International award for echidna researcher

Dr Peggy Rismiller observing a short-beaked echidna on Kangaroo Island.

Dr Peggy Rismiller observing a short-beaked echidna on Kangaroo Island.
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Tuesday, 5 November 2002

A UNIVERSITY of Adelaide researcher has won an international award for her work into two ancient Australian animal species - echidnas and goannas - and how they have survived major climatic changes.

Dr Peggy Rismiller, a Visiting Research Fellow with the Department of Anatomical Sciences, won the second International £6000 Aviva Insurance/Earthwatch Award for Climate Change Research. She was presented with her award recently at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Dr Rismiller, who is also principal investigator for the Earthwatch Institute Echidnas and Goannas of Kangaroo Island project, has been studying echidnas for 14 years.

These unique creatures are among the world's strangest: they lay eggs like reptiles, but protect their young in marsupial-like pouches; they also appear to slow their heartbeat and breathing at will.

They also belong to the oldest mammal group, which has survived 120 million years of global upheaval with very little evolutionary change.

"Echidnas are very adaptable, and along with goannas, are key indicators of the health of Australian ecosystems," Dr Rismiller said.

"I have been monitoring the activities of these two species in near- pristine habitats, and in areas subjected to extensive land clearing. Removing vegetation changes the climate in the immediate area and also contributes to overall climate change in a much larger area, which has huge implications for humans and wildlife.

"I've been researching how, by re-establishing habitats, we can encourage essential shelter and food for wildlife and at the same time yield positive results for the overall climate of an entire area."

Dr Rismiller will use the grant to purchase equipment such as geophones, amplifiers and digital thermometers. Such equipment will enable her to identify, catalogue and monitor native invertebrates which are the primary food source for echidnas and goannas, and to assess climates in both altered and unaltered habitats.


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Dr Peggy Rismiller
Business: +61 8 8313 5998

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