$1 million raised for devil research

In March the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal announced the winners in its latest round of grants and scholarships that will contribute towards research designed to combat the fatal facial tumour disease that has ravaged the species in the wild since the mid-1990s.
More than $375,000 has been awarded this round, which is funding eight grants and three scholarships. Combined with over $625,000 awarded last April, it means the community has funded research and projects totalling more than $1 million in the past 12 months.

The Appeal is administered by the University of Tasmania’s Advancement Office and has raised money for devil research since 2005. In 2009 it broadened its scope from an internal university appeal that funded a number of scholarships, to a partnership between UTAS and Tasmania’s state government.

According to UTAS’s Advancement Officer Rebecca Cuthill, it now supports a range of research and conservation programs that help to augment work already being done by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program.

“A large tranche of the money raised in the Devil Appeal supports the vaccine program currently being conducted at the Menzies Centre for Medical Research, although we support other work as well, for example monitoring how well devils are responding to translocation through the STDP Rewilding Project, and enabling a couple of wildlife parks to provide bio-secure areas to house devils,” Cuthill explained.

The Appeal relies on the fundraising efforts of individuals, community groups, schools, and a number of corporate donors, contributions that all help towards safeguarding a secure future for devils.

“This latest round of grants will fund science that explores how devils respond to translocation, that helps efforts to develop a DFTD vaccine, and that monitors immunised devils released in the wild, and much more.”

Many more grant applications are received than can be funded, and all are reviewed by a Grants Advisory Committee to ensure compliance with the guidelines and parameters that must be followed. While the majority of the successful applicants are based in Tasmania, Cuthill said there are exceptions.

“One of our grantees, Elizabeth Murchison, has been involved in devil research for a long time, and she’s based in the UK, at Cambridge. In the past we’ve supported research at Deakin University and Sydney University, so it is quite varied, but most of the research is done in Tasmania, while also relying on collaboration.”

A full list of projects funded by the appeal is available online.

ANNE LAYTON-BENNETT

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