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!
Following a successful PhD confirmation seminar last week, Simeon plans to hit the field over the next few months to deploy wildlife cameras in South Australia's Mount Lofty Ranges.
Please find details below, and contact Simeon for more information.
In our new paper , which formed part of Matt Chick's PhD, we used a landscape succession and disturbance simulation model to estimate changes in vegetation diversity under alternative scenarios of planned fire and wildfire over a 60-year period.
We surveyed vegetation diversity among different post-fire growth stages in heathy woodland, and used optimisation to determine the proportions of growth stages that would maximise species diversity. Pairing optimisation with the simulation model allowed us to identify the cumulative effects of different fire-regime scenarios on vegetation diversity.
The best scenario for vegetation diversity was 5% prescribed burning per year (with and without wildfire) which resulted in diversity values close to the theoretical maximum. Trends across the 60 years showed that wildfire depressed diversity and subsequent prescribed fire drove recovery within 15 years. The largest threat to vegetation diversity was the absence of fire.
Our method provides a flexible platform for developing long‐term fire management strategies that seek to balance human safety and biodiversity conservation.
Find out more: Chick, M., York, A., Sitters, H., Di Stefano, J. & Nitschke, C. (in press). The cumulative impacts of prescribed burning and wildfire on vegetation diversity. Journal of Applied Ecology.
A multi-faceted team of reptile, mammal and bat-trappers recently headed out west for a week of fieldwork highs, disappointments and everything in between.
In terms of animal numbers, Taylor and Holly's sites were most bountiful, with 35 reptiles falling into pitfall or funnel traps. Microbats appeared in Amanda's harp traps in dribs and drabs until she hit a bumper night of 19 animals, resulting in 25 for the week. A very promising start to the season although microbat ID makes peering at skink scales seem terribly straight forward.
One thousand two hundred and fifty Elliott-trap nights yielded one very special Yellow-footed Antechinus plus two mildly confused Shinglebacks. We are hopeful that Amy, Rachel, Saumya and Julian's mammoth efforts will be rewarded soon, and that the low trap success reflects the time of year. Kelvin experienced similarly low animal numbers this time last year, and Rachel had heath mice coming out of her ears during her pilot study in March.
We're currently seeking volunteers for our programme of almost back-to-back trapping over the next few months. Food, basic accommodation, and transport from Ballarat or Creswick are provided. Please let us know if you're interested, and keep an eye on the facebook page for details of specific trips.
Our new paper arose from Hilman Sukma's Masters research, and highlights the importance of structurally complex vegetation for mammal functional diversity.
Hilman used wildlife cameras to survey mammals in the Otway Ranges, and combined species occurrence data with ecological trait information to derive measures of functional diversity, which provides a link between species diversity and ecosystem function.
Mammal functional diversity responded positively to two measures of vegetation structural complexity in both wet and dry forest. Hilman concluded that conserving structurally complex vegetation may help to enhance ecosystem function.
The paper is free to download until 22 December:
Sukma, H., Di Stefano, J., Swan, M. & Sitters, H. (2019). Mammal functional diversity increases with vegetation structural complexity in two forest types. Forest Ecology and Management. 433: 85-92
Well done to Annalie for finishing an epic fieldwork programme involving a mix of camera trapping and vegetation measuring in the Otways, and pitfall-trap digging, reptile trapping, snake wrangling, camera trapping and yet more vegetation measuring in western Victoria.
The reptile trappers of the future will be particularly grateful to Annalie for taking on the lion's share of the pitfall-trap hole digging.
Huge thanks to everyone who's helped with collection of the field data. Annalie will present results from her first data paper at the ESA (Ecological Society of Australia) conference in Brisbane in November, and expects to wrap up her thesis in 2020.
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!
Most of us headed out to Casterton to spend a week taking photos of vegetation (x5400) and collecting bags of litter (x1080). No camera is sufficiently wide-angled to capture this many litter bags. We built a litter mountain in the lounge room. We had four vehicles and had to pile the litter on the roofs to get it all home.*
The purpose of this vegetation-measuring extravaganza was to better understand why reptiles prefer some sites over others, as part of the Fire & Fragmentation Project. Unfortunately, litter depth doesn't vary much in western Vic and eastern SA, so the tried and true method of sticking a ruler into the litter wasn't going to cut it.
Annalie gamely undertook the process of drying and weighing the haul. Helpfully she's illustrated the process for us, should we ever feel a desire to embark on a litter marathon of our own.
*Slight embellishment, but there really was a lot!
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb