22 Nov 2021


Last year was an exceptionally difficult time for many Australians, particularly for those living in bushfire-prone areas. Capturing attention from around the globe, the devastation caused by the 2019-2020 fires saw people from all over step forward to lend a much needed helping hand. This outpouring of support highlighted the willingness of others to make a difference and the need for greater investment in proactive, long-term solutions. 

It was from here that WWF-Australia launched our first Innovate to Regenerate Challenge which saw Traditional Owners, local organisations and communities collaborate on new ideas for bushfire recovery. 

The 2020 Challenge was a fantastic success, providing an invaluable opportunity to propel concepts into reality. Through the challenge we funded nine projects that focused on climate adaptation, restoration and resilience. 

Round two of the Innovate to Regenerate Challenge is fast approaching, and we hope you’ll collaborate with us to help protect Australia’s unique environment. 

The Innovate to Regenerate Challenge: How does it work?

The purpose of the Innovate to Regenerate Challenge is to unearth and validate community-driven concepts by providing the necessary funding and support needed to help them come to fruition.

Our first Challenge generated an impressive variety of project submissions with the top nine boasting creative and scalable bushfire solutions that enabled local communities to:

  • drive regeneration outcomes in fire risk management
  • create, utilise and understand the regenerative use of landscapes
  • incorporate species recovery awareness and methodologies
  • build ecological, economic and social resilience to counter climate change
Sprinkler system gives hope to flying foxes
A flying fox hangs upside-down © WWF-Australia

The top eight projects from 2020

1. Drone monitoring of priority koala populations in fire-prone landscapes

FAUNA RA, NSW Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment and The University of Newcastle are working together on a project that will transform wild koala detection methods by using drones and thermal cameras to examine both severely burned and unburned habitats. From here, digital trackers will be used to help predict population numbers and observe how the animals respond to fires. The data will inform efforts for recovery and AI protocols.

2. Finding furry friends forever – solar VHF koala ear tag

Koala ecologist Dr Romane Cristescu and her team at the University of the Sunshine Coast are working alongside PhD candidate Kye McDonald to make solar powered VHF koala ear tags a reality. Weighing just 5 grams each, the tags will eliminate welfare risks associated with existing collars, reduce the need to recapture koalas multiple times and may even assist with locating and rescuing them before bushfires impact their habitat.  

3. Habitat pods: protecting prey from predators in post-fire landscapes

The brainchild of Macquarie University wildlife researcher Dr Alexandra Carthey: ready-made, modular, biodegradable ‘habitat pods’ which will serve as a temporary shelter for vulnerable native animals (like the bettong). In addition to keeping them safe from predators, these pods will also help support vegetation ecology and regrowth in areas that have been stripped of protective natural surroundings.

4. Seed enhancement technologies (SETs) to restore severely burned landscapes

The natural storage of seeds in leaf litter and the beneficial microbes in the soil that support them are often destroyed during severe bushfire activity. Through the use of active restoration test SETs, Dr Jodi Price and her team at Charles Sturt University aim to support seed pods, incorporate fresh, locally sourced topsoil and boost seed germination.

5. Upscaling the South East Australia Sanctuary Operations Network (SEASON)

This project is supported by Odonata and aims to create a network of 30 threatened species sanctuaries across South East Australia. Adopting a financially sustainable model, many of these havens will operate as working farms and enable the geographic and genetic diversity needed for fostering species resilience.

6. Using drones and cultural burning practices to help fireproof koalas

Last year, wombats became unexpected bushfire heroes as they shared their underground network of tunnels and burrows to provide critical respite and protection to native wildlife. Spearheaded by Associate Professor Dale Nimmo from Charles Sturt University, this project offers the first opportunity to quantify and explore the role of wombats in the 2019-2020 bushfires, in which over one billion animals were killed.

7. Wombat-powered recovery: harnessing an ecosystem engineer to increase bushfire resilience

Created by Black Duck Foods, an Indigenous Traditional Agriculture Knowledge Hub will adapt landscape management practices for food production to reflect the way Elders applied traditional methods. Their end goal: move Australia toward nurturing the environment, while looking after People, Culture and Country. 

8. Fire for food: showcasing Indigenous Traditional Agriculture

Bush Heritage will work alongside Agersons to trial ‘crash’ (short-term) grazing using cattle fitted with GPS collars and virtual fencing to manage their movements and target areas requiring biomass control. This targeted grazing seeks to reduce fuel loads in fire-prone areas while also securing the habitat of native wallabies. 


Innovate to Regenerate 2021: A regenerative economy

Next year, WWF-Australia will run the second Innovate to Regenerate Challenge with the goal of future-proofing our country and building resilience through regeneration. 

The goal of next year’s Challenge is to pursue a shift to a regenerative economy. But what is that exactly? 

According to the Regenerative Economy Report prepared by accounting firm Ernst and Young Australia, “a regenerative economy is built on patterns and principles which views the economy as a sustainable system for creating conditions conducive to life for current and future generations.”

We’re looking for community-led solutions that aim to protect Australia’s exceptional ecology with an emphasis on submissions that incorporate:

  • Indigenous knowledge 
  • zero emissions transport 
  • energy resilience 
  • regenerative agriculture and food
  • circular economy and waste 

Got a great idea? WWF-Australia will support you every step of the way. We'll leverage our reach, using our knowledge and resources to help rapidly trial and scale possible solutions before making them replicable and accessible to all.  

Volunteers taking action in their community / Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Join the Innovation Challenge: Be inspired to act, share and commit

Together, we can help protect the environment, support community-driven solutions and facilitate lasting change. Australia is a beautiful country, and it’s up to us to protect it and its inhabitants. 

Join us in future-proofing Australia and learn more about Innovate to Regenerate here.