Stonefly research to take off

State Government grant boosts La Trobe research into stonefly populations at Mt Buller, Mt Stirling and Falls Creek.

It may be small in stature but the alpine stonefly packs a punch as both a threatened and beautiful insect in the high plains ecosystem, a vital role highlighted by a $105, 000 state government grant secured by the Murray-Darling Freshwater Centre at La Trobe University.

The project, titled Saving the threatened Alpine and Mount Stirling stoneflies, will be run through the research centre by Julia Mynott and Chris Davey, and will link with Mt Buller-Mt Stirling Resort Management, Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Falls Creek Management.

The endemic stonefly genus Thaumatoperla is iconic and unique to the Victorian alpine area and one of the top predators in alpine streams. Two of the species T.alpina (Bogong High Plains) and T. flaveola (Mt Buller-Mt Stirling) are listed on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the T.alpina is also listed as endangered and on the EPBC Act 1999.

The grant is part of the $3 million Critical Action and Strategic Partnership which provides environmental agencies and organisations, as experts in threatened species management, to undertake work that reduces threats and secures important sites for threatened species.

Ms Mynott said it was wonderful news the research centre had been successful in the competitive application process and she was excited to take up her role, which will include field work to assess the distribution of the adult species.

"Stoneflies are an aquatic insect that are important for biological monitoring due to their sensitivity to water quality," she said.

"They are particularly important in alpine systems as they are one of the top predators in these systems. They emerge as adults between January and April to reproduce after having lived in the streams for up to two years.

"The purpose of this project is to reassess the populations that have been recorded for the listed Thaumatoperla species. The highest priority for both of these species is to develop an understanding of their genetic variability within the species, the ability to disperse between populations and identifying the specific threats to the species and also to individual populations."

Last week La Trobe was rated among Victoria's top three universities in the Government Excellence in Research (ERA) for Australia survey. In the survey, La Trobe received top-ranking 'well above world standard' research excellence rank in twenty-two diverse disciplines including Nursing, Medical and Health Science, Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Statistics, Neurosciences, Ecology, Plant Biology, Zoology and Physiology.


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Jessica Watt, Community Engagement Officer

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Julia Mynott

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