Melbourne's platypuses protected by innovative approach

Image: Trevor McKinnon

A water utility in Australia is using predictive research modelling and environmental DNA technology to understand and protect platypus populations.

The duck-billed platypus has been classified as near threatened in Victoria, and Melbourne Water's research aims to determine how threats like climate change, water availability and urban growth affect their populations.

Many platypus populations in Victoria intersect with areas of greater Melbourne, where population growth and urban sprawl have impacted the waterways they rely on for habitat. Prolonged drought in recent decades has also reduced the number of these semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammals, particularly in small, isolated populations.

"Our platypus research is helping conservation efforts throughout Greater Melbourne which in turn will protect these iconic mammals."

Rhys Coleman, Melbourne Water.

“By incorporating predictive forecasting with data analysis, we can create an integrated system to deliver accurate monitoring and forecasting to track early warning impacts to our platypus populations,” said Rhys Coleman, manager waterways & wetlands research at Melbourne Water.

“All Victoria’s native wildlife is precious – our commitment in protecting greater Melbourne’s water quality and unique biodiversity in partnership with other organisations and the community is about taking critical steps to build resilience in our natural environment and support research to understand the risks posed by climate change so aquatic life can thrive, not just survive.”