Stories of hope, collaboration and positive change underpin ‘Our solutions are in nature’, the theme of this year’s International Day of Biodiversity.

Held annually on 22 May, the day is a chance to celebrate the biodiversity of life on Earth and appreciate the people working to preserve it.

To celebrate, we look back at some recent UNSW research that is inspiring positive change in how we tackle global problems, whether it be managing climate change, bushfires or plastic waste.

From rehoming rescued platypuses to restoring seagrass meadows, here are some of the ways the UNSW community is working together to face challenges of the future.

How the mountain pygmy-possum can be saved from climate change

Mountain pygmy possums

Mountain pygmy-possums are being acclimatised to lowland area conditions at Secret Creek Sanctuary, Lithgow. Picture: Lee Henderson/UNSW

Scientists have come up with a radical plan to save the critically endangered mountain pygmy-possum: take some from their alpine habitat and introduce them to a warmer, lowland rainforest environment.

In a study published today in Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions B, researchers from UNSW Sydney use fossil evidence going back 25 million years to argue that the mountain pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) is a species living on the fringes of what its biological ancestors would have enjoyed as a more temperate, less extreme environment.

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Citizen scientists get snappy to monitor bushfire-ravaged environment

Tree regrowth after bushfire

Eucalyptus resprouting new leaves after the January 2020 bushfires. This is what many people imagine when they envision bushfire recovery. Picture: Janine Gibson.

Forget Instagram – UNSW Sydney researchers are urging citizen scientists to use their mobile phones for a good cause: to monitor the recovery of bushfire-affected plants and animals for the Environment Recovery Project which will inform future research.

Anyone in fire-affected areas of Australia can participate, no matter their scientific knowledge or camera skills: all people need to do is download the mobile app – available via the global citizen science iNaturalist website – take a photo of a burnt tree, for example, and upload the image to the app.

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Packaging made from banana plants an a-peeling alternative

Banana plant

Banana plants die after each harvesting of the fruit. Picture: Shutterstock

Two researchers at UNSW Sydney have discovered a novel way to turn banana plantation waste into packaging material that is not only biodegradable, but also recyclable.

Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot and Professor Martina Stenzel were looking for ways to convert agricultural waste into something that could value-add to the industry it came from while potentially solving problems for another.

A good contender was the banana growing industry which, according to A/Prof Arcot, produces large amounts of organic waste, with only 12% of the plant being used (the fruit) while the rest is discarded after harvest.

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An underwater quest to restore our endangered seagrass meadows

Operation Posidonia

SCUBA divers replant Posidonia australis fragments in Shoal Bay. Picture: Adriana Vergés

Posidonia might sound like a mysterious underwater being in a superhero movie, but it’s real and is fast disappearing from our waters.

Its nemesis is the traditional block-and-chain boat mooring which scars the sea floor as the winds and currents change, creating a halo of destruction.

“Posidonia australis is a slow-growing seagrass that likes to live in the same beautiful sheltered bays where us humans like to live, build our houses and moor our boats, so the building of marinas, coastal development, pollution and dredging has caused its decline,” UNSW marine ecologist Associate Professor Adriana Vergés said.

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More rescue missions possible as platypuses rehomed

Platypus prepare for release

A platypus prepares for tagging at Taronga Wildlife Hospital before release at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Photo: ACT Government

UNSW researchers have launched a platypus monitoring study after returning three of the unique creatures to their home at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, near Canberra.

Scientists from UNSW Sydney, Taronga Conservation Society and Tidbinbilla yesterday released the platypuses implanted with tracking devices.

The platypuses were among a group which Taronga Zoo temporarily rehomed in late December because their waterways had dried up during extreme drought.

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