Birds, brigalow, buffel and bovines: Brodie Crouch wins AW Howard Memorial Trust scholarship

CBCS Honours student Brodie Crouch has been awarded an AW Howard Memorial Trust scholarship. He takes up the story.

The splash of a platypus diving in our farm dam, red-backed, variegated and superb fairy-wrens flitting between leaves, and the honking call of white-bellied sea eagles; these are the scenes of my childhood spent growing up on a dairy farm an hour and half north of Brisbane. It has inspired me to look for solutions to reconcile the biodiversity crisis with increased food production, by improving biodiversity outcomes on agricultural land at minimal cost to production.

My Honours project is investigating how we can achieve this on grazing properties in the Brigalow Belt Bioregion. This is an area that has been rapidly developed for agricultural production, which has established and continued to support rural communities who produce high-quality food products, but at a cost to the region’s biodiversity. Throughout the Brigalow Belt, a recurring landscape feature is linear strips of woody vegetation, retained along fence lines and throughout paddocks – a way for land managers to retain native vegetation on their properties.

Value to pasture – and biodiversity

Earlier in the year, I was honoured to be awarded an AW Howard Memorial Trust scholarship, which will allow me to conduct fieldwork in the Morven, Augathella and Mungallala regions. The scholarship is awarded to students whose projects facilitate pasture research, so I am aiming to get an idea of not only the habitat value of these strips to woodland-dependent bird communities, but also what costs and benefits they provide from a pasture productivity perspective.

Some evidence shows that retaining the strips of trees in grazing pastures has beneficial effects on pasture growth. So, there may be potential to improve biodiversity on grazing properties at a minimal cost to, or maybe even to the benefit of, agricultural productivity.

I’m very lucky to be working with an awesome supervisory team from both The University of Queensland and the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. This is the dream research project for me, so I’m super-excited to get into the fieldwork component!. I headed out for my first round of bird and pasture surveys this winter, so stay tuned!


Teaser image: Brodie Crouch

Above image: Sunrise through a brigalow strip. Photo: Brodie Crouch

Project members

Brodie Crouch

Honours student
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences