical skills by working in a living laboratory in Australia’s arid north. In sharing the team’s commitment to the next generation of conservation leaders, the Rendere Trust co-funds this innovative program.

Established by leading arid zone ecologists, Dr Katherine Moseby and Dr John Read in South Australia’s arid north, Arid Recovery is dedicated to protecting vulnerable species from feral predators, primarily via the construction of an innovative ‘floppy-top’ fence.

The team also run a world-leading conservation science program that brings researchers, collaborators and volunteers together to work in a living laboratory.

Arid Recovery’s success, which has so far seen five threatened native species returned to the wild, is underpinned by an intern program that not attracts a steady stream of young researchers but builds the strength of the sector overall, with many graduates going on to secure prominent positions in leading environmental organisations.

In sharing Arid Recovery’s commitment to the next generation of environmental leaders, the Rendere Trust co-funds the intern program with the Upotipotpon Foundation.

Organisational background

Alarmed by the fact that 34 native mammal species had become extinct in Australia’s arid north since colonisation, in 1997 Dr Katherine Moseby and Dr John Read brought representatives from the resource, government and university sectors together with the local community to lobby for the creation of a fenced reserve.

With seed funding, the team began by constructing a 14km² fenced reserve, eradicating rabbits, cats and foxes within this area. Today the reserve, which covers 123 km2, providing protection for dozens of species including bilbies, Shark Bay bandicoots and plains mice, is supported by BHP Olympic Dam, the Department for Environment and Water, the University of Adelaide and Bush Heritage.

Arid Recovery also undertakes ecosystem research and restoration and offers visitors the chance to get close to rare and endangered native species such as the burrowing bettong.

The Rendere Trust has been providing ongoing support and strategic advice to the leadership team for several years and also co-funding the intern program. The Trust is also proud to support Team Kowari  – established by a former Arid Recovery intern to protect this tiny marsupial carnivore.

“Our commitment to Arid Recovery is about building team strength and sustainability. A key part of that is ensuring that the team is in a position to attract next-generation researchers via the intern program. It’s about practical science and connecting with communities in the arid centre.”

– Jim Phillipson, Rendere Trust Strategic Director

Photo with thanks to Toni Fish via Flickr.

“My big thanks for [Rendere’s] ongoing support of our intern program at Arid Recovery. The value that you [Jim Phillipson] bring goes beyond financial support. I appreciate our conversations, the brainstorming to develop ideas and the check-ins on what’s happening around the conservation sector.

“We’re looking at a big year ahead for 2022 as we make major improvements to the fence and prepare to reintroduce Kowaris. We are also ramping up our research into climate change adaptation for arid ecosystems and safe havens. The next crop of interns will be right in the thick of all of that.”

– Dr Katherine Tuft, Arid Recovery General Manager