Thirteen years at Centre’s helm ensures lasting feral pest innovation legacy

Ensuring farmers, researchers, government, industry and the community work together with impact has been the lasting legacy left by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions long-standing Chair Helen Cathles, who has retired from the position.

Helen, herself a wool-producer from Wee Jasper, NSW, has been a member of the Board since 2005 and became Chair in 2007, where she played an integral part in the re-bid of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in 2012 and the formation of the brand new collaborative invasive species R, D & E company, the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) in 2017.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, the Hon. David Littleproud MP, thanked Helen for her significant contribution to invasive animal management over the past 13 years, in her role as the chair of both CISS and the previous Invasive Animal CRC boards, and wished her all the best for a well-earned retirement.

“Under Helen’s leadership CISS has overseen a number of successful large-scale research, development and extension programs and innovative solutions for invasive animals, including improved user engagement and education platforms,” Minister Littleproud said.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) CEO Stuart McCullough said the wool industry appreciates Helen Cathles leadership in invasive species R, D & E and particularly in wild dog control.

“Her personal experience of landscape scale solutions for problems created by wild dogs resonated with AWI and her fellow woolgrowers.

“Helen is to be congratulated for building trust amongst the stakeholders which in turn delivered significant long-term investment in research and community engagement,” Mr McCullough said.

Since being in the role, Helen has witnessed large scale & cross-sectoral collaborative research which saw the 2017 national release of RHDV1 K5, the first new rabbit biocontrol agent in 20 years, and development of the award-winning National Rabbit Biocontrol Monitoring Program. She has also seen significant enhancements in new toxin development through the creation of new feral predator baits (Foxecute and Dogabait) and a new feral pig bait (HogGone) and delivery system (HogHopper), which were commercialised through Animal Control Technologies Australia (ACTA).

ACTA Managing Director Dr Linton Staples said that with her sheep industry background, Helen was passionate about the need to develop innovative tools and management approaches for many serious pest threats.

“Throughout her tenure as Chair she encouraged participation and teamwork, and this resulted in some of the most significant advances in technology in several decades.

“Helen never lost sight of the need to ensure farmer friendly tools were delivered and we were pleased to be a part of this team which has achieved breakthrough development over the past 12 years,” Dr Staples said.

In a growing digital world, Helen has also seen the development of significant national invasive species digital infrastructure through the FeralScan community mapping program which now has more than 25,000 users, and the PestSmart best practice management knowledge hub and website which receives over half a million-page views each year.

Dr Bruce Christie, newly appointed Chair of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions applauded the efforts of Helen who has championed innovation and national collaborations within the sector.

“Helen has had a great innings through her 15 years of leadership, ensuring the work of the Centre has impact and meets the needs of those of those on the ground, running the management programs.

“She has been an integral player in the development of CISS and is a true biosecurity warrior.

“We all wish Helen all the very best in her future,” Dr Christie said.

The CISS Annual General Meeting held yesterday, also saw the retirement of Board Director and renowned wildlife scientist Dr Glen Saunders AM, who ensured our research programs over the years have been strategic, nationally significant, and cutting-edge.

CISS also welcomes the appointment of two new Board Directors, Dr Bruce Christie and Robbie Davis who will work with current Board Directors Jan Ferguson OAM, David Palmer, Peter Noble and Murray Rankin to lead the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions into its next phase of R, D & E activities.