New Research Future On Kangaroo Island

University of Adelaide staff at the official opening of the new KI Research Facility

University of Adelaide's Associate Professor Diego Garcia-Bellido, School of Biological Sciences; Leanne Haller, School of Biological Sciences; Professor Andrew Lowe, Director, Environment Institute; Professor Bob Hill, School of Biological Sciences; Paul Smith, Infrastructure; Professor Sean Connell, School of Biological Sciences at the new Flinders-Baudin Research Centre at Kangaroo Island.

The University of Adelaide has partnered with the state government to build a state-of-the-art research facility on Kangaroo Island.

The Flinders-Baudin Research Centre forms part of the new Flinders Chase National Park Visitor Centre at Karatta, replacing the facility at Rocky River which was destroyed by bushfires in 2019.

University staff from the School of Biological Sciences were on hand to officially celebrate the opening of the centre on Friday, 5 July.

The $2 million research centre has a laboratory, administration area and bunk-style accommodation for 10 people and is a key feature in the University's long running connection with Kangaroo Island.

It is also a green facility made of bushfire-resistant timbers and has the capacity to generate and store power which includes electric vehicle charging, as well as rainwater storage.

"It's been a great pleasure to partner with the Department for Environment and Water to help with the recovery of this site," said the University of Adelaide's Professor Andrew Lowe, Director, Environment Institute.

"Facilities like this really gives us an opportunity to locate students on KI. We have 27 academics who will do their research at the facility, and with them comes numerous post-doctoral researchers and PhD students.

"We also have undergraduate students who attend the facility each year and stay for field camps, where they learn more about the natural environment and start to do their first projects as part of their courses.

"From that, perhaps they move on to a research career or move into a career with national parks where they are managing assets."

The previous facility was used for on-site teaching as well as by a diverse range of PhD students and researchers studying everything from seal to invertebrate populations, and fossils.

"I can't emphasise enough the value of the natural asset we have here," said Professor Lowe.

"Kangaroo Island is one of 15 biodiversity hotspots across the nation; if we were to go back 10,000 years the island was connected to the Fleurieu, Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas which is one of the reasons there is such high biodiversity here.

"The 2019-2020 'Black Summer' fires affected half of the island, with the tragic loss of two human lives and significant impact to both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

"These fires followed the hottest and driest years on record, in a region which is predicted to get hotter and dryer over coming decades.

"There is urgent need to understand both the history and trajectory of Kangaroo Island's unique ecosystems, as well as to develop innovative strategies for managing this environment into the future."Professor Andrew Lowe, Director, Environment Institute, The University of Adelaide.

"We have teams looking at the post-fire recovery of vegetation, birds, koalas, coastal fisheries and the environmental change and the impact of the fires as well as experts who are involved in risk assessment and management strategies and long-term modelling.

"There are also researchers focusing on Kangaroo Island's environmental history through the analysis of fossils and sediments.

"We are also looking at the future, particularly in relation to climate change and how that interacts with the likelihood of fire on the island and what can be done to help manage that.

"Through this work we can continue to help unlock the stories of Kangaroo Island, which will be then told in locations like the visitor centre."

The University has also assisted in the creation of informative panels for the centre, detailing aspects of the area's unique history and environment.

South Australian Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate, Environment and Water Dr Susan Close said the new visitor centre was a world-class visitor hub, and the research centre would be an invaluable asset.

"The new Flinders-Baudin Research Centre will provide terrific facilities so that important research into Kangaroo Island's unique ecosystems can continue and flourish," Dr Close said.

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