The results of the Feather Map of Australia Project have overwhelmingly shown that the importance of the Murray Darling Basin to Australia’s water birds.  The study has revealed the high percentage of water birds that use this basin.

The reliance of Australia’s water birds upon the Murray Darling Basin wetlands reinforced the importance of properly managing this water resource into the future. 

The Murray Darling Basin received the largest number of feather samples from our citizen scientists, with 409 feather samples received, from 26 different species.

Across Australia, birds were found to travel long distances across the country and many species are very mobile moving between basins, most likely in search of good habitat because of its variability over time and across the landscape.

While the Murray Darling Basin was found to be an important area from which birds disperse, it is critical to ensure that the rest of Australia’s wetlands are protected as it is these wetlands that the water birds go to when they leave the Murray Darling Basin.

Although gaining an understanding of individual wetlands was not ultimately possible, we have been able to gain an understanding of the movement of birds between all of Australia’s major water basins.

 

Benefits of the project going forward
The Feather Map of Australia has resulted in the largest loose feather collection in Australia including samples from more than 50 species of birds.

These feathers are a unique resource for researchers and research organisations across Australia and even internationally.

Already the feathers and related research techniques have been used for the following studies:

  • International Glossy Ibis Genetics Project - Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) are a cosmopolitan species, with populations in Europe, America, South America, Africa and Australia. This research aims to investigate how related all these populations are. The Glossy Ibis feathers submitted as part the Feather Map have been sent to Spain to be included in this world-wide study.
  • Australian White Ibis Genetics study - Kaytlyn Davis, a Masters student at Macquarie University, has used feathers from Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) looking at the relatedness of inland populations with urban, coastal populations. 
  • Connectedness between waterbirds and hydrology- Jiangou Li, a PhD student at the University of Technology, will be undertaking further analysis the Feather Map feathers to Study heavy metals and other potential toxins. 
  • Analytical methods developed as part of the Feather Map of Australia Project are now also being used more widely and applied to other conservation problems such as the illegal wildlife trade.
     

We thank all of the citizen scientists from across the country who collected and sent in feathers in order for this invaluable research resource to be created.