Ant ecologist and former Cairns local Dr Kirsti Abbott wants you to take more notice of ants.
Dr Abbott, now at University of New England, was keynote speaker at Thursday night’s free public Science in the Pub event entitled Ants – the good, the bad and the crazy.
Hosted by the Wet Tropics Management Authority at the Cape York Hotel, the free event shared some of the many interesting and unique features that make the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area a globally significant site.
Dr Abbott says native ants are underappreciated in the Wet Tropics’ ecosystem, where they play important and diverse roles such as dispersing seeds and as predators in the rainforest.
“In Australia we have among the highest rates of ant diversity in the world. In the Wet Tropics that’s particularly true, where ants are part of a rich underground micro-community.
“Along with fungi, earthworms, nematodes and other microorganisms, they help create healthy soil for everything else that grows on top,” Dr Abbott said.
Invasive ant species however can wreak havoc, as shown by the impacts of yellow crazy ants in the Wet Tropics and highlighted by the Authority’s Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program.
“I want people to take more notice of ants, and the good—or bad—these species can do in their backyard and the environment,” Dr Abbott said.
“The simple act of taking notice can help connect people to the environment, and encourage greater appreciation and stewardship of areas like the Wet Tropics.”
The other speaker for the night was Gimuy Wulubara Yidinji Traditional Owner Gudju Gudju, a tribal ecologist and director of Abriculture. Gudju Gudju gave his unique perspective of ants on country and Abriculture’s involvement in the Authority’s Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program.
Science in the Pub is an all-ages event and children under 18 must be supervised; entry is free.