Tropical Rainforest Research in Education
Skyrail Rainforest Foundation was established on 29th September 2005, with the vision of preserving invaluable tropical rainforest ecosystems for future generations.
Taking a unique approach by intertwining environmental stewardship with education. At the core of their initiatives is a commitment to funding student research, recognising the pivotal role education plays in shaping the future of tropical rainforest sustainability worldwide.
Tropical Rainforests are a precious natural resource. Whilst they only account for approximately 6% of the Earth’s total surface, they are home to an amazing diversity of fauna and flora, much of which is endemic and not found anywhere else. Not only a living museum of what the Earth’s vegetation used to look like, 50-100 million years ago, tropical rainforests purify our water and clean our air.
The Wet Tropics World Heritage area in Cairns is a biological treasure chest, rich in abundance and has created an ecosystem of over 3,000 plant species which provides a safe habitat for over 105 mammals, almost 200 reptiles, over 230 butterflies and more than 370 bird species.
Tropical Rainforest Research
The foundations funds are utilised to support and initiate a variety of studies and projects with a specific focus on improved management of rainforest environments, education, and communication to improve understanding and appreciation of tropical rainforests whilst supporting research aimed at understanding the environment, its flora & fauna, ecosystems, and biological processes.
These avenues of support are carefully designed to cater to a diverse range of students, from undergraduates embarking on their academic journey to postgraduates conducting vital research in the field. One James Cook University PhD student, Alejandro de la Fuente, has recently shone a light on the everchanging environment and population of the Ringtail Possum in the Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforest.
A recent publication, co-authored by PhD student Alejandro de la Fuente and Stephen E Williams, a Professor specialising in Global Change Biology and Tropical Ecology, forecasts that ‘Climate change threatens the future of rainforest ringtail possums by 2050’.
Alejandro’s research into the ‘determinants of spatial variation in population density in a tropical folivore community: conservation implications in a changing environment’ is supported and funded by the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation, Wet Tropics Management Authority, and QPWS (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) and has revealed some interesting findings about the Ringtail Possum.
Ringtail possums are found high in the canopy of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. A nocturnal and endearing marsupial which is an essential component to the health and regeneration of the tropical rainforest through seed dispersal and pollination. Ringtail possums play a vital role within our rainforest ecosystem, but a recent publication shows increasing temperatures pose a threat to their population.
Dr Ken Chapman
Chairman of Skyrail Rainforest Foundation
“These are alarming results from a robust study which highlights the importance of the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation funding projects such as this one, for the benefit of our rainforest ecosystems and endemic species”.
Image credit: Alejandro de la Fuente
Image credit: Alejandro de la Fuente
Alejandro de la Fuente’s latest publication highlights the ecological response of the endemic Ringtail Possums in the Wet Tropics rainforest. As the planet warms many species are shifting their habitat range to adapt while others, which are unable to do so, face population declines. Notably, the tropical ecosystems are experiencing higher temperatures for longer periods and increased heatwaves which pose ongoing risks to these keystone species. Increasing temperatures are having a profound impact on these unique rainforest species, making them vulnerable and without action we could witness a substantial decline in their populations by 2050, with them already falling below viability thresholds over the past three decades.
Alejandro de la Fuente says;
“Even in our most protected havens, the relentless pace of climate change poses a grave threat. In mountain ecosystems such as the Australian Wet Tropics, the struggle against climate change is an uphill battle. Rising temperatures force ringtail possums higher up the mountains in search of cooler climates. However, the climbing race becomes particularly challenging for species already living near the mountaintops, such as the ringtail possums of the Wet Tropics, leaving them with nowhere to escape the impacts of climate change. Today, ringtail possums persist in critical numbers at high elevations, standing on the brink of survival”.
The Skyrail Rainforest Foundation’s commitment to student funding represents a forward-thinking approach to environmental conservation. Working for the preservation of tropical rainforests but also contributing through education and research for sustainable practices.
Applying for Tropical Rainforest Funding
The Skyrail Rainforest Foundation offers funding to support student research that enhances the protection of tropical rainforests through better understanding and sustainable practices.
To be considered for funding, projects must be compatible with the foundation’s vision and funding guidelines that are set by the Public Fund Management Committee each year. Applicants are encouraged to apply via the official website when funding is announced in February or March each year.
Support Tropical Rainforest Education
Supporting the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation can be done in a number of ways.
You can become a member of the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation and contribute to tropical rainforest research. Members receive great ‘show your card and save’ personal benefits. These include discounted tickets or entry to Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and other leading Cairns attractions, for only $30 annually per person.
Make a donation. The foundation is registered as a tax deductable gift recipient and the smallest amount donated helps to raise over the $631,022.99 to date, which supports tropical rainforest research worldwide.
Shop for mementos. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway’s gift shops support the foundation through the sale of Skyrail Rainforest Foundation branded items.