We're offering an exciting PhD opportunity within the Fire & Fragmentation Project. The aim of project will be to determine the arrangement of fires that maximises habitat suitability, movement capacity and gene flow for mammals or invertebrates in a fragmented landscape.
Please find further information here.
The project will run between 2018 and 2021 and is based at the University of Melbourne's Creswick campus. We are committed to supporting PhD students by providing:
Applicants should send a written expression of interest, including CV and statement of results, to Holly by 25 September 2017. Holly can also be contacted with any enquiries.
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!
Kate and a team of volunteers have recently returned from several weeks of field work out in the forests of the Central Highlands, where they have been attempting to catch Mountain Brushtail Possums (Bobucks) as part of Kate’s PhD research.
This study aims to understand how fire affects resource use and movement patterns of the possums at sites burnt during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Kate is particularly keen to understand if this species alters its movement patterns and energy use between areas of differing burn severities.
For this project Kate has built her own GPS collars, which contain: a VHF for relocating the possums, a GPS to record horizontal movement patterns, an altimeter to measure changes in height, as well as a three-axis accelerometer to measure energy use. This device will enable us to look at resource selection and movement patterns in three-dimensions, across a range of different burn severities.
If you’d like to volunteer to come along on an upcoming field trip with Kate, please get in touch with her by email.
Small mammals select resources based on their requirements for food, shelter and protection from predators. Understanding the influence of fire on resource selection can help to guide species conservation and management.
Our new paper investigates the effects of a planned fire on resource selection, abundance, body condition, and movement pathways of a native rodent, the bush rat (Rattus fuscipes). This work formed Amber Fordyce's Honours thesis, and involved gathering data from 60 individuals fitted with spool-and-line tracking devices at Breakfast Creek in the Otway Ranges.
After the fire, rats selected patches of unburnt vegetation, and no rats were caught at a trapping site where most of the understory had been burnt. The fire also reduced bush rat abundance and body condition and caused movement pathways to become more convoluted. After the fire, some individuals moved through burnt areas but the majority of movements occurred within unburnt patches.
Our findings suggest the influence of planned fire on small mammals will depend on the resulting mosaic of burnt and unburnt patches and how well this corresponds to the resource requirements of particular species.
Thanks to Amber, Bronwyn and Julian for the photos. Find the paper here:
Fordyce, A., Hradsky, B.A., Ritchie, E. & Di Stefano, J. (2016). Fire affects microhabitat selection, movement patterns and body condition of an Australian rodent (Rattus fuscipes). Journal of Mammalogy. 97(1): 102-111
Kate's project aims to (a) understand the importance of fire edges in influencing ecological patterns and processes in flammable landscapes, and (b) quantify the temporal and spatial influence of fire edges on fauna.
Please contact Kate for more information on her research, and find her abstract below.
One of Manuela's GPS-collared swamp wallabies returned to a Phillip Island trapping site to wish her well. This plucky female has crossed the 100-kph Rhyll-Newhaven Road six times in four days.
Manuela is studying how wallabies use space and move between different vegetation patches in human-modified and heterogeneous landscapes. She's also interested in human-wildlife interactions.
Superb lyrebirds (Menura novaehollandiae) are famous for mimicking the calls of other species, as well as chainsaws, car alarms and camera shutters.
Kate has recently discovered they also have a proclivity for attacking the cameras she’s using to study how fire edges influence animal distribution, abundance and movement in the Central Highlands.
She’s put together a video depicting a feisty encounter between a camera and a particularly determined individual.
The video contains prolonged scenes of strong violence and coarse language.
Watch at your peril.
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb