Online learning and information: www.feral.org.au
Project Leader: Assoc Prof Stephen Sarre, University of Canberra
Aim: To significantly improve the availability of feral animal management information to landholders, pest control practitioners and researchers, to assist them in strategically managing pests to achieve both their production and conservation outcomes.
www.feral.org.au was developed in 2004 by the Pest Animal Control CRC as a joint initiative with the University of Canberra and with funding from the Bureau of Rural Sciences.
The project consists of three elements:
- a comprehensive website to provide feral animal management information
- a forum for interactive participation
- delivery of educational products to schools and the community (Feral Focus and Pest Tales)
The www.feral.org.au website covers a broad range and amount of information that is currently available on pest animals, management and educational resources. This is the first time a dedicated ‘home’ for invasive pest research and management data has been developed and maintained. The site is integrated with a categorised database, which makes specific searches possible (for example, by species, common-name, location, author, or keyword), and returns a variety of data (for example, images, scientific papers, pest-distribution maps and hard-to-access grey literature).
Forum use has diminished due to technological advances, for example in more sophisticated social networking websites. Redevelopment to integrate with some of these high-traffic sites will not only improve user experience, but would significantly help promote the broader www.feral.org.au site to users who may not be aware of its existence.
The Feral Focus resource has been developed for high school students. A list of activities, interactive scenarios and detailed research projects present teachers with strong links to current curriculum profiles. To reinforce student understanding, each activity comes with a list of further reading points and relevant websites which provide up-to-date information and allows the student to be fully informed when undertaking the activity.
The kit provides teachers with a complete and up to date resource which addresses the complexities of effective pest animal management. This resource dispels the myth that a feral animal should be eradicated at any cost using any means available. Instead, students learn and appreciate the complexities involved in addressing pest problem issues. They are brought to an understanding that the aim of pest animal management is to reduce pest damage to an acceptable level using an economically sustainable approach and employing animal welfare and environmentally sensitive techniques.
The www.feral.org.au site will continue to be a central portal for individuals and groups needing to access information on pest animals and their management.
- The site has undergone several rebuilds to enhance usability, including the migration of the site to the Cold Fusion platform, the inclusion of a new ‘verity’ search function to enhance the search quality and speed, and the addition of an image gallery containing more than 200 images and sort options for search results.
- www.feral.org.au has around 7500 records, including web-links, maps, manuals, guides, scientific papers, grey literature and images) and averages around 9000 visits per month.
- The recently completed secondary school education resource, Feral Focus, was successfully launched on 13 May 2009 at the National Science Museum in Canberra.
- The primary school education resource, Pest Tales, is now available online.
- Continued promotion of Feral Focus to secondary school education, and launch of Pest Tales for primary schools.
- Scoping www.feral.org.au for migration to web 2.0 platform for increased communications functionality (eg: integration with image sharing, blogs, wiki capability) in accordance with end-user need.
- Legacy planning for housing www.feral.org.au beyond the life of the IA CRC.
Keryn Lapidge, Joanne Keogh, Adj Prof Mike Braysher.
IA CRC, Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Bureau of Rural Sciences.
For further information, contact us.