The State’s capacity to carry out critical genetic identification of plant and animal species has received a boost of almost $2.2million as part of a significant offset program between the State Government and Rio Tinto Iron Ore.
The WA Museum has received $1.6million to build a state-of-the-art facility to enable the rapid identification of animals using DNA techniques.
The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has received $600,760 to assist scientists with further research into a group of plants and a sand-swimming skink.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher said the funding agreement was finalised in October 2010, following the assessment and approvals process for Rio Tinto’s Mesa A iron ore project near Pannawonica.
“The main environmental issues raised related to the mine’s impact on subterranean fauna and a poorly-known vegetation community,” Mrs Faragher said.
“The DEC funding is for two projects - one which aims to resolve classification problems in a group of arid zone skinks and the other which is designed to resolve the taxonomy of the plant genus Tephrosia in the north of Western Australia.”
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said he was pleased the museum would be used to significantly improve the rate at which fauna species in WA were identified.
“The museum has received $1.6million to fund the construction, development and staffing of a molecular systematics unit at the Welshpool Research and Collection Centre, which will aid in further genetic analysis of subterranean fauna,” Mr Day said.
Molecular techniques are an invaluable tool enabling precise identification of animal populations where physical characteristics alone may sometimes be inaccurate and, up until now, the museum has outsourced this task to other organisations.
“The museum will oversee the laboratory’s construction, purchase the equipment and employ a senior staff member on a three-year contract,” Mr Day said.
The new facility at the Welshpool Research and Collection Centre is expected to be completed in late 2011.
Environment Minister's office - 9213 7250
Culture and the Arts Minister's office - 9213 6600