Professor David Lindenmayer of the Australian National University is one of our country's foremost ecologists. An outspoken conservationist, David uses his decades of experience and years of scientific studies to support his argument for a Great Forest National Park, in our state of Victoria, a move supported by Wild Melbourne, and a host of other NGO's.
With the recent release of the video advertising his proposal for the GFNP, now seems like the right time to revisit a conversation I had with him late last year.
In this first part of the interview, David discusses where he came from and what defines his science today.
David spent the first years of his life in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. When he was ten he moved to Canberra, and upon completing his schooling spent some time travelling overseas. Returning to Australia, he studied Marine Biology at James Cook University, however, he soon developed an interest for forests and began to volunteer with the CSIRO.
While doing a Master’s degree, his research focused on the Leadbeater’s Possum, and became so intensive that he had to convert his degree into a PhD. His work investigated the habitat and nesting requirements of the possum, but also looked at the animal’s associated ecosystem as a whole. It was from this initial work that David would cultivate a life-long passion for the Montane Ash forests of Victoria, and spawn a highly productive career in ecology.
“I really have a strong affinity for a lot of the animals in the system. I really enjoy catching the animals, watching the animals; I do a lot of bird-watching down there... but I also really enjoy all the discoveries and all the work as well.”
Yet, David’s work isn’t restricted to the Ash forests of our state. His team of nearly 40 people runs the largest terrestrial-research monitoring program in the world, working throughout various habitats across Victoria and interstate.
“What defines us… is large-scale, long-term research associated with the management and conservation of these ecosystems and the species in these systems… in the central highlands we have an understanding of fire, logging, of germination, tree-development, animal habitats… we’re beginning to build a major body of work around how a system functions”
His team have published some 180 papers and 7 books on the Victorian Montane Ash ecosystem and some 500 papers and 35 books across all the systems they have worked on.
But why forests?
“I’ve always enjoyed forest environments… [And] I guess it’s a lot to do with the grandeur of the system… [And] the apparent simplicity that belies the true complexity.”
David explores his passion and hopes for these forests further in Part 2 of our interview.