The Australian Museum will conduct a comprehensive ecological survey of Norfolk Island, 1,700 km north-east of Sydney, over the next two years.
Working with the local community, Parks Australia, the Australian Institute of Botanical Sciences and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Australian Museum (AM) aims to learn more about the flora and fauna of Norfolk Island and increase understanding of pre-European habitat. island through archaeological excavation.
Where is Norfolk Island and why is it important?
Norfolk Island is one of Australia’s most isolated communities and one of its oldest.
Located in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, Norfolk Island is 1,412 kilometers east of Evans Head in New South Wales. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 census, the three islands together with neighboring Phillip Island and Nepean Island make up the area of Norfolk Island with a population of 2,188 with a total area of approximately 35 km2.
The first settlers on Norfolk Island were East Polynesians who migrated from Australia when Great Britain settled in 1788. The island served as a prison for convicts from 1788 to 1855, except for an 11-year break between 1814 and 1825, when it was abandoned. . In 1914, Great Britain ceded Norfolk Island to Australia to administer as an overseas territory.
The remote island boasts a diverse and abundant bird, insect, reptile and marine life. However, according to the introduction on AM’s website, many are rare and endangered species native to the island and surrounding areas.
Kim McKay, director and chief executive of the Australian Museum, said Norfolk Island had outstanding historic sites that offered a unique heritage rarely found in Australia and elsewhere in the world.
“For nearly two centuries, the Australian Museum has undertaken expeditions to document, collect and study our land and fauna, leading to major advances in our geographical knowledge,” McKay said.
“With the depth and breadth of our scientific knowledge, supported by our valuable collections, we are in a unique position to inform the future management of these sites and contribute to our understanding of the origins of Norfolk Island and how its ecosystems function in the wider global ecological environment. picture.”
AM’s Norfolk Island expedition will be divided into three stages:
- 2022: Phase 1: Terrestrial biodiversity survey and archaeological excavations.
- 2023: Phase 2: Shallow marine biodiversity survey.
- 2024: Phase 3: Deep-water marine biodiversity and oceanographic research.
The first phase began on October 24, with a combined team of more than 20 experts looking for answers to scientific questions such as whether there are undescribed species on the island and whether the elusive Gould’s bat, endemic to the island, persists. to live there.
Archaeologists will explore Norfolk Island’s pre-European history, particularly the occupation of the island by Polynesians some 150 years before European settlement.
Expedition’s Local Community Key
Professor Chris Helgen, AM’s chief scientist and director of the Australian Institute of Museum Research, said the Norfolk Island community would play a critical role in the expedition.
“Our scientists are internationally recognized as experts in their fields, but local collaboration and consultation are essential in both the planning and research phases of scientific expeditions,” Helgen said. “On a previous expedition to the Solomon Islands, our scientists learned about a rare species of rat from a tip from the residents.”
To protect a species, scientists must first know it’s there, Helgen added.
“Conservation is at the heart of our expeditions and the work we do at the Australian Museum Research Institute,” he said.
“AM’s Lord Howe Island inquiries are one such example. The scientists’ findings contributed to the improvement of a breeding program for a phasmid (stick beetle), long thought to be extinct, and provided important scientific evidence to support the eradication of the invasive black rat from the island.
Scientists from the Australian Institute of Botanical Sciences will carry out botanical surveys focusing on weeds and non-threatened flora with flowers or fruit to fill important knowledge gaps about Norfolk Island’s unique flora.
Electricity assistance to Norfolk Island
The expedition comes as the Australian government provides a temporary subsidy to Norfolk Island to offset the impact of rising diesel fuel prices on electricity generation costs and payments.
Norfolk Island will be offered a $200,000 subsidy as a temporary arrangement to transition to renewable energy, part of the Australian government’s $5.3 million investment in upgrading the island’s electricity grid, including the introduction of solar infrastructure.
“I recognize the pressures of rising energy costs on both the Council and local residents and businesses. With diesel prices rising by 40 per cent in recent months, it stems from local and global freight issues,” Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Minister Christy McBain said in a statement on October 24.
“Having spent time on Norfolk Island, I understand the community’s challenges and want to support measures to reduce the cost of living where possible.”
“Norfolk Island’s remote location, compounded by global freight and supply chain shortfalls, suggests it is appropriate to consider interim measures to address significantly increased energy costs for consumers.”