A dingo basks in the sun in Myall Lakes
UNSW Canberra student Penney Wood is researching dingoes in Myall Lakes National Park. Photo: Penney Wood.

The complicated relationship between humans and dingoes is at the centre of a new PhD study. 

UNSW Canberra student Penney Wood’s research forms part of the Myall Lakes Dingo Project, a collaboration between UNSW, Taronga Conservation Society and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation.   

The project spans ecology and social science. On the ecological side, it aims to develop and test non-lethal tools for dingo management, while the social science side aims to understand local communities’ relationships with the dingo population. 

“The social science aspect of the project is relatively new and aims to add to our ecological understanding by helping us identify what relationships exist between people and dingoes in the region, and how different aspects of those relationships might help us identify opportunities to improve conservation or remediate or prevent future conflicts that lead to negative outcomes for people and animals,” Penney said. 

Penney is passionate about wildlife, particularly canines, and she said there is a lot to learn from the varied relationships between humans and dingoes.  

“Not all interactions are negative, some are filled with awe and respect and help us better understand what natural experiences communities value and how to encourage them,” she said. 

“But it must also be appreciated that living alongside carnivores is never going to be completely conflict free and identifying where and what negative interactions there are, is valuable for helping us improve coexistence overall.” 

As part of her research, Penney will be conducting interviews with various stakeholders, including Myall Lakes National Parks visitors, community groups, local business owners and individuals involved in dingo management.  

The interviews are designed to be open-ended and provide participants with the space to tell their story about their interactions with, feelings about and knowledge of dingoes and nature.  

Participants will also be asked to fill in a survey, which seeks to understand what the major groups of stakeholders think about each other and the options for controlling dingoes in the region. 

Penney said understanding the relationships between humans and wildlife was becoming increasingly important. 

“As the human population grows and wild spaces become more degraded, humans and wildlife are coming into contact more frequently and these interactions have greater potential for negative outcomes as resources in these places become scarcer,” Penney said.   
“Having a better understanding of how humans and wildlife relate to each other, particularly the points of opportunity and tension, will help us shape conservation and management actions in positive ways that reflect the multiple perspectives on how human and non-human stakeholders are experiencing coexistence.” 

Other aspects of the multidisciplinary Myall Lakes Dingo Project include Dingo? Bingo!, which asks the public to help detect dingoes and other animals among images retrieved from a network of camera-traps.