Annalie, Sarah, Holly, Julian and Matt caught more animals than in their wildest dreams during their inaugural reptile-trapping trip last week.
They used six funnel traps and six pitfall traps at each of 10 sites in the Drajurk and Roseneath State Forests near Casterton in western Victoria. They were treated to visits from the Eastern three-lined Skink (Bassiana duperreye - a particularly trap-happy species), South-eastern Slider (Lerista bougainvillii), Jacky Dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), Striped Worm-lizard (Aprasia striolata), Common Garden Skink (Lampropholis guitchenoti), Southern Grass Skink (Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii), and Obscure Skink (Morethia obscura).
The work forms part of Annalie and Sarah's PhD projects. Annalie is examining the responses of reptile communities to spatial pattern in fire history, and is also interested in comparing the efficacy of trapping methods. Sarah is exploring the combined effects of fire and fragmentation on species' movement capacities with a view to finding out how managers can apply fire to enhance species' connectivity and persistence.
Between trap checks we found time to admire the swathes of Xanthorrhoea australis, which is flowering spectacularly. Kelvin plans to measure the shape and distribution of X. australis as part of his studies of small mammal habitat associations, so we also spent a while pondering alternative methods.
Many months of trapping lie ahead (10 sites down, 130 to go), but it was a promising start.
Please visit the Fire & Fragmentation Project page for more information about this research.
Having carefully balanced the evidence, we conclude that the honeymoon period lives on.
Last week the Fire & Fragmentation Project team ventured out to the heathy woodland between Dartmoor and Edenhope to set up their second round of camera traps. This work is part of Zahlia and Lauren's studies into the effects of fire and fragmentation on mammals. They are currently going through the photos from their first round of camera trapping, and will compile their favourites soon. Please stay tuned.
Thanks to Sarah, Lauren and Zahlia for providing all the evidence.
Sarah has recently finished the fieldwork component of her Masters project in the Otway Ranges.
She has been measuring the three-dimensional structure of vegetation at the long-term monitoring sites and collecting fuel hazard information. The next step is to explore how the flammability of different forest types changes over time using these data.
Thanks to all of the amazing volunteers (around 25 of them!) who have helped out in the field over the last eight months.
Our ARC Linkage project officially begins in 2017, and Holly, Julian, Matt and Alan took a road trip this week to scope out the study area. The ultimate aim of the project is to conserve biodiversity in fire-prone fragmented landscapes by addressing two key knowledge gaps: the combined effects of fire and fragmentation on animal movement, and the implications of current and future fire regimes for animal populations.
We'll be embarking on an busy field program from mid February to May and are seeking volunteers to join week-long trips involving:
Nineteen students took our two-week intensive Masters subject "Bushfire and Biodiversity" as part of the Master of Forest Ecosystem Science and Master of Environment.
The course covers the effects of fire on many aspects of biodiversity and ecological processes, and involves a three-day field trip to the Otway Ranges. Students were free to design their own field exercise in groups using a pre-defined canvas - an area near Anglesea burnt by planned fire in autumn 2015. Three groups chose to explore the effects of fire severity on plant species diversity and one group focused on birds.
Despite the intensive fieldwork, we managed to find time in the evening for table tennis and snap tournaments.
Please contact us for more information about what the subject involves.
Many thanks to Julio and Alan for photos.
Our 2016 fieldwork program has already kicked off with a team of seven visiting the Otways to help Hilman and Natasha measure vegetation structure and trap small mammals.
Hilman is nearing the end of a mammoth effort to deploy camera traps and measure vegetation at 130 long-term monitoring sites spanning foothills forest, forby forest, tall-mixed woodland and heathland. His Masters research examines the influence of time since fire and habitat structure on the functional diversity of ground-dwelling mammals, and will reveal the attributes of prescribed burns that are likely to enhance ecosystem function.
Natasha has recently begun fieldwork for her Masters project which seeks to test species distribution models for mammals in heathland, where several species appear to have become locally extinct or persist in very small numbers. She is using Elliott traps to target small mammals, and plans to create new models of species' current distributions.
Please contact us if you are interested in joining a field trip as a volunteer. Our Otways fieldwork is finishing shortly, but several opportunities are coming up in the Central Highlands.
Many thanks to Matt and Natasha for these photos.
Alarmingly, it’s been two months since our last news item, so we’ve put together a collection of photos to illustrate some of our springtime activities.
Many thanks to Julio and Alan for these photos.
Winter is a little slow on the news front as we wait for the animals to wake up, the roads to dry out and the fire season to begin, but at least the desk-bound months provide an opportunity to ponder the highlights and lowlights of past field seasons.
An unexpected highlight of last autumn was the fungi. None of us have any fungal expertise but we were dazzled by the colours and forms we found all over the Central Highlands.
We’ve put together a slide show of our favourite fungi (or more accurately, of our favourite fungal fruiting bodies). Thanks to Kate Parkins and Julio Nájera-Umaña for these fantastic photos.
We only know the name of one of these species – please let us know if you can help us name the rest.
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb