UNE in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Local Land Services will invest more than $30 million over five years into wide-ranging feral cat research, exploring ways to manage the pest responsible for the loss of nearly a billion native animals each year.
The project was announced on Sunday and its objectives are development of e-technologies, assessment of new and refined management options and empowerment of land managers.
It's a partnership that builds on the already close ties between UNE researchers and NSW Government land management agencies, which have collaborated for years on various pest animal management strategies, and the project will be led by UNE's Dr Guy Ballard.
"Inevitably, the knowledge we develop during this project will feed back to support integrated predator management across species like wild dogs and foxes too," he said.
"Our focus might be feral cats, but this is an investment in the management of pest animals and native fauna across all our public and private lands."
UNE's Deputy Vice-Chancellor - Research, Professor Heiko Daniel, said UNE had many years of proven research performance in this area.
"This project will draw on that experience, and enhance our scientist's capability to contribute to future solutions." he said.
"UNE has built leading capability across the environmental sciences and other disciplines to focus on the challenge of invasive species,"
Dr Ballard said two computational science post-doctoral research fellows will be funded to further refine these technologies for feral cat applications.
"The goal is to finish the project with effective tools and strategies for taking feral cat predation pressure off native fauna, and reducing their potential to be a disease vector," he said.
Feral cats are highly destructive to Australia's biodiversity, and are vectors for damaging diseases. Across Australia, feral cats kill an estimated one billion mammals, 596 million reptiles and 316 million birds per year.
They are also a host for the parasites Sarcocystis, which impacts the sheep industry, and Toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasmosis) which infects about a third of humans worldwide.