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The biota and ecological processes of the Australian arid zone remain relatively unstudied. Australian deserts are remote from population centres and are subject to unpredictable rainfall, making it difficult to plan and execute time-limited research projects. Desert research is expensive; the lack of basic infrastructure, i.e. roads, and the remoteness from major service centres means that vehicle and fuel costs are high. Increasingly, research funding is being directed to universities for postgraduate research projects, instead of more long-term, expensive projects in research centres and government departments. Postgraduate research is strictly time- and cost-limited, which can constrain research effort in desert systems where stochastic conditions prevail. However, steps can be taken to ensure that short- to medium-term desert research projects are viable and successful. Combining different approaches and methods of data collection ensure that a project can become ‘desert-proofed’ when unfavourable conditions occur. I discuss a variety of different research projects and the need to reconsider our approach to desert research, giving emphasis to the study of functions and systems instead of a single, elusive species.

Dickman, C. R., Letnic, M., and Mahon, P. S. 1999. Population dynamics of two species of dragon lizards in arid Australia: the effects of rainfall. Oecologia 119: 357-366.
Dickman, C. R., Haythornthwaite, A. S., McNaught, G. H., Mahon, P. S., Tamayo, B., and Letnic, M. 2001. Population dynamics of three species of dasyurid marsupials in arid central Australia: a 10-year study. Wildlife Research 28: 493-506.
Haythornthwaite, A. S. 2005a. Microhabitat use and foraging behaviour of Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in arid central Australia. Wildlife Research 32: 609-615.
Haythornthwaite, A. S. 2005b Distributional ecology of dasyurids in the Simpson Desert, central Australia. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Haythornthwaite, A. S., and Dickman, C. R. 2000. Foraging strategies of an insectivorous marsupial, Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae), in Australian sandridge desert. Austral Ecology 25: 193-198.
Haythornthwaite, A. S., and Dickman, C. R. 2006a. Distribution, abundance, and individual strategies: a multi-scale analysis of dasyurid marsupials in arid central Australia. Ecography, 29: 285-3000.
Haythornthwaite, A. S., and Dickman, C. R. 2006b. Long-distance movements by a small carnivorous marsupial: how Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) uses habitat in an Australian sandridge desert. J. Zool (Lond), in press.
Kotler, B. P., Dickman, C. R., and Brown, J. S. 1998. The effects of water on patch use by two Simpson Desert granivores ( Corvus coronoides and Pseudomys hermannsburgensis). Australian Journal of Ecology 6: 574-578.
Letnic, M. 2003 The effects of fire and rainfall on small mammals in the Simpson Desert, Australia. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Murray, B. R., and Dickman, C. R. 1994a. Granivory and microhabitat use in Australian desert rodents: are seeds important? Oecologia 99: 216-225.
Murray, B. R., and Dickman, C. R. 1994b. Food preferences and seed selection in two species of Australian desert rodents. Wildlife Research 21: 647-655.
Predavec, M. 1994 Food limitation and demography in Australian desert rodents. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Ricci, S. 2003 Population dynamics and trophic ecology of two species of Australian desert rodents. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Whitford, W. G. 2002 Ecology of desert systems. Academic Press, London.
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References

Dickman, C. R., Letnic, M., and Mahon, P. S. 1999. Population dynamics of two species of dragon lizards in arid Australia: the effects of rainfall. Oecologia 119: 357-366.
Dickman, C. R., Haythornthwaite, A. S., McNaught, G. H., Mahon, P. S., Tamayo, B., and Letnic, M. 2001. Population dynamics of three species of dasyurid marsupials in arid central Australia: a 10-year study. Wildlife Research 28: 493-506.
Haythornthwaite, A. S. 2005a. Microhabitat use and foraging behaviour of Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in arid central Australia. Wildlife Research 32: 609-615.
Haythornthwaite, A. S. 2005b Distributional ecology of dasyurids in the Simpson Desert, central Australia. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Haythornthwaite, A. S., and Dickman, C. R. 2000. Foraging strategies of an insectivorous marsupial, Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae), in Australian sandridge desert. Austral Ecology 25: 193-198.
Haythornthwaite, A. S., and Dickman, C. R. 2006a. Distribution, abundance, and individual strategies: a multi-scale analysis of dasyurid marsupials in arid central Australia. Ecography, 29: 285-3000.
Haythornthwaite, A. S., and Dickman, C. R. 2006b. Long-distance movements by a small carnivorous marsupial: how Sminthopsis youngsoni (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) uses habitat in an Australian sandridge desert. J. Zool (Lond), in press.
Kotler, B. P., Dickman, C. R., and Brown, J. S. 1998. The effects of water on patch use by two Simpson Desert granivores ( Corvus coronoides and Pseudomys hermannsburgensis). Australian Journal of Ecology 6: 574-578.
Letnic, M. 2003 The effects of fire and rainfall on small mammals in the Simpson Desert, Australia. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Murray, B. R., and Dickman, C. R. 1994a. Granivory and microhabitat use in Australian desert rodents: are seeds important? Oecologia 99: 216-225.
Murray, B. R., and Dickman, C. R. 1994b. Food preferences and seed selection in two species of Australian desert rodents. Wildlife Research 21: 647-655.
Predavec, M. 1994 Food limitation and demography in Australian desert rodents. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Ricci, S. 2003 Population dynamics and trophic ecology of two species of Australian desert rodents. PhD thesis, University of Sydney.
Whitford, W. G. 2002 Ecology of desert systems. Academic Press, London.
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