To solve a problem, you must deeply understand it. But the nature crisis is no ordinary problem. 

It’s the most complex problem humanity has ever faced. It’s simultaneously local and global, visible and invisible, practical and philosophical.

The only way to understand a problem of such complexity is to get in the weeds and learn by doing. 

This is why Wedgetail has made so many unique investments in so many countries. Since 2022, we’ve deployed nature-linked loans, catalytic grants and equity investments in 14 countries. As a result, we’re learning about smallholder farmer livelihoods, the barriers farmers face accessing finance, the true cost of the food we eat, hurdles to conservation, and the importance of local economies to keep landscapes and all those in them healthy.

Wedgetail will keep investing and learning — but we’re aware these efforts alone won’t give us a deep enough understanding of the nature crisis. Finance is just a tool. To understand the nature crisis, you must understand nature itself, and learn by doing conservation, restoration, invasive species management and farming. 

We’re learning by doing in the Tasmanian Midlands. Specifically, at our 5,000-hectare demonstration landscape The Quoin.

It’s here we’re learning…

  1. What it takes to conserve an ecosystem;
  2. What it takes to restore an ecosystem;
  3. What measuring and monitoring is needed, how technology can help, and the cost of all these components; 
  4. What nature-tech innovation is still needed;
  5. How to build and action property management plans around core threats (ferals, weeds and fire); 
  6. How to create a high-integrity biodiversity credit;
  7. About the regulatory and financial barriers stopping private landowners from conserving and restoring land;
  8. About the importance of bringing together stakeholders and rethreading knowledge systems; and
  9. How to combine conservation and commercial activities for the benefit of all species.

We call The Quoin a demonstration landscape because we intend to experiment with ideas and share our findings. The nature crisis won’t be solved by one organisation or one government. It will take all of us, working together, in the same direction, sharing our learnings and unlocking change at scale. 

With this in mind, here are four learnings from The Quoin so far. 

We have lichen to thank for the pop of colour on these rocks. Credit: Matthew Newton.

1. Conservation isn’t as exciting as restoration — but it’s arguably more important

Approximately 78% of The Quoin’s ecosystems are intact — and conserving them is of utmost importance.


Firstly, conservation work is generally more effective in its outcomes and costs than restoration work. As they say, prevention is better than cure. 

At The Quoin, conservation means managing invasive species (including feral animals such as deer, in particular, but also gorse, thistle and horehound) and conducting burns to promote grassland biodiversity and minimise the effects of future bushfires. 

Secondly, having intact ecosystems makes nearby restoration easier. Not only do intact ecosystems serve as reference habitats (think: a map of what the ecosystem should look like) but they’re also a source of native seeds. For example, we’ve been collecting local, native seeds to cultivate in our soon-to-be-established nursery for use in our restoration projects.

High in the hills at The Quoin. Credit: Matt Newton.

2. When restoring damaged ecosystems, start small, and then let nature take over

In addition to intact ecosystems, The Quoin is home to several damaged landscapes. These former grassy woodlands were cleared for cropping and logged for timber and are now in a state of decline. 

We’re on a mission to restore these ecosystems — but contrary to what you might assume, this doesn’t mean planting thousands of trees. Instead, our strategy is to create ‘vegetation islands’. 

Here’s how it’ll work…

  • First, we’ll use seedlings grown from locally sourced seeds to plant 2mx2m vegetation islands that mimic nearby reference habitats. There will be more than 70 vegetation islands spread throughout our initial 54-hectare restoration zone. 
  • Next, we will use fencing that stops deer, wallabies and possums from eating our seedlings but allows small mammals and birds to take shelter. Our aim is for these vegetation islands to be ‘rest stops’ between our intact ecosystems for bandicoots, potoroos, bettongs and quolls.
  • Then, we'll monitor and support nature along the way. 
  • You see, many of the seeds that small mammals and birds feast on are digested whole, which means when these animals poo, these seeds are returned to the soil, coated in nitrogen, ready to grow. So, after our initial plantings mature, our small mammals and birds will move to and from our vegetation islands, leaving trails of seeds in their wake, some of which will germinate and grow, reconnecting these vegetation islands and kicking off an exponential revegetation cycle. 

In point one, we said conservation is of utmost importance and incredibly effective — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prioritise restoration too. Restoring ecosystems is critical for several reasons. 

Firstly, nature is mobile. Birds fly, kangaroos hop, wombats waddle and earthworms wiggle, but this mobility is decreased when landscapes aren’t connected, as species are exposed and vulnerable to predators. 

Secondly, when forest ecosystems are fragmented, there are more edges exposed and left vulnerable to harsh and fluctuating sunlight, temperatures, humidity and bushfires. Restoring and reconnecting these ecosystems can lessen the ‘edge effect’. 

One of our restoration areas. Credit: Matthew Newton.

3. Cameras aren’t that novel… but their insights are

Much of our work involves listening to, watching and learning from nature. One of the easiest ways is with robust, waterproof, battery-powered, motion-activated cameras (also known as camera traps). We typically leave camera traps in the field for a month, over which time, they might take tens of thousands of images.

Once collected and analysed, these images teach us where and when our species can and can’t be found, which informs our decisions about restoration work and threatened species management, and helps us understand the health of each ecosystem. 

For example, thanks to our annual mid-December to late-January survey, we have 608 new images of Tasmanian devils. These photos show us that devils like staying deep in the dense woodlands and are hardly seen in open grasslands. We also know that devils are most active when the moon is high in the sky. Occasionally, they'll be seen in the morning, but during the day they're generally tucked away in a den, only coming out as darkness falls.

Here’s a sequence of images featuring a Tasmanian devil.
And here’s a closer look.

4. Monitoring 5,000 hectares is much easier with the help of a Digital Twin

Wedgetail predominantly invests in technology startups enabling the measurement, reporting and verification of nature at scale. But we don’t stop there. Where possible, we invest in startups and pilot this technology at our demonstration sites. 

Take Agronomeye, for example. Founded by Stu Adam and Tim Howell, Agronomeye is a Sydney-based startup that gives landowners unmatched visibility by creating a Digital Twin of their property. 

You can think of it like a map. But not any ol’ map. If you hold a conventional map in your hands, you’ll be able to get a sense of a property’s size, shape and compass orientation. You’ll be able to see where woodlands, grasslands and notable landmarks are located. But you won’t be able to see where the tall trees are, where the canopy density is high and where it’s patchy, which slopes get the most morning sun and which will still be warm on a winter afternoon. But with a Digital Twin, you can see all this, and more. 

For example, using the platform’s water-flow models, we can predict where rain that falls in one location will travel. This helps us understand drainage, where soil is likely to be dry and our flood risk. 

The image on the left visualises water-logging at Stocker’s Bottom. Credit: Agronomeye.

Or, because we know that wedge-tailed eagle chicks require the early morning sun, we can find likely nest locations by identifying areas with north- and northeast-facing slopes and trees taller than 20m.

This level of visibility and modelling is invaluable when you have 5,00 hectares to manage — and as we add new data, this will only improve. 

Can you spot the nest? Credit: The Quoin team.
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