As the name suggests, the hills are precipitous and the human population is much larger than it is in the forgotten corners of southwest Victoria and southeast South Australia. Simeon has contended with bushfires and equipment theft (not to mention coronavirus!), but has recently achieved the great feat of tagging hundreds of thousands of camera-trap photos single-handedly!
As of last week, I have finished going through the vast numbers of images from my camera traps that I set between last October and March, and extracted all the data about what species were detected at each of my 129 sites (this is 3 less than I had previously, due to the Cudlee Creek fire and several missing cameras).
Across both of my fieldwork seasons I have detected southern brown bandicoots (shown above) at 23 sites, mostly in Cleland, Belair, and Scott Creek/Mount Bold. I’m currently starting to look at how the surrounding landscape, in terms of land use and past fire, might shape mammal community composition at each site. Early work suggests that more fragmented areas are more likely to be home to feral and disturbance-specialist species (e.g. black rats, kangaroos, brushtail possums), while more intact areas are where habitat specialists like native bush rats, bandicoots and antechinus are found.
I plan to look at how the fire mosaic affects mammal communities, and whether the influence of fire is dependent on habitat fragmentation or vice versa. I hope to have my first chapter answering these questions completed in the next 3-4 months, before moving on to looking at individual species and habitat structure.
Having successfully trialled the use of hair traps for collecting DNA from bandicoots (above left) my plans had a covid-shaped spanner thrown in the works. I’m still figuring out exactly what that portion of the project will look like, but I still plan to look at bandicoot habitat connectivity in some way.