Latest CSIRO cuts put forestry, bushfire and ecological research at risk

Bushfire11Government budget cuts continue to wreak havoc at Australia’s premier science organisation, with internal CSIRO documents revealing that dozens of scientists specialising in ecological research are now at risk.

In formal advice provided to the Staff Association, management forecast that up to forty positions in CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences are set to go from locations around the country. There are fears that jobs in Forestry System Sciences – covering forest management and bushfire dynamics – will be particularly hard hit.

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“Areas of science that will be affected include research into bio-fuels and bio-products, forestry management, bushfire dynamics and reducing animal pests and environmental pests, just to name a few,” said Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski.

Forestry research on the block

“Concerns for the future of CSIRO’s forestry research have been raised by the Australian Forest Products Association and Victorian Senator John Madigan. And they have a right to be worried, these cuts will be extreme,” Mr Popovski said.

The cuts will hit research into the productivity and management of plantations, alternative timber applications such as bio-fuels and bio-products. The development of new resources devoted to carbon capture may also be affected, just at the time as the Government moves to embrace a climate policy based on direct action.

Threat to bushfire science

“For a country such as Australia, bushfire research is truly front line science. In the five years since the Black Saturday bushfire catastrophe in particular, CSIRO has cemented its reputation as a national specialist in fire behaviour,” Mr Popovski said.

CSIRO’s research into understanding bushfires includes detailed reconstruction, fuel modelling, research into fire suppression and recurrence and management of the Pyrotron – a bushfire wind tunnel that allows researchers to conduct controlled experiments into fire behaviour.

“Many Australians would be deeply disturbed by the idea of Government cuts forcing out CSIRO’s bushfire scientists especially at a time when many communities are starting to back-burn and making preparations ahead of the fire season,” Mr Popovski said.

Wide range of research at risk around Australia

Other areas of Ecosystem Sciences that will be reduced or cut includes research into invasive animals and vertebrate pests, ecology of environmental weeds, field based ecology in Northern Australia, fieldwork for carbon research, research capability in evolutionary genomics, geography and human ecology delivering to biodiversity and climate applications.

The job cuts will be felt from worksites capital cities to regional laboratories. CSIRO management have provided estimated losses across multiple locations but freely admit the numbers may end up higher. Canberra’s Black Mountain will lose at least twelve positions, followed by Hobart with six jobs lost at Sandy Bay and five gone from Perth’s Floreat Laboratory.

A total of eight positions will be lost across Queensland from CSIRO worksites in Townsville, Atherton, Brisbane and Cairns. Four Northern Territory jobs will be cut from Darwin and Alice Springs. Victoria will lose two positions in total from Parkville and Highett, while Adelaide will see two positions fall at the Waite Campus.

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