AVPC Panel Discussion: Future technologies in pest animal management

Thursday May 4th from 3:30pm in the Conference Theatre, Hotel Realm

In Australia, more than 80 introduced vertebrate pest species have established populations causing major impacts to our environment and agricultural industries. Australia is not alone in its battle against managing the impacts of pest animals and along with many other countries around the world, is looking at new, innovative, effective and humane control tools.

While traditional methods such as trapping, shooting, and poison baiting are still commonly used, there are many new advancements in the pest animal management field – however some are more controversial than others!

This panel discussion will focus on what the future might have in store for pest animal management including new biocontrol and gene technologies. While Australia has a good track record of managing pest animal populations, the battle is not over and management is an ongoing fight.

So in 2017 and beyond, with new and innovative technologies potentially revolutionising the sector, will they become a reality? Or would many be opposed to them due to ethical or welfare concerns and thus lack community and government support to roll them out. Moreover, will they be practical to be rolled out on the ground by land managers and biosecurity officers? How much will it cost, how many people will it involve and what institutional impediments may arise?

To finish off three full days at the 17th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference, we invite all delegates to join an expert and diverse panel as they discuss this big idea about the future technologies in pest animal management and implications for Australia’s environment and agricultural industry.


Paul Barclay – Host and Producer, Big Ideas, ABC Radio National

Paul Barclay is a Walkley Award winning journalist and broadcaster with an appetite for ideas and in-depth analysis and discussion. Paul has produced countless stories over more than twenty years for an array of programs on virtually all ABC radio networks.  From time to time you will see him appearing on ABC TV. He currently hosts and produces the Big Ideas program on  ABC RN.


Dr Edy MacDonald – Manager, Social Science Department of Conservation – Te Papa Atawhai 

 Dr Edy MacDonald manages the social science team at New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. Edy has a strong background in psychology with an emphasis on learning and behavior change. She is leading a multi-agency team in a National Science Challenge funded project to explore New Zealander’s perception and acceptance of novel pest control technologies. Other projects include increasing forest users cleaning their boots to prevent the spread of kauri dieback, keeping dogs on leads, bringing cats in at night, and understanding NZ families and their connection to nature.

Dr Mark Tizard – Project Leader and Senior Research Scientist, Genome Engineering, Health & Biosecurity, CSIRO 

Mark began his career in the UK in the early days of gene cloning as part of the team that was first to identify and produce the malaria merozoite major surface antigen for vaccine studies. He came to Australia to work with the CSIRO following the impact of postdoctoral work in mycobacterial research with relevance to Australia (in Johne’s disease) in which he identified, characterized and developed a unique marker for the disease causing agent. Changes in CSIRO gave him the opportunity to explore the emerging field of RNA interference and microRNA biology. His group was the first to catalogue the microRNA repertoire of the chicken, a model system in which he later developed a novel approach for RNAi delivery by minimal transgene. This involved developing and applying tools from another emerging field – gene editing. Improvements in these techniques from his lab have led to very efficient methods to edit the chicken genome, one spin off of which is a new method to remove males from the egg-layer industry without having to hatch and cull day-old chicks (the current practice) – though it is yet to go into industry practice. With the advent of CRISPR/Cas9 technology the ease of applying gene editing in poultry lead Mark to broaden his horizons and to take a look at how these techniques might be applied in the genetic control of vertebrate pests. His current interests are in gene editing in the cane toad and exploring the possibilities of the new gene drive technology for fish and rodent pests.

Dr Bidda Jones – Chief Science and Strategy Officer, RSPCA Australia 

Bidda Jones joined RSPCA Australia as its first national scientist in 1996 after moving to Australia from the UK. She now heads the organisation’s science and policy team, providing evidence-based animal welfare advice to government, industry and the public, and is also responsible for campaign strategy. Bidda has an honours degree in zoology and a PhD in animal behaviour. She has represented the RSPCA on numerous national committees relating to animal welfare and has been actively working to improve the humaneness of pest and native animal management in Australia for many years. Bidda has been an honorary associate of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney since 2000.

Dr Karl Campbell – Program Director, Island Conservation, Galapagos 

Karl has a PhD from the University of Queensland. As part of his doctoral work, he developed advanced Judas goat methods involving sterilization, pregnancy termination and hormone therapy, which he applied to increase the effectiveness of Judas goats in large scale campaigns he was managing in the Galapagos Islands. Karl has worked for 19 years on some of the world’s largest and most complex eradication campaigns of invasive mammals, preventing the extinction of hundreds of species. His role typically involves identifying sites and partners, detailing a strategy, plan and budget, fundraising, managing field operations and refining strategies as required. In projects he’s been involved with, new techniques or refinements to existing techniques have been made in aerial hunting, dog training, toxic baiting, trapping, Judas animals, detection probability tools, and the use of GPS, GIS and digital data collection and management technologies. Scalability and cost effectiveness are two key philosophies that he takes to each project. In 2011, Karl initiated Island Conservation’s Innovation Program and leads Island Conservation’s involvement in the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents program which seeks to develop safe gene drive technologies for use in eradicating invasive rodents. He has worked on island restoration projects in over a dozen countries and has published over 50 scientific and popular articles.