Lord Howe Island is listed as a world heritage property for its biodiversity, its spectacular scenic amenity and its underwater natural features.
I'm Hank Bauer, I oversee the island’s conservation program. This is Sue, my lovely wife. I’m Sue Bauer and I’m largely driving the island-scale weed eradication program and threatened species conservation program.
When we arrived on the island 14 years ago the place was covered in weeds and the environment was struggling from a lot of instances under pressure from rodents.
There's been an ecological renaissance since the rodent eradication program. The wood hen population has gone from an average of 200 to over 600 in one year.
Lord Howe delivers in bucket loads in conservation outcomes. Being an island you can do eradications the pests can't come back in, providing you have good enough biosecurity.
Being a world heritage property we are able to attract reliable funding to deliver these programs working and living in the local community.
We both met at Southern Cross University. I went there because I have an inherent interest in rainforest ecology and the University is located in the place formerly known as the ‘Big Scrub’ so I went there to find out about how to manage the environment and more how island in sub-tropical island oceanic rainforest was the perfect fit to transfer my skills and experience over here.
We're also really fortunate to hook up with some pioneers in rainforest ecology on the North Coast. We were founding members of the Big Scrub Rainforest Landcare Group and did a lot of work on the North Coast learning about rainforest ecology and rainforest restoration and we got to transfer those skills here.
Having a responsibility for an island-scale program it was a bit daunting, but it was like no we know what to do.
Looking back at when we're at university the field trips were really important to relate the stuff you learn in the class to actually field skills. I think Lord Howe essentially it's providing a flagship, an environmental flagship to how an environment can be managed and protected. Limited pollution, sustainable land use planning, alternative energy, managing the environment.
I’m not leaving. I haven't told you that, I’m here to stay.
When Hank and Sue Bower first arrived on Lord Howe Island 14 years ago, the island was overgrown with weeds and feral animals were threatening the survival of some of the island’s unique endemic species.
Fast forward nearly a decade and-a-half, and there has been an ecological renaissance on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed island of 350 residents, located hundreds of kilometres east of Port Macquarie in the middle of the Tasman Sea.
“Lord Howe delivers in bucket loads in terms of environmental outcomes,” says Hank, manager of the World Heritage area. He oversees various conservation projects including the eradication of rodents and introduced pests on the island, as well as the improvement of biosecurity measures. The rodent eradication program has led to many native species not only surviving, but thriving.
“It’s an environmental flagship in many ways, showing how you can successfully manage and protect an environment with good flora and fauna management and working with the community,” says Sue, who oversees the weed eradication and threatened flora species programs.
The dynamic environmental duo at the heart of Lord Howe’s ecological renaissance met at Southern Cross University, where they both studied applied science in the 1990s, attracted to the University’s location in the last remnant of the Big Scrub rainforest which once covered a large part of Northern NSW.
“We were very fortunate to hook up with some pioneers in rainforest ecology on the north coast like Mark Dunphy,” said Hank. “We were founding members of the Big Scrub Rainforest Landcare Group and did a lot of work on the north coast learning about rainforest ecology and rainforest restoration and we got to transfer those skills here.”
From overseeing weed eradication teams to conducting annual surveys of threatened species like the woodhen or even nurturing species back from the brink of extinction like the fantastically named Phasmid stick insect, those skills have racked up some impressive environmental wins. It’s not a case of sitting back and relaxing now though, says Sue.
“Working with the community has been critical and continues to be critical going forward. Talking to people about which plants aren’t safe for an island and which ones are suitable for example. In terms of the future conservation of the island, we are in good shape now but we shouldn’t wait for things to go backwards before acting. Protecting and managing places like this require long-term thinking and planning,” she said.
The Southern Cross University Alumni Network
Alumni Impact Award recipients
Alumnus of the Year
Lisa is a triple sailing world record holder on a mission to take community action on climate change around the world with her. She is about to set sail for Antarctica where she is seeking to break yet another world record, circumnavigating the icy continent.
Young Alumnus of the Year
Nic is the CEO of Batyr, a not-for-profit youth mental health organisation. He is striving to reduce the stigma around mental ill-health and provide young people with the support they need.
International Alumnus of the Year
International Alumnus of the Year Neelkamal Darbari has created a lasting impact in the lives of individuals, communities and industries across India, dedicating almost 35 years of service to the Government of India and State Government of Rajasthan.
Early Career Alumnus of the Year
Dr Cooper Schouten
Dr Cooper Schouten is an environmental science and PhD graduate and professional beekeeper. He manages dozens of projects in the Indo-Pacific region for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and is also the project manager for the University’s Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods research group.