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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Restoration by Crowdfunding

Restoration by Crowdfunding

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, November 7, 2017/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, marine life, sustainability, art and design, environment

      Running River Rainbowfish, Queensland Australia (credit: David Hume Australian Wildlife Conservancy)

Crowdfunding is a novel way to help support creative projects reach their goals. Filmmakers and musicians especially have used the funding mechanism to complete many independent film and music projects. Why not use the same strategy to help restore biological diversity and wildlife conservation efforts as well? At least one innovative 'success story' now exists from a remote location in Australia. The successful effort shows the way for other projects, hopefully to follow.

In the far north of Queensland, a small endemic fish lived in a section of Running River, the Burdekin Rainbowfish. The 2" fish has glittering, rainbow colored bands along its sides and is a popular fish with aquarium hobbiests around the world. Its physical distinctions were maintained by its isolated river habitat separated from other sections of the Running River by plunging waterfalls. While conducting a field survey in the river's upper regions, aquatic ecologists discovered that a more widespread rainbowfish species had somehow managed to colonize this restricted habitat. The invader had begun to breed with its more colorful cousin that would have led to its extinction.

Restoration ecology un practice requires taking scientific knowledge from ecological science and applying it in real-world recovery situations. Besides the science, restoration projects often require technological expertise, engineering, and a dose of artistic talent as well to succeed. But what to do if no knowledge about an obscure species exists? The Queensland rainbowfish was an immediate case.

Initally, genetically pure rainbowfish were collected and a captive breeding program was begun by the University of Canberra and James Cook University. Besides the issue of successfully reproducing a novel speices in captive aquaculture labs, the eventual restoration program would come to require: teaching the small fish to survive in the wild; learning to feed and defend itself from potential predators; and other unexpected issues if increase for success. A video documents the field work, laboratory efforts, technology development, and eventual release of the fish back into its habitat. The results, required to save a small fish known only to hobbiests, are told directly by the people involved in its recovery.


The restoration project continues to be managed by an Australian conservation fund. Additional endangered species are now being considered for follow-on projects applying the knowledge gained from the rainbowfish's recovery. Consider participating in the these ongoing efforts by offering your individual support here.

Ecological restoration is moving into the 21st Century applying an exciting combination of old and new tools. Join the fun!



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