Click team Sydney to save these devils with $10K discovery prize

3 June 2016

A bushwalker has helped University of Sydney researchers discover genetically diverse Tasmanian devils in the remote south-west. Now, the team is appealing for votes for a peer prize of $10,000 and is also crowdfunding to travel to the World Heritage Area to further their research and bring new hope to the endangered species. 

(Left to Right) Rebecca Gooley, Emma Peel, Dr Kat Morris, Dr Catherine Grueber and Prof Kathy Belov meeting devil joeys

(L to R) Rebecca Gooley, Emma Peel, Dr Kat Morris, Dr Catherine Grueber and Professor Kathy Belov meeting devil joeys

A team from the Faculty of Veterinary Science has discovered genetically diverse devils in Tasmania’s remote south-west and they’re appealing for votes for the women in science prize of $10,000 to travel to the rugged World Heritage Area to research how to save this endangered species. 

The 'Devils Tools & Tech' team from the University of Sydney were set to appear on channel 9's Today show to explain the recent finding of devil poo (scat) in the hard-to-reach area – requiring helicopter or boat travel or entry by foot – that proved Tasmanian devils exist in this pristine, clean and safe environment. 

The devil scats, located by a bushwalker collaborator from Cambridge, UK, were sent to Sydney and tested by Sydney PhD student Rebecca Gooley, who found the devils are genetically different from previously sampled individuals. 

The University and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program had long sought samples from the south-west but funding applications to do this have so far been unsuccessful. 

Collaborating globally with the University is San Diego Zoo Global. Chief life sciences officer  Dr Bob Wiese has said in a media release: “Our partners in Australia are working so diligently to prevent the extinction of the Tasmanian devil and we’re proud that their years of work are paying off and bringing new hope for the survival of this beloved animal.” 

The next step is to travel to the rugged south-west to find more devils and do further research. To help the team with funding for this research, members of the scientific community (those who have authored a peer-reviewed article in a scientific publication) can vote online from 9-22 June 2016. 

As well, a crowdfunding page has been set up to raise additional funds to help us discover new genetic variants in devils. 

The crowdfunding campaign is seeking $20,000 in order to:

  1. Hire a helicopter to travel to Tasmania’s south west to collect samples.
  2. Fund trips to enable testing to determine how genetically diverse the population is.
  3. Design a management program for devils to increase their genetic variation in Tasmania, with the hope of ultimately producing more resilient animals.
  4. Bring genetically diverse devils into the ‘insurance program’, in collaboration with the Zoo and Aquarium Association.