Please come along to Amy's and Saumya's PhD confirmation seminars to hear about their plans to better understand how landscape structure, fire and resource availability influence ground-dwelling mammal population persistence.
Join person or via Zoom.
Where: Small Lecture Theatre, Room 123, Uni Building, Creswick
When: 10.30-11.30 am, Friday 10 May
Both their projects involve measurement of vegetation structure in the beautiful heathy woodland of western Victoria and eastern South Australia. If you'd like to volunteer to help with data collection between July and October, please get in touch!
Ever wanted to GPS-track an animal but couldn’t afford the gear? Then our new paper – arising from Manuela Fisher’s PhD – is just what you need.
We bought off-the-shelf GPS units, tinkered with them, and turned them into cost-effective animal trackers. Just the ticket for acquiring high resolution movement data at a fraction of the commercial rate. And – wait for it – the data get sent to your computer via the mobile phone network. Just sit back and count the fixes.
We put our trackers through their paces along a continuum from open urban areas to dense forest. Except for the odd failure, the trackers performed well under all conditions – even at the bottom of deep gullys under dense canopy! We hope that trackers like ours will help researchers collect more data on more individuals, and increase the quality of research outputs. Don’t you just love technology? Biotelemetry marches on!
Fischer, M., Parkins, K., Maizels, K., Sutherland, D.R., Allan, B.M., Coulson, G. & Di Stefano, J. (2018). Biotelemetry marches on: A cost-effective GPS device for monitoring terrestrial wildlife. PLoS ONE 13(7): e0199617.
Fire & Fragmentation Project Information Day
Casterton Town Hall, 67 Henty Street
Our Information Day will be an opportunity to:
Find a provisional program below, and please RSVP by Monday 30 July.
We look forward to seeing you!
In a new paper arising from Kate's PhD, we review the literature on fire, fauna, and edge effects to summarise current knowledge and identify knowledge gaps. We then develop a conceptual model to predict faunal responses to fire edges and present an agenda for future research.
Faunal abundance at fire edges changes over time, but patterns depend on species' traits and resource availability. Responses are also influenced by edge architecture (e.g., size and shape), site and landscape context, and spatial scale. However, data are limited and the influence of fire edges on both local abundance and regional distributions of fauna is largely unknown.
Our conceptual model combines several drivers of faunal fire responses (biophysical properties, regime attributes, species' traits) and will therefore lead to improved predictions. To aid the incorporation of new data into our predictive framework, our model has been designed as a Bayesian Network, a statistical tool capable of analysing complex environmental relationships, dealing with data gaps, and generating testable hypotheses.
Please download the paper to find out more.
Parkins, K., York, A. & Di Stefano, J. (2018). Edge effects in fire-prone landscapes: Ecological importance and implications for fauna. Ecology and Evolution. 00:1-12.
Kate presented her PhD completion seminar last week and is a (possum) whisker away from submitting her thesis. Her research focussed on edges, which are ecologically important environmental features that have been well researched in agricultural and urban landscapes but remain poorly understood in natural systems.
Fire is an agent of edge creation and a globally important driver of biome distribution and community composition, yet little is known about how fire edges affect ecological processes in flammable ecosystems. While edge effects and faunal-fire responses have been well studied independently, how animals respond to fire edges remains poorly understood.
Kate's thesis explores this knowledge gap focusing on the influence of fire edges on fauna, and discusses some methodological advances for ecological field studies. Her study sites were in Victoria's beautiful Central Highlands where she invested enormous energy installing remote cameras, trapping bush rats and agile antechinus, and fitting pesky-but-cute mountain brushtail possums with GPS collars. The possums in particular played very hard to get, but Kate's persistence paid off and she's currently putting the finishing touches on her analyses.
Congratulations Kate on your epic achievement!
Manuela gave her completion seminar on Friday and is moments away from submitting her thesis. Her exciting project involved use of GPS data and experimental exclosures to investigate resource selection, road crossing behaviour and browsing impact of the abundant native swamp wallaby. Her study took place on Phillip Island, a landscape of natural and human-modified patches, dissected by roads.
She found that wallabies modulate their selection of resources on a circadian basis to optimise the use of resources under anthropogenic disturbance. Although natural vegetation patches are likely to be used, patches of high anthropogenic disturbances are tolerated at night, when disturbances are less. She also showed that roads are avoided, especially during the day and that crossings are more likely when tree cover is high and water further away from the crossing location. Further, she demonstrated that in vegetation patches, wallabies suppress weed diversity, but do not influence native species diversity.
Her work has shed substantial light on the behaviour of Phillip Island's booming wallaby population. Well done Manuela on your inspiring work!
Kirsten worked with Kate in the Central Highlands to investigate the responses of Mountain Bobucks (Trichosurus cunninghami) to fire. She measured the home range sizes of animals fitted with GPS collars, and examined the response of home range size to fire severity and vegetation diversity.
She found that home ranges were smaller in areas burnt by high-severity fire in 2009 than in long-unburnt areas. Smaller home ranges reflect high quality habitat, and it's likely that regenerating acacia in burnt areas provides bobucks with an abundant food supply. Within areas burnt by high-severity fire, there was a positive relationship between home range size and vegetation-type diversity, indicating that riparian vegetation is particularly resource-rich.
These results will help researchers and land mangers better understand the implications of changing fire regimes for bobuck populations.
Well done Kirsten, and thanks to Julio, Kate and Kirsten for the photos!
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb